Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Tax Revolt

Few things make my blood boil like the notion that it is statist for a government to provide health care for its citizens but that it is okay for the government to create an environment in which citizens can purchase "affordable" health care.

No one should have no faith in the definition of what is affordable given from people who have already shown that affordability is the last thing on their minds when it comes to education (college tuition and interest rates, school vouchers, charter schools all come to mind), medicines for senior citizens (Medicare Part D), alternatives to Social Security (there is no lack of studies that show that the administrative costs of private retirement funds far exceed those of Social Security), just to cite a few examples.

What is affordable, when it comes to health care? The average American family is already expected to spend 17% of its annual income on health care, and costs have been rising steadily at triple the rate of inflation for the last 20 years. In Massachusetts, then Gov. Romney introduced a state health care plan that mandates that each resident purchase private insurance lest it should be subject to a penalty (Congress then went on to copy the Massachusetts plan in 2010--a plan, may I add, of extremely dubious constitutionality).

What has happened to the cost of health care in Massachusetts since the passage of "Romney care" in 2006? Up until two years ago, when Democratic governor Deval Patrick decided to tackle the issue of health care costs, they had been rising at a rate of 17%! Now the rate of increase has dropped to an average of 2%, but in the meantime the people of the state have been forced to swallow premium increases that can easily break a family's budget. If history is any indication, isn't that what we should expect from those who are claiming that affordable care ought to be the goal that Congress should help bring about?

Additionally, there is no absolute measure of affordability. What is affordable for one individual or family can be completely out of reach for another. The measure of health care shouldn't be its affordability, but its quality and the coverage it provides. Is a premium affordable if it covers only catastrophic events but it forces the insured to pay for everything else out-of-pocket, or if it comes with high deductibles and co-pays? Is it affordable for someone who is already struggling to make ends meet to pay for rent or a mortgage, his children's education, car insurance, gas, food, clothes, perhaps the care of a parent or both, to be forced to pay for something deemed to be affordable by someone else who has no idea of a person's financial situation?

Again, what is affordable for someone who has taken a 10% cut in salary to keep his job, or who has seen a negative rate of increase in his salary for ten years, while everything else around him has gotten more expensive, a common situation for many in the United States?

And why on earth is it okay for a government to spend as much on its military as the next 23 countries combined, without providing a minimum of health care services for its citizens, and then have the gall to force them to purchase a product it may not be able to afford? Cut defense spending to an acceptable level, then return the money that has been cut where it belongs, the pockets of middle-class Americans, then come back with a definition of what constitutes affordable health care, and we'll start a conversation. Until then, come April 15th, Americans should take its patriots as an example and conscientiously object to paying taxes.

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