George S. Will introduces us to the medical device industry:
Bill Cook had no garage, so he launched Cook Medical in a spare bedroom in an apartment in this university town.
Half a century ago, in flight from Chicago’s winters, he settled here and began making cardiovascular catheters and other medical instruments. One thing led to another, as things have a way of doing when the government stays out of the way, and although Cook died last year, Cook Medical, with its subsidiaries, is the world’s largest family-owned medical devices company.
In 2010, however, Congress, ravenous for revenues to fund ObamaCare, included in the legislation a 2.3% tax on gross revenues — which generally amounts to about a 15% tax on most manufacturers’ profits — from U.S. sales of medical devices beginning in 2013.
This will be piled on top of the 35% federal corporate tax, and state and local taxes. The 2.3% tax will be a $20 billion blow to an industry that employs more than 400,000, and $20 billion is almost double the industry’s annual investment in research and development. …
So the 2.3% tax, unless repealed, will mean not only fewer jobs but also fewer pain-reducing and life-extending inventions — stents, implantable defibrillators, etc. — which have reduced health care costs.
The tax might, however, be repealed. The medical device industry is widely dispersed across the country, so numerous members of Congress have constituencies affected by developments such as these:
Cook Medical is no longer planning to open a U.S. factory a year. Boston Scientific, planning for a more than $100 million charge against earnings in 2013, recently built a $35 million research and development facility in Ireland and is building a $150 million factory in China. (Capital goes where it is welcome and stays where it is well-treated.)
Stryker Corp., based in Michigan, blames the tax for 1,000 layoffs. Zimmer, based in Indiana, is laying off 450 and taking a $50 million charge against earnings. Medtronic expects an annual charge against earnings of $175 million. Covidien, now based in Ireland, has cited the tax in explaining 200 layoffs and a decision to move some production to Costa Rica and Mexico. …
The Democrats who imposed this tax on a single manufacturing sector justified this discrimination by saying ObamaCare would be a boon to the medical devices industry because, by expanding insurance coverage, it would stimulate demand for devices. But those insured because of Obama-Care will be disproportionately young and not needing, say, artificial knees.