Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Washington Wants a VAT... What They Need is a Twelve Step Program

After passing the health care bill that raises taxes on earned income, dividends, suntans, medical devices, capital gains, and pharmaceutical companies, not to mention the cost of health insurance for those of us able to afford it as well as those who can't, you may be asking what Congress plans to do as an encore. Well, just like the drunk who's waking up from a three day bender, they're going to reach for another nip of their favorite hooch, another shot of taxes so to speak. Just so they don't leave anything out this time, their next tax will be on everything. That's right, the same folks who are bringing European style health care to America are beginning to talk up that other European favorite: the Value Added Tax as a way to pay for their unbridled expansion of the welfare state.

What's a Value Added Tax ( VAT) you ask? Well, like I said, it's a Tax on everything.
VAT is a tax assessed and collected on the value of goods or services that have been provided every time there is a transaction (sale/purchase). The seller charges the VAT to the buyer, and the seller pays this VAT to the government. If, however, the purchaser is not an end user, but the goods or services purchased are costs to its business, the tax it has paid for such purchases can be deducted from the tax it charges to its customers. The government only receives the difference, in other words, it is paid tax on the gross margin of each transaction, by each participant in the sales chain.
It's looking like 2010 may yet be the year we try to tax ourselves into prosperity. You can do that, can't you? Just think of how much better off you'll be once this new tax is imposed; think of all the additional revenue your government will be able to squeeze out of you. The proponents of the VAT say it will enable us to once again restore order to our fiscal house and close the gaping trillion + dollar hole that they've created between what the government collects in tax revenue each year and what it spends. Won't that be great? Can't wait till it happens, right? Well, don't hold your breath. The VAT won't even come close to living up to it's advance billing. How do I know this, you ask? Just have a look at the current budget deficits of any of the European governments who already have a VAT Tax.

According to the European Commission, the average budget deficit for 2010 will likely be 7.5% of GDP, a percentage point or two below what the US deficit will be without a VAT. As we've seen, folks drunk with power, just like those overly lubricated with alcohol, can make all kinds of promises that are quickly forgotten as soon as they need their next drink. I'm sure you recall that no one making less than $200,000 would pay a nickel more in taxes and that health care reform would reduce the cost of health care. If eliminating the deficit was really a national priority, the folks who decide what the government is going to spend each year would be in a massive belt tightening mode; but government giving up the sauce just isn't in the cards. Instead, their attitude is why should we cut our budgets, when it is within our power to make you cut yours?

So, if it won't do away with the deficit, and it's as unlikely to restore fiscal discipline in Washington, as one more drink is to sober up the drunk, then what can we expect from the VAT tax, aside from more welfare programs? For starters, you can expect to pay higher prices for everything you purchase, and as a result of increasing the price of everything, you should expect the demand for everything to fall and along with it the volume of all goods and services produced. How many additional employees do you need to produce less? This sounds to me like a recipe for an economy on the rocks, with even higher unemployment than we are currently choking on. Maybe we can make our chronic unemployment rate permanent like our brothers and sisters in Europe have done. They seem to have gotten used to a rate that is two to three times what our unemployment rate has averaged over the past twenty years. Perhaps it's an acquired taste, like scotch or gin?

Don't worry you say, the President's Budget Commission is sure to deal with the deficit. Don't kid yourself! The President's new Budget Commission is just a diversion from reality. It is but a group of stammering, stuttering politicians who will will seek to convince you just how sober they are; whose pretense will be to convince you and me that there is just no way to cut government spending any further, and the only way out of the nation's fiscal troubles is to raise more revenue. After all, everyone knows Obama has frozen the spending on 13% of the budget already; so what else is there left to do?

What our representatives fail to see is that the way out of a spending problem is to stop spending, just like the way out of a drinking problem is to stop drinking. But we all know addictions can be difficult to break, and sometimes you have to hit bottom before you can admit you actually have a problem and seek help. I'm thinking that their political bottom is coming, and they'll be free to spend some much needed time in rehab, come November.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

When Congress Commits Malpractice... Can We Sue?

In order to fix the “Health Care Crisis,” the House passed legislation on Sunday which outlaws sound health insurance underwriting practices; if they don't immediately follow that by repealing the laws of Economics we're all pretty much screwed! Healthcare reform, as passed, will transform the Health Insurance industry from one where companies assess medical risk and price their products based on that assessment into one that merely processes payments, leaving it to collect what will be an ever shrinking pool of premiums while confronting the inevitable explosion in cost that subsidized health care, our newest entitlement program, will lead to.

According to the Democratic Policy Committee's website, as of 2014 the bill does the following:

Implements strong health insurance reforms that prohibit insurance companies from engaging in discriminatory practices that enable them to refuse to sell or renew policies due to an individual’s health status. Insurers can no longer exclude coverage for treatments based on pre-existing health conditions. It also limits the ability of insurance companies to charge higher rates due to heath status, gender, or other factors. Premiums can vary only on age (no more than 3:1), geography, family size, and tobacco use.

Sounds good doesn't it? Yes, but there's just one enormous little problem with it. All insurance has one universal characteristic that defines it as insurance; it is the current pooling of resources to protect against a potential future risk. Absent this characteristic, insurance ceases to be insurance, and is instead merely a pool of money used to pay current medical bills.

Recent articles that suggest that reform will turn Health Insurers into a regulated industry, much like the Electric utilities, miss the mark completely. Is your monthly electric bill the same as your neighbor's regardless of how much power you consume? I'll bet the answer is no. You pay only for the power you currently use, and that's not insurance.

Healthcare reform, as enacted, will force insurers to take all comers while at the same time limiting their ability to charge premiums that are appropriate for the risk involved in providing coverage. This will raise the cost of insurance for healthy premium payers as it has done wherever community rating is the law of the land. If you can buy health insurance after you become ill, why would anyone pay premiums until then? The answer; they wouldn't unless the government fine was higher than their premium. In other words, the government's $695 per year fine for those who don't buy mandated health insurance is a just a sick joke!

When only sick people pay premiums that are less than the cost of their treatment, how long will it be before the bankrupted health insurance companies are added to our growing list of tax payer owned and funded not for profit businesses?

Making health care treatment available to those who can't afford it should be one of our nations priorities but this giant Rube Goldberg of a system they are creating surely isn't the right way to go about it.


Monday, March 15, 2010

The Nuclear Option ... A Neutron Bomb Aimed at the Democratic Majority

It's looking more and more likely that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will trigger the so called nuclear option to push through their health care legislation for the benefit of the American people; the very same people whom overwhelmingly have rejected it and it's big government solutions to rising medical costs.

Her fanatical desire to pass this legislation has overwhelmed her ability to reason critically, as is evidenced by recent interviews in which she is quoted as saying, "Representatives are not in Washington to self perpetuate their political careers." While Mrs. Pelosi may inhabit a very safe district her words have probably come as quite a surprise to a number of her less safe Democratic colleagues, but hopefully will give them enough advanced warning to begin in earnest the search for a new career.

It has become something of an urban legend among the Democrats that it was their inability to pass health care reform in the first Clinton administration that was responsible for their loss of the Majority in the House. In other words, the American people were deeply upset by the Democrats' inability to deliver on legislation that would greatly increase their taxes and add mountains of new regulations to an already over regulated health care industry.

This is simply a major misread of history on their part. A more plausible reason for their rebuke and loss of Majority in the following Midterm elections were the Clinton tax increases and the arrogance of their members, as exemplified by the check kiting scandals of the house. This same arrogance was last displayed by members of the Republican party shortly before they lost their Majority status in the midterms in 2006.

Their fall back reasoning to vote for this legislation is no better. The idea that voters will seek retribution against the legislators who first cast a yes vote for the bill, and then once it became clear that nobody wanted it voted against it, is just silly. Do they really believe that if you vote for a bill that is hated by the majority of the public twice somehow you are safe? Have they never heard the old saying that “two wrongs don't make a right?”

Before the Democrats trigger their Nuclear option, they should review their college physics text books one last time and realize that at it's essence the Nuclear option, like the bomb it is named after, is an uncontrollable chain reaction. This Nuclear option has all the makings of a Political Neutron Bomb for their party; a tactical nuclear weapon designed to eliminate people but leave buildings intact. The Democratic Leadership should take a deep cleansing breath, remove their ideological 3D health care shades and have a look around. Somehow in the mass confusion that has been characteristic of this torturous process of producing health care legislation they have overlooked the Bright red rings outlining the bulls eye that this monstrosity has imprinted on their political careers.