State of the Union: A Good Idea Inside a Bad One

Bush's overall health-care plan is lame. But he's right to fix the tax inequity

Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt (R) shows a benefit card and prescription drugs alongside President George W. Bush in Florida, 2006.

In 1992 the first President Bush's budget was at the printer when congressional Republicans revolted. Bush, they were told, planned to fund expanded health coverage by leaping on one of American politics' "third rails": the fact that the value of employer-provided health benefits is not included in employees' taxable income. Making a portion of these benefits taxable, Bush the Elder reckoned, was a smart way to pay for health care for folks who had none. But G.O.P. leaders were apoplectic. Didn't Bush understand that a tax hike meant political death? The uproar was so swift and furious that White House staffers spent...

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