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Shortsighted Senate critics

A few comments can be made about Senate committee hearings into the tax practices of Caterpillar.

•It does not appear that the company did anything illegal. Testimony before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed complicated transactions and perhaps questionable practices. (At one point, one executive testified about eliminating an unnecessary middleman. Angry, the subcommittee chair, Carl Levin, D-Mich., noted that – under the structure being described – the middleman was Caterpillar itself.)

•“I don’t have a lot of confidence in the IRS, and now I have even less,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared, playing to the crowd. If you want the IRS to go after companies like Caterpillar, you have to fund the agency and allow it to hire top-flight accountants, not starve it in the name of getting it off businesses’ backs.

•Most important, if Congress doesn’t want companies to exploit the tax code, Congress – and no one else – can do something about it.

Obamacare gains an unlikely ally

Perhaps lost in the sound of the gnashing of tea party teeth recently was the strong support former Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Louis W. Sullivan continues to express for Obamacare.

Sullivan has been a highly respected figure in the health care community for decades. But he is best known for his role in a Republican administration. He ran HHS for President George H.W. Bush.

Speaking at the Association of Health Care Journalists recently, Sullivan noted that much of what we now call Obamacare was first put forth by Republicans.

“Many of the features of the Affordable Care Act are part of what we proposed back in 1991,” Sullivan said. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Sullivan consistently has been critical of governors who have refused to accept federal help to extend Medicaid, saying their states can’t afford it. Those governors include Indiana’s Mike Pence and Georgia’s Nathan Deal.

A native of the state who still lives in Atlanta, Sullivan told the health journalists’ group that Georgia can’t afford not to expand Medicaid.