AHA! Moment - ObamaCare is Extortion!
Ever have one of those "Aha!" moments wake you up, and keep you up, especially when you'd rather be catching up on your sleep? It just happened right now, and until I get this "out" I may never sleep peacefully again.
WARNING: This may seem POLITICAL in nature - but I assure you that it's based in cold, hard fact.
I have been thinking - really hard - about ObamaCare; especially on how it requires Americans to have health insurance coverage of a certain amount/level or (those not so covered) face a tax penalty. Why does that bother me so much? What's wrong with this picture?
As of this writing (11/11/2011), it is estimated (from actual real documentation) that 9% of the American public is unemployed. That's just the documented cases, of course: some larger undocumented segment of the American public is no longer seeking employment or are woefully under-employed. [In case you are wondering: I am currently in the second category. I'll rant about that a little later, I promise.] Go ahead and check me on this, I can wait...
Mr. President, Congress (both House and Senate), I ask you: "How are the 9%+ of America supposed to pay for Health Insurance *or* your silly tax penalty if/when they fail to obtain the required coverage?"
*>THIS<* is what has kept me up all night, keeping my processors looping and looping and looping, trying to figure it out. I'm willing to bet those fat-cat politicians (most of whom belong to another health management system far superior to any we'll ever see - yet that we pay for out of our taxes) never thought about this. And it's about to bite 'em (those same fat-cat politicians) pretty hard.
Once that question rolled out onto this page, I began to feel a little more secure as to why ObamaCare "doesn't feel right", and why I'm so ill at ease with the entire concept being supported as constitutional. It's not right at all, but this is America, and Americans deal with this kind of thing every day. It's their nature, it's in their blood, and history will bear me out on this - and the reasoning is very 'capitalist' even if I do say so myself.
Let me explain. If you are out shopping and you see a SALE! price that is obviously not a "sale" price at all, it is quite possible that you will avoid making that purchase at that time. This is Capitalism at work: you are a judgement with your resources (money) as to whether or not to acquire a good (or service) at the offered price. It happens all the time, especially if there is a competitor offering that same item (or service) at a reduced price. Or perhaps you realize that you really don't need that Moss-Covered Three-Handled Family Credenza anyway, so you omit that purchase altogether. See - Capitalism at its raw, heartless core. You don't really NEED it, so you don't PAY for it.
Well, there is a segment of the American public who are beginning to view TAXES as the same "option". It's in the same light as "Taxation without representation", right? "If my representative political bigots are so hot to move my/our job(s) overseas, why should I pay for it? My needs are not being considered, and I am no longer being represented." The next thought is pretty natural, sometimes borne of necessity. "...and I just won't pay for it any more." And they don't. They just stop paying taxes at all. You can't really blame them - it's in their blood - their history is rife with examples of 'civil disobedience' - so they really can't help it.
In a healthy economy resources are managed (or mis-managed) in something of an ecosystem. A person performs services for an employer who then compensates them for their efforts. This compensation is controlled by market factors as to what level of resources are offered for what type of service is performed. (Got it? That last bit means "the market controls how much you get paid for what type of work is done.") Then that person has at their disposal resources that they may save, invest, or spend on other products (or services) rendered by other people also based on market values. To make this work, the market has to be common and universal (applied to all people across the board).
Taxes originally were intended as a temporary measure to pump resources into a fledgeling government in order that they might have resources to apply to those services (and sometimes goods) that benefitted the common good universally. Temporary, until the government could get on its feet, and begin to charge for its services to the people who would then pay according to their consumption of these services (or goods). But taxes are like leeches, reducing the capacity of the common person to further engage in economic endeavors. ("They got less money now, so they can't buy the goods or services that they otherwise could.") Are you with me so far? Good. And taxes seem like easy money, so they remain. And get bigger.
Our American Economy is in shambles. It really is - especially because the American people who used to be employed at the Mills manufacturing things and performing support services for those manufacturers no longer have jobs (to which they were accustomed), and so their capacity to earn cash has been severely interrupted. Some have been lucky (or smart) enough to have saved up enough money to go back to school and try to re-purpose themselves to become useful to the 'new' economy. Some have taken out loans (and grants, and scholarships) to attempt the same thing. [Guilty as charged.] And some have lived beyond their means, taking advantage of laughably easy-to-get credit, and they are now in a bind, finding themselves owing a large chunk of change to their creditors without having the capacity to pay it off. It was easier when they worked down at Jeremiah's Widget factory, where they made Wim-Wams for Geese Bridles, but ever since those jobs were moved offshore (read: anywhere but here) there hasn't been any work, and no work means no money, and the bills still demand payment...
See - it's broken. Some people who have completed re-tooling (at the aforementioned school) have emerged into a darkly recessed market: they toil at their respective jobs for less than a quarter of what USED to be 'the going price'. In short, we get underpaid so badly it's like being unemployed, only with the stress of having a boss with expectations watching you like a jungle cat stalking a mouse. Under the current conditions it is nearly impossible to get ahead, save (or invest) any money, or better our lifestyles through free-market purchases. We're employed, yet it is not unlike being in a boat with a dolphin-sized hole but bailing like mad with a teacup. We're doing our best, but thanks to "current market conditions" our best just isn't good enough. (Brace yourselves: we're going down...)
Now we're saddled with an additional responsibility: a "certain level" of health insurance coverage. I can't afford this at my current pay rate, so I don't have it. And I'm told that - by 2014 - if I don't have it I face a tax penalty, and there's nothing I can do about it.
"Oh yeah? What if I just forego the trip to the Accountant's office (thus depriving the Accountant of resources as well) and decide not to pay *any* taxes at all?" Well, there are penalties for those scofflaws who deprive the government of its ill-gotten gains. But only if they get caught. Only if they get caught.
That's one of the consequences of the current (broken) economy that our fine fat-cat politicians haven't considered yet. But many Americans already have. Some don't pay taxes simply because they can't. Like I told a bill collector last week: "I was out of work - which means I made no money. If I don't have any money, then I cannot pay you with it, because it simply isn't there." So some will simply avoid paying taxes because they don't have the funds to do it. Others see it as a waste of money: they are no longer being represented, so they do not feel the need to pay into the system. And the IRS is woefully, even pitifully slow at (a) realizing that this is happening and (b) figuring out how to prosecute it. So it goes on: more and more Americans are slipping across the line - a little here, a little there, and always scattering into the margins at the first sign of the tax collector. There are even lifestyles built around successful tax evasion! As long as you don't make above a certain amount it isn't worth the time for the IRS to prosecute, so people continue to get away with it! And if/when you decide to "come clean", there are (criminal) attorneys "out there" to help you "settle" with the government for pennies on the dollar! That's a win-win situation if I've ever seen one.
Do you see what I mean? So if I cannot afford Health Insurance I will most likely not be able to afford the tax penalty, either. And that could lead to tax evasion by reason of resource shortfall: "I don't have the money, so I cannot pay you with it, because it simply isn't there." Had I been able to afford Health Insurance in the first place, this might have been avoided - but big business is really "into" charging prices "as high as the market will bear". Capitalism, but leaning toward extortionism. "Extortionism? Is that even a word?" you say - but I assure you that regardless of intent we (the unemployed and under-employed) are being extorted to buy over-priced and under-performing health insurance by law. And folks, that's simply not right.
Here's the other thing to consider - and it's one of the factors that urges your fellow Americans to stop paying these excessive (and poorly thought-out) insurance rates, tax penalties, or any of that. It's simply this - there are so many people out there alrady avoiding and evading taxes that it is statistically impossible for even the super-powered America to catch them all. All you have to do to get away with it is change your lifestyle a little to make it harder for the IRS (or anyone else, for that matter) to track your earnings and expenses.
"What does that last bit mean?" you ask. Well, consider this: Back in High School there would occasionally be trouble in a hallway - some people selling something that was banned on school property, for example. When the Principal (or some other Authority Figure) hove into view the hallway was instantly filled with pandemonium and chaos, young adults skittering in every direction (even back past the Principal or Authority Figure) to escape the punishments for being caught engaging in what was deemed an "illegal activity". Was the Principal (or Authority Figure) able to catch them all? Never. Never, ever. So out of twenty-some-odd students filling the end of a hallway next to the bus ramp only one or two would get caught - sometimes three if they were gullible enough. But the others all got away, mostly. 3 out of 20 is only 15% --- which looks pretty big until you realize that those three are replacable in this illegal market system. If they were the sellers, they will be replaced as early as tomorrow by someone selling the same stuff, maybe even at reduced prices. And if they were only buyers, well, there will always be other buyers.
I was going to go further into this, talking about some hyper-detailed financial theories like "The Laffer Curve" and such, but I just realized that I accidently wrote a book here, and your eyes are probably tired. I apologize, but I couldn't omit one word and still properly get the point across. Maybe if we could get someone in power to see this, it might not happen this way. But I honestly don't see it happening - I don't know any powerful politicals who listen to the public, and I'll bet neither do you. So I simply leave this writing on the wall...