Medicare

Do The Wealthy Pay Their Share?

Having linked last week to some discussion on whether the US is really becoming “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%”, I was struck by this chart, which I saw a link to this morning, over at Carpe Diem, showing top marginal income tax rates versus percentage of income tax paid by the top 1% of earners since 1980.

However, I thought it would be a lot more interesting if the chart showed the percentage of total income earned by the top 1%, and also showed the total federal tax liability (including Social Security and Medicare) rather than the just the income tax. Luckily, all this information is available easily on line. (Percent of taxes paid. Percent of total income. Historical tax tables.)

Here’s the chart I produced with that data:

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3 Catholic Hospitals To Close Allegedly Because Of Obamacare?

CatholicVote is mounting a campaign to bring attention to 3 Catholic Hospitals that are closing. The CEO said that ObamaCare “absolutely” factored into the decision.

This is certainly a troubling concern, made more so by the allegations that the White House, the local media, and Sr. Keehan have tried their best to quiet the story.

However, one has to be cautious. The report that CV apparently relies on is based on a doctor’s opinion-a doctor that does not appear to have any knowledge of the actual discussions at the hospitals in question. This unnamed doctor alleges that it is due to Obamacare restricting the ability of the hospital to collect Medicare reimbursements and thereby making its debt unbearable.

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Senator Kay Hagan Just Does Not Get It

Miss Kay Hagan is doing a poor job of defending the “merits” of ObamaCare to a mother who has sick children.  In addition to her sick children, her and her husbands benefits have been cut down or eliminated in order to comply with ObamaCare.

Yet Miss Hagan insists on pushing for more European style socialism.

(Hat Tip:  Culture War Notes)

Who's Gonna Grab the Third Rail?

That’s a line from a brief but astounding post by Kevin Williamson of NRO, which I’m reproducing in full here:

A little perspective from the debt commission:

“The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. ‘The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans — the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries,’ [Alan] Simpson said.”

Three programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — consume 100 percent of federal revenue, and everything else is paid for with borrowed money.  This is why we cannot balance the budget by cutting military spending, foreign aid, food stamps, etc. There is not going to be a serious project to address our deficit/debt problem without deep, painful entitlement reform, and the longer we wait to admit that fact and get going on it, the worse it is going to be.

So, who’s gonna grab that third rail? George W. Bush tried and got hammered — an example that few if any in Washington are eager to follow.

Indeed. I think if this is going to happen, it’s going to have to come from the people (tea parties, perhaps?), because it seems suicidal for any politician to take it on without considerable popular support.

Value Added Tax Will Not Solve Budgetary Woes

There has been a fair amount of useless discussion among pundits and Obama administration officials about a Value Added Tax, a National Sales Tax, the mainstay of the crumbling welfare states in Europe.  I say this discussion is useless, because Congress would never pass it, as the 85-13 vote in the Senate on an anti-Value Added Tax non-binding resolution indicates.

Today in the Washington Post Robert Samuelson explains why a VAT wouldn’t solve our budgetary woes:

The basic budget problem is simple. For decades, the expansion of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — programs mostly for the elderly — was financed mainly by shrinking defense spending. In 1970, defense accounted for 42 percent of the federal budget; Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were 20 percent. By 2008, the shares were reversed: defense, 21 percent; the big retirement programs, 43 percent. But defense stopped falling after Sept. 11, 2001, while aging baby boomers and uncontrolled health costs keep retirement spending rising.

Left alone, government would grow larger. From 1970 to 2009, federal spending averaged 20.7 percent of the economy (gross domestic product). By 2020, it could reach 25.2 percent of GDP and would still be expanding, reckons the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of President Obama’s budgets. In 2020, the deficit (assuming a healthy economy with 5 percent unemployment) would be 5.6 percent of GDP. To cover that, taxes would have to rise almost 30 percent.

A VAT could not painlessly fill this void. Applied to all consumption spending — about 70 percent of GDP — the required VAT rate would equal about 8 percent. But the actual increase might be closer to 16 percent because there would be huge pressures to exempt groceries, rent and housing, health care, education and charitable groups. Together, they account for nearly half of $10 trillion of consumer spending. There would also be other upward (and more technical) pressures on the VAT rate.

Does anyone believe that Americans wouldn’t notice 16 percent price increases for cars, televisions, airfares, gasoline — and much more — even if phased in? As for a VAT’s claimed benefits (simplicity, promotion of investment), these depend mainly on a VAT replacing the present complex income tax that discriminates against investment. That’s unlikely because it would require implausibly steep VAT rates. Chances are we’d pay both the income tax and the VAT, making the overall tax system more complicated.

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60-40: The Party of Jackson Creates A Jacksonian Moment

By a vote of 60-40 early this morning in the Senate, the Democrats, with not a Republican vote, voted to cede power to the Republicans in 2010.  The Democrats thought they were voting to invoke cloture on the ObamaCare bill, but the consequences of the passage of this bill, assuming that it passes the House, will likely be to transform a bad year for the Democrats next year into an epoch shaping defeat.  As Jay Cost brilliantly notes here at RealClearPolitics:

“Make no mistake. This bill is so unpopular because it has all the characteristics that most Americans find so noxious about Washington.

It stinks of politics. Why is there such a rush to pass this bill now? It’s because the President of the United States recognizes that it is hurting his numbers, and he wants it off the agenda. It might not be ready to be passed. In fact, it’s obviously not ready! Yet that doesn’t matter. The President wants this out of the way by his State of the Union Address. This is nakedly self-interested political calculation by the President – nothing more and nothing less.

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Obamas Speech: Dem Health Care Bill Now, With Or Without GOP

[Updates at the bottom of this posting as of 3:03am CDT on AD 9-10-2009]

President Obama’s speech covered many topics, lets first layout our President’s plan:

I. Keep the health insurance you have now.

1.  Pre-existing symptoms or disabilities no longer will disqualify anyone from coverage.

2.  No spending caps set by insurance companies.

3.  No drop in coverage in the middle of an illness.

4.  Limit on out of pocket expense.

5.  Minimal requirements of coverage.

II. Public Option & Exchange

1.  When losing your job you have the Public Option if you can’t afford insurance.

2.  Insurance exchange markets will be required for insurance companies to participate in.

3.  Tax credits for small businesses.

4.  In theory this will not lead to a government take over.

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How to Get There from Here

There’s been much discussion of late about what other country’s health care apparatus the US should consider emulating, and in such discussions France is often mentioned. Now, all cheerful ribbing against the French aside, their health care system is not nearly as “socialized” or nearly as afflicted by treatment denials and waiting lists as those of the UK or Canada. It is also rather more like the system that the US already has, in that it is a hybrid public/private system, though in their case there is a guaranteed base level of coverage everyone has through the government (funded via a hefty payroll tax — not unlike Medicare) which most people supplement with private coverage. Most doctors are in private practice, and 25% do not even accept the public plan, just as some practices in the US do not accept Medicare. However, everyone does have that minimum level of coverage, and the French spend a lower percentage of their GDP on health care than the US (11% versus 16%) which when you take into account that France’s GDP per capita is a good deal smaller than that of the US (which is the polite, economist way of saying it’s a poorer country) works out to the US spending about twice as many dollars per person on health care, while still not having universal coverage.

So what are we waiting for? Why don’t we go enact the French system here right now? Why doesn’t Obama put on a jaunty beret, dangle a cigarette coolly from the corner of his mouth, hoist a glass of wine, and just say, “Oui, nous pouvons.”
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