Thursday, March 01, 2007

Analysts Love Bush's Big Gamble

What a difference a word makes.  Or a few words.  I just read an article on Bush’s proposal to fix the healthcare problem by ensuring that people don’t get as much healthcare as they might want or need.  And reading that, I’m now quite certain that Bush follows such a policy for himself, at least as far as mental health is concerned.

The article should have been about how Congress’ non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation had determined that Bush’s horrible proposal would raise taxes on people by an estimated $526 billion through 2017.  But they also had to be “fair” and state that the Bush Admin says the plan is revenue neutral, as well as giving the unknown Lewin Group’s estimate that it would save taxpayers $108.5 billion.  

And in case you were wondering: No, they didn’t provide us any ability to determine which number was more reliable; though I personally will side with the non-partisan bureaucrats over the unknown consulting firm or the lying president.  And that just once again proves that the New Objectiveness has an implicit understanding that everything is subjective and we can’t know anything.  Thanks philosophy professors!

And if we are to assume that these numbers were all prepared with expertise and honesty, then one thing is clear: No one has any real idea of how this will affect our healthcare.  Maybe people will dumb-down their healthcare options which might bring overall expenses down; and thus give us a tax savings, at the expense of better healthcare.  Or maybe healthcare will continue to spiral out of control and we’ll end up paying more in taxes and healthcare for the same half-ass healthcare system we already have.  Who knows?  It’s all just a crapshoot.

30 Analysts Agree

And while reading about Bush’s big healthcare gamble, I read this line:
Analysts say that the tax break that now exists for health care promotes more spending. The tax-free benefit gives people an incentive to purchase the most comprehensive policies available.

Really?  Analysts say that, do they?  That shouldn’t be some analysts?  Or Republican analysts pimping for Bush?  Or even dipshit analysts from Batshit Crazyland, perhaps?  This is what the analysts are saying?  Because for as much as I find a problem with our healthcare system (and I do have some serious problems with it), it’s not that people have too much insurance.  Or that they’re spending too much.  It’s that the whole system is so Byzantine and scary.

Beyond potentially incompetent doctors, my biggest problem is dealing with nightmare insurance companies which have repeatedly sprung hidden expenses on me that I wasn’t expecting, and many of which they refused to cover even when they said they would.  And those are the times I’ve been lucky enough to have insurance, which I’ve often gone without.  But in no case are these problems solved by Bush’s absurd proposal.  It only makes it worse.

But as long as newspapers portray unnamed “analysts” as giving support to the Bush position, while only giving a few lines to a Democratic politician denouncing it, it looks like we might all get stuck with it all the same.  Too bad we don’t have any analysts on our side who can give us a different perspective.  Oh wait.  I know an analyst-type who knows a thing or two about taxes and tax-free expenses: Me.

The Expert Speaks

As a CPA, I often pretend as if tax breaks are good enough to offset the expenses that go with them.  For example, I jokingly tell all my clients to have more kids, as they’re a terrific tax benefit that makes my job as tax preparer much easier (clients are always nicer when I show them low tax bills).  But it still doesn’t outweigh the expense of having kids, and for as much as it makes my job easier, it might make their lives harder.  And the idea of a CPA suggesting that you should have children as a tax plan is so myopically cold-hearted that it makes the joke all the funnier.  And yes, I really am like this in real life too.

Equally, no businessman thinks that unnecessary expenses become justified based on the fact that they can be deducted on taxes.  That’s a perk, not a justification.  It’s nice to know that you can deduct your business expenses, but you won’t take unnecessary expenses just for the little savings.  $1000 in waste is not justified by $200 in tax savings.  Many businesses would rather underpay their employees than to hurt their bottomline.  And in almost all cases, a businessman would rather have huge profits and a huge taxbill than no profits and no taxes.  That’s just commonsense.  Tax-free doesn’t mean free.

And despite the “analysts” contentions to the contrary, the same goes for insurance.  People aren’t getting unnecessary insurance because it’s tax-free.  They do it because they think they need it, or like the extra security.  Because if all you’re interested in is money, you’re not going to get unnecessary insurance in the first place.  You’re going to keep the money.  So Bush’s plan won’t even work that far, and as much as it gets people to reduce their insurance, it’s not because they want tax savings.  It’s because Bush’s plan forced them to.

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