Questions support of medical device tax repeal

“Being able to signify or distinguish between who lost their job because a competitor came up with a better product or their marketing campaign didn’t work as opposed to who lost their job because of some tax increase is a little hard to measure.”

I jumped out of bed, my sense of hope rising: finally someone of national repute (Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington, D.C.) was pointing out that job losses (or gains) in an industry (any industry) could be attributed to a whole host of complex market forces — competition, quality of product and marketing, effectiveness of product or sales force, changing consumer preferences (just ask Target or General Mills) — rather than always, automatically, blaming job losses, innovation losses, output losses, profit losses solely, exclusively, on the implementation of a tax. As the medical device industry and Rep. Erik Paulsen and Sen. Amy Klobuchar have been doing ever since the medical device tax was added to the Affordable Care Act to help pay for subsidies to help low-income families afford health insurance.

Then I read the report from the Congressional Research Service, published Jan. 9, 2015, a group characterized by one university dean as “highly respected and ruthlessly nonpartisan,” that refutes just about every medical-device-industry-financed-study claim that has ever been made and instead says “most of the tax will be passed on to consumers in price” and estimates “a range of effects on jobs of almost zero to about 1,200.”

Contrast that with the job loss numbers Rep. Erik Paulsen attributed to the tax in his Jan. 22, 2015, commentary: “The $30 billion tax is killing jobs, hurting small businesses and harming innovation. In fact, taxing the production of pacemakers, wheelchairs and other devices has already cost 33,000 jobs and threatens 165,000 more.”

(FYI? Wheelchairs are not subject to the tax, as they constitute an item “generally purchased by the general public at retail for individual use.”)

Erik Paulsen has represented me at either the state capitol or the nation’s capitol ever since I moved here nearly 13 years ago so I have long been aware that his political priorities have always favored business interests and low taxes at the expense of the needs of the socioeconomic disadvantaged. In fact, it didn’t take much digging in my collection of newspaper clippings to find this quote in the Sun Current, from 2005, when he was Minnesota House Majority Leader:

“Paulsen said he regretted the Legislature’s failure to hold the line on ‘welfare’ spending. For example, lawmakers did not approve Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposal to disqualify adults without children from the MinnesotaCare program. “I had hoped we would have been able to bring out welfare spending in line with other states, “ he said. “But you have to compromise.””

After discovering this quote, it made me wonder: do the needs—existence — stresses — anxieties of the lives of the socioeconomically disadvantaged ever enter his consciousness?

How is it that we have managed to repeatedly elect with overwhelming majorities someone who is willing to pursue a legislative agenda that disregards the real needs and real anxieties of real people just because they are poor and don’t have children but enthusiastically pursues an agenda that favors an industry that is willing to perpetrate exaggerated, self-serving, bogus claims and is capable of spending millions of dollars on lobbyists to keep its agenda constantly in the face of legislators?

Ellen Hoerle
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Eden Prairie News, March 5, 2015