Opinion

Obamacare employer mandate delay lets the IRS look into business hiring

Betsy McCaughey Author, "Beating Obamacare"
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The IRS scandal keeps getting worse. President Obama is siccing the agency on employers, as well as Tea Party groups, to silence his critics before the 2014 midterm elections. That’s the hidden purpose behind the employer mandate delay announced last Monday and the administration’s push for new IRS regulations.

On Monday, February 10th, the administration released 227 pages of mind-numbing regulations, preposterously claiming that the gibberish would “make the compliance process simpler and easier” for employers. Hidden in the gobbledy-gook (on pages 125-6)  is a requirement that employers attest to the IRS, meaning under penalty of perjury, that they have not reduced the number of employees or cut hours to shield themselves from the extra costs of Obamacare.

Monday’s announcement has been widely misrepresented as delaying the employer mandate. It does that for the small number of employers, mostly in the hospitality and retail industries, who have 50-99 full time workers and currently don’t provide coverage. They won’t have to in 2015, despite what the law says.

But the vast majority of mid-size employers already provide coverage, and the new regulation will make them continue to. It freezes the status quo. However,  most of these employers won’t have the choice of sticking with current health plans. Either state insurance regulators or insurance companies have already said no to renewing those “noncompliant” plans. Instead they will have no choice but to pay for the generally costlier Obamacare compliant ones. That’s hardly relief.

Monday’s announcement is actually a hush money scheme. Under the Affordable Care Act, as written, employers are penalized a whopping $3,000 each time one of their workers goes onto the Obama exchanges and gets a taxpayer subsidized plan. Now the administration is offering to waive that penalty, provided employers stop complaining. Employers who want to take this deal must attest that they haven’t laid off workers or cut hours to squeeze under the 99-worker threshold.

Here’s where Big Brother starts running your business. The IRS will forgive you if you make changes “because of the sale of a division, changes in the economic marketplace in which the employer operates, terminations of employment for poor performance, or other similar changes.” It’s none of Big Brother’s business why you hire or fire. This is a bone chilling intrusion into your freedom to run your business.

It’s obvious why the president wants employers to make these legally binding statements. In 2013, the headlines screamed about layoffs and reduced hours as CEOs andanagers strategically maneuvered to minimize the cost of the employer mandate. Astoundingly, in the first seven months of 2013, 77 percent of  new hires were part time. To stop  that unprecedented trend and the damaging news coverage of it,  Obama announced his first employer mandate delay last July.

Democrats running for re-election this fall are desperate to avoid a repeat of 2013. Once employers have to swear that they have not made labor cutbacks due to Obamacare, how can they speak out about the law’s harm to their business?

The new regulation isn’t just meddling or arm — twisting. It’s illegal. It tries to make a crime out of legally minimizing a business’s tax exposure. It’s criminalizing something Congress has not made a crime, and federal courts have ruled that business are free to do. The famous federal court judge Learned Hand observed in 1934 (Helvering v. Gregory) that “Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.”

The IRS is Obama’s weapon to silence critics. The administration is rushing through a change in IRS regulations that would prevent Tea party organizations and other not-for-profits called 501c4s from engaging in customary pre-election activities such as get-out-the-vote drives, debates and forums, and brochures rating the candidates. The regulation would even prohibit these groups from criticizing incumbents  within 60 days of a general election.

The rule would silence 501c4s, many of which support Republican causes, while imposing no restraints on labor unions, the shadow army of the Democratic Party. As 501c5s, unions are exempt. They will be free to use phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, and advertising for their candidates while Tea Party groups are gagged.

When businesses and citizen-advocates are silenced, say goodbye to fair elections.

Betsy McCaughey is author of Beating Obamacare 2014 and a former Lieutenant Governor of New York State.