Eliminating the subsidies nationwide would therefore cut Americans’ tax liability by approximately $48 billion on net. Granted, these sums from CBO apply to all 50 states, while the King ruling would apply only to the 37 states that have not established exchanges. But the trend from the numbers is crystal clear: The tax reduction from eliminating the employer mandate, and weakening the individual mandate, outweighs any tax increase from eliminating the subsidies — meaning a favorable ruling in King v. Burwell would cut Americans’ taxes by many billions.
That’s a “solution” in search of a problem. If eliminating the subsidies represents a net tax cut, then restoring the subsidies — whether by states creating their own exchanges, Congress passing new legislation, or some combination of the two — would re-impose a sizable tax increase. Americans would pay billions more in higher taxes to fund the newly restored subsidies, making Obamacare that much more entrenched. What self-proclaimed conservative of sound mind would do such a thing?
Alternatively, some have talked about enacting a “compromise” that would restore the Obamacare subsidies while reforming some of the law’s new insurance requirements and regulations. But restoring the flow of subsidies means restoring the employer mandate, thus raising taxes. And even if such a “compromise” weakens or eliminates the employer mandate, the Obama administration — to say nothing of the insurance companies themselves — will hardly countenance a repeal of the individual mandate, which restoring the subsidies will only strengthen. So those seeking to restore the flow of subsidies will likely end up having to raise taxes on millions of Americans, in some way, shape, or form.
As they ponder both these facts and their response to King v. Burwell, conservatives would do well to remember President Bush’s view of his 1990 tax reversal: “I did it, and I regret it, and I regret it.” Republicans have spent the past 25 years fighting efforts to raise taxes — and the past five years fighting Obamacare — in an effort to restore the trust of the American people lost on that fateful day in October 1990. As we saw then, neither history nor the voters will be kind to those politicians who choose to break their word to the public. Here’s hoping that conservatives of all stripes have finally learned that lesson.