Why Does Olympia Snowe Want to Increase Unemployment for Poor People?
An equally silly compromise comes from the Senate's "Gang of Six," which seeks to avoid riling the local chamber of commerce with a mandate that all businesses contribute something toward health insurance for their workers. Instead, the centrists would only dun employers for whatever subsidies their low-income workers need to help them meet their new obligation to buy health insurance. Aside from creating an administrative nightmare, this provision would have the perverse effect of encouraging employers to fire, or not to hire, low-wage workers with children or spouses who are unemployed. Republican Olympia Snowe is said to be particularly enamored of this idea. I'd bet a two-pound lobster and bowl of Maine's best chowder that she can't find a labor economist back home who thinks this is a good policy.
That's not an idle gamble. I have not found one person -- not one -- who thinks this policy is a good idea. The fate of the "free rider" provision, which seems to be a favorite of Olympia Snowe's, is going to be almost a laboratory test of whether the policy community can persuade Congress to avert an obvious and completely predictable disaster.
September 10, 2009; 12:02 PM ET
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