President Obama sat down amid tropical greenery in Hawaii today to sign H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, into law. News reports on the signing were perfunctory, as in The New York Daily News' article, "Obama signs 9/11 health care bill into law."
The Calcutta Telegraph reports an angle that we did not see raised in all the news, the possibility that the new funding mechanism violates the WTO agreements to which the United States is party. From "US 9/11 treatment tax upsets India":
New Delhi, Jan. 2: New Delhi may take Washington to the World Trade Organisation's dispute panel over its move to fund a free-treatment scheme for 9/11 victims through legislation that will cost Indian IT companies millions of dollars, officials said.
Washington plans to raise the money in two ways. One, by imposing a two per cent levy on goods and services it imports from certain developing countries that include India. Two, by extending a fee hike for certain categories of the H1B and L1 visas that are extensively used by Indian professionals working in America....
"We plan to seek consultation with Washington at the WTO (an international body dealing with the rules of trade between nations) to discuss the legislation," an Indian commerce ministry official said. "We would not hesitate to take the matter to the dispute settlement panel of the trade body if the issue does not get resolved."
These new taxes and fees were added by the U.S. Senate in the final week of the 111th Congress, replacing the House's plan to increase taxes on foreign multinational corporations incorporated in countries with which the United States does not have a tax agreement.
Yet the tax-writing committees of Congress, Senate Finance and House Ways and Means, never held hearings on the legislation. Well, at least The Daily News examined these important issues in its voluminous coverage of the 9/11 bill. What? It didn't? Well, then, Jon Stewart surely did. (And to be fair, we missed this angle, as well.)
- Economic Times, "India opposes US law to impose tax on foreign procurement"
- Economic Times, "India may drag US to WTO over H-1B, L-1 visa fee hike"
- Daily News & Analysis, "Software companies cry foul as US Senate passes 9/11 taxes bill"
- India Today, "US snubs India on visa fee hike issue"