Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Senate to American Workers: Take a Hike

Americans want freebies. That's not exactly news. We've gone from slogans like "Live Free or Die!" to "We need free health care!" in just over two hundred years, but the handout society has had the upper hand for so long now that the news that Americans are just eager to hand over the whole healthcare industry to the federal government in exchange for "free" doctor visits and "free" or at least "cheap" pills is not surprising.

But nobody ever reads the fine print:

WASHINGTON — The Senate's top tax writer said Tuesday he is considering limits on the tax-free status of job-based health insurance to help pay for President Barack Obama's plan to cover all Americans.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., described his idea as senators began to grapple with how to pay for the costs of the plan, which independent experts put at about $1.5 trillion over 10 years. There are no easy options.

The final package is likely to include a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. Among the possibilities: tax hikes on alcoholic beverages and sugary soft drinks, and restrictions on other health care related tax breaks, such as flexible spending accounts. [...]

But Baucus suggested that the benefit could be limited by taxing health care provided to high-income individuals or by taxing the value of extravagant health insurance plans. Baucus did not specify at what income level the tax would kick in.

Employer-provided health insurance is considered part of workers' compensation, but unlike wages, it is not taxed. The foregone revenue to the federal government amounts to about $250 billion a year.

Proponents of repealing the benefit say it encourages lavish health insurance plans (Emphasis added--E.M.) that only add to waste in the health care system. And they argue that the benefit is unfair, since self-employed people don't get as big a tax break for health care.

So if you're an American family who chooses to use a PPO-type health plan because you like choosing your own doctors and prefer not to have to go to public health clinics whenever possible, you are committing the sin of "lavishness" in regard to your health care, and should probably be punished by higher taxes.

I'm pretty sure that those who use terms like "lavish" aren't talking about the costs of covering people whose chosen lifestyle behaviors put them at higher risk for needing things like ongoing STD treatment or rehab; I'm also pretty sure that "lavish" doesn't include health care plans that cover not only contraception but also abortions, IVF treatments, and other attacks against the sanctity of human life. Oh, no, that's not lavish; free condoms for all, and to hell with the costs! cry our enlightened elites.

But those of you who think of your employer's health care benefits as something you actually earn--you know, by working--you should be prepared to take a hike: in your taxes, that is. Never mind that most employers depress wages in the first place on the grounds that they're expected to provide benefits, and that taxing health care benefits in the private sector punishes people for working for companies that provide benefits and will simultaneously increase the demand for government health care by people who will drop their employer-based coverage in order to sign up for the "free" variety being handed out by the rapacious and power-hungry cretins in Congress, who can never see beyond their next election and who don't care what they do to our health care, so long as theirs remains top-notch.

There is one silver lining to this Congressional cloud: if employer-provided health care becomes a detriment and a tax liability instead of a benefit, more people will be free to turn their backs on corporate America and go back to working for themselves. Of course, the Democrats are going to try to make that impossible for most people, too, but if they get their hands tied up in the health care mess they may have less free time to think of other ways to remove our liberty and interfere in our lives, two of the Democrats' favorite pastimes.


Baron Korf said...

"That's what a government is there for, to get in a man's way"
--Cpt. Malcom Reynolds Firefly

freddy said...

Lavish: maternity wards.

Baron Korf -- yup!