William Thien

I was chatting with a learned scholar of the tax code yesterday who responded to my position regarding favoritism within the tax code. It is well known that I believe the tax code is unfair in that it takes from various social and economic groups and redistributes wealth to entirely unrelated groups that already benefit from the tax code, tax breaks for having children for example, with other tax breaks even more substantial. The response of my learned colleague is that such taxation is necessary to “incentivize” particular behaviors. I must admit I had to withhold my laughter.

Mankind has never had to INCENTIVIZE SEX! Long before there was a tax break for having dependents, people were going at it, you could say, in all manner and direction! That list is endless, I’m sure and it requires no tax break to perpetuate. It took excruciatingly great abdominal strength not to flinch at his response.

But the tax code does just that by giving a tax break to families, as an example, and not providing one to individuals in such a regard. With the tax code in its current state, all manner of municipal, state, and federal budgets suffer, that of public education, roads, you name it.

I have in the past offered a workable solution regarding the matter of fairness to this dilemma. Average out all of the dependent deductions taken by families, if it is a certain amount, say 2.5 dependent deductions for all taxpayers in The United States who take the deductions, and provide an equivalent deduction for single taxpayers in the same amount to add to their own taxes. It’s only fair. It’s only fair particularly when families use more government services by default.

Instead of incentivizing sex, we need to even out the tax code and make it fair for everyone, not just what the government thinks is best for the country.

Since when has the government really known what’s “best” for the country anyway? I am sure many of us will agree that might have been a long, long time ago.

Copyright © William Thien 2015

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The debate to legislate right-to-work is currently heating up in my state legislature. Right-to-work legislation basically says that you don’t have to be a member of a union to work in a certain location whereas previously, certain shops and factories required union membership.

Yesterday, while listening to local talk radio the pundit mentioned that the reason industry took their production overseas, the reason they “outsourced” their production overseas in the last twenty years was because unions here in The US were negotiating unfair wage rates for their employees. That is not quite correct.

The reason industry sent production overseas is due to the fact that when The Berlin Wall came down and The Soviet Union fell, suddenly there were six billion people willing to work for pennies on the dollar when before industry within The United States and most of the west was not allowed to work with those countries where labor was dirt cheap because they were communist bloc.

Industry in the US then realized that it could make massive profits by basically taking a relative elimination of the cost of labor by outsourcing and so industry flocked en masse to countries like China and many others where labor was cheap, when before industry could not utilize those sources of labor. Much of this also has to do with former President Clinton and the legislature at the time awarding China “MFN,” or Most Favored Nation Trading Status.

Companies blamed the unions for their decision to outsource because companies that outsourced knew such a move would not be well accepted by the public. Unions were a convenient scapegoat.

So, I just wanted to clarify the point that industry left The United States and went overseas to find labor so cheap that it seemed to almost zero out the cost of labor from the production equation, not because all labor unions were requiring unfair wages. Wages may have been high when unions were strongest, but now that The US has gutted industrial production on its own soil, it’s hard to find something that many can afford on their non-union wages that is made in America.

The talk show host then made the remark that Right-To-Work makes setting up shop in this state more attractive to producers who reside in other parts of the country, which may be true. But it raises the question, is it more important to gut labor’s ability to earn a living merely to attract a couple of factories or it is more important to make sure people can earn a living wage?

As a conservative, I must admit, my fundamental nature is to favor “right-to-work.”

But it’s not cheap to live here. They lie to us about inflation, which has been substantial over the last decade, and they’ve already done a pretty good job of getting rid of the working stiff in America by outsourcing. Who is next?

Copyright © William Thien 2105

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Recently there have been a large number of stories in the local media about people suffering exorbitant bills due to health care they have received and it seems to me that The Affordable Care Act may not be living up to its stated objectives. I don’t fault anyone for that, though I was pointing out the fact that the ACA isn’t socialized medicine when most conservatives had missed that point during initial debate on the legislation and were in fact calling it socialized medicine, when in fact it is merely a private health insurance gimme with a sensible tweak to it such as the “No exclusion of pre-existing conditions” clause.

And so I thought I would revisit one of my earlier observations on the state of health care in The US with a global perspective on socialized medicine. Here it is:

I participated in a healthy debate on an email list about socialized medicine versus privatized medicine in 2004 and 2005. A fellow conservative had remarked that Canada’s health system required long waits for substandard care and concluded that all socialized health care programs produced the same results.

At the time I was paying for my own health insurance to the tune of about $6,000 per year. But when I went in to have some blemishes removed from my skin where my backpack straps (I like to hike) rubbed them, which was painful, the health insurer said it was a “pre-existing condition” and refused to pay for the doctor’s visit. Upon discovering the greed of the health insurer I stopped paying the monthly premium and was in fact better off by about $6,000 the next year. But people need health care.

The online debate I had caused me to use my own situation as an example and to examine what indeed the realities of socialized medicine were in other countries and then make a comparison to our own.

The first thing I learned was at the time people in Canada lived longer than people in The United States. So, in order to begin a somewhat scientific study of whether or not socialized medicine is better or worse than the system we have here in The United States, I had to have a control, a reference point, something to anchor the discussion so that I could use it as an example as the discussion proceeded. I decided to use “longevity,” or how long people lived.

It was astonishing to me to hear all of the negative things about Canada’s socialized medicine and then find out that in fact Canadians live longer. How can that be, I asked myself? How can it be that a system which is supposedly less efficient, and less expensive than our own as you will see later, how can it be that such an inefficient system would help their population to live longer? I mean, you would think that something that doesn’t work as well would produce less effective results. People living longer indicates efficiency when it comes to health care I believed, better results. So, I chose from the get go to use “longevity” as the reference point to determine a system’s efficiency.

Then, I went to several web sites that list statistics about the various countries on the planet, and perused The CIA Fact Book as well, a book which compiles information about every country to include the size of the country, its population, etceteras.

What I discovered is that in many countries with socialized medical programs, the people live longer, not just in Canada. I was flabbergasted. I’d been hearing all of this negative political rhetoric about how socialized medicine is a failure, yet here it was that many countries with socialized medical systems had populations that lived longer, in some cases, close to a decade longer. A decade! That’s significant in terms of statistical observation. Remember, I’m trying to be a little scientific.

Then, I tried to gather as much information as I could about the cost to each person of the socialized medical programs in each country. This was more difficult, but I was able to determine that the costs ranged anywhere from $3,500 to $6,000. Again, complete surprise. I had the impression after hearing all of the debates at the time that socialized medicine would cost the individual $20,000 or more, much like it costs the elderly here in The United States. No such luck. It happens that socialized medicine is actually much less expensive to administer than our own system of medicine.

What!? You say WHAT?!

That’s right. Socialized medicine is much less expensive to administer than our own system of medicine where, by the way, many don’t even have health insurance in the first place.

How can that be, you ask? How can socialized medicine be less expensive? It involves the government. The government always costs more. True. But as you will see, in this case, there is somewhat of an exception due to the complex nature of our own system of medicine.

For one thing, we are actually paying for several types of systems at the same time here in The United States. In a socialized system, you are only paying for one system.

The bureaucratic mess involved in administering the variety of medical systems in The United States means that many more dollars actually go into the administration of the system instead of the administration of the medical care and medicine. In other words, you are paying bureaucrats instead of doctors.

Well, what do you mean we are paying for several types of systems here in The United States?

For example, let me use myself as an example, again. Today, my employer sends me a statement of benefits at the end of the year whereas before I paid for my own health insurance. Last year my employer paid $11,000 for my health insurance (quite a bit more than the $6,000 I paid several years ago, which means the costs are skyrocketing). But not only did my employer pay $11,000, I paid in to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security as well. Social Security also has a medical component to it. So, not only does my employer pay for my health insurance, I pay for three socialized medical programs myself. And this is just at the federal level. My state has three socialized health care programs. Some say the cost to administer that bureaucratic mess is immeasurable. Needless to say, it’s huge! Gigantic. But more importantly, it’s inefficient, much more inefficient than say just having one system, or socialized medicine countrywide.

When I total up all of the input costs to my health care, the $11,000 my employer paid for my health care last year and what I paid into Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the cost is approaching $15,000. Today, socialized medicine in countries that have it, where they often live longer, is about $4500 to $7000, or about a third to one half of what it costs in The United States. And I’m just summing up the federal dollars that I pay and adding it to what my employer pays to the private health care insurer, and not adding what I pay to the state. That may approach $16,000 to $17,000, or two and a half times what people in countries with socialized medicine pay. Wow! That’s a lot of money.

Does this mean that we should move to a socialized health care system? Not exactly.

One of the things that I noticed in my somewhat scientific investigation is that there is a big fat guy in there that, were he properly regulated, medicine in The United States would be just fine, much less expensive, much more efficient. That big fat guy is The Health Insurance Company. Here we have a big fat middle man between America and its health care, a middle man that often tells the individual who pays dearly for the insurance that they are not covered due to a “pre-existing” condition, or that procedure is not covered because it is new, or that the prognosis is that you will only live three more months so they have decided not to approve the surgery.

In countries that have socialized medicine they have discovered something about efficiency in providing health care. Get rid of health care insurers. If you have a business, everything you do to structure that business is designed to make that business more efficient. You don’t have a special division of your business that doesn’t do anything related to that business. In this case, that would be the health care insurers. One thing health care insurers don’t do is provide health care services. They don’t treat patients, they don’t administer medicine, yet they are enormously costly. Countries with socialized medicine have recognized that fact and removed health care insurers from the health care equation. And guess what happened? The costs dropped dramatically. You can still purchase your own health insurance policy. But it’s not a law that you have to do so.

Since we live in a free market economy, that is really not an option. Or is it?

One of the major problems with health care in The United States is that big fat guy, health insurers, is not properly regulated and his weight is unhealthy for America. What we could really use is proper regulation of health care. After examining the issue on both sides, I’m convinced that is the answer, along with a couple of other minor tweaks that you will discover later.

Health care is not like other things. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything, the saying goes. Perhaps that is true of a country and its health care. And maybe like the historical relationship of the church and science, maybe health care and profit don’t make for a healthy marriage. Maybe there is something diabolical about profiteering so thoroughly as health insurers do from someone’s sickness, maybe not. But it sure is big business, in fact, one of if not the biggest in this country. In the last decade pharmaceutical companies have often been the most profitable businesses. Guess what else is in the top ten? Health care insurers. Nothing wrong with making a profit, unless it is making everyone sick. And I’m convinced that is what is happening with health care insurers.

So, from my perspective, the one measure to come out of the current administration’s health care legislation, the result of that big all-consuming discussion we all had at the beginning of the current administration, the one element that is of any value is that health care insurance companies can no longer say something is a” pre-existing” condition. This is an excellent example of the proper regulation of an industry that has been acting like a anti-societal monstrosity.

Yet, from my perspective also, I don’t see any benefit to making it a law to have to purchase health care in the first place, which was also an element of the current administration’s health care law, especially now that doctors are starting to offer lower rates if you don’t use health insurance. See how the health insurers have wheedled their way into the health care equation for good. Now, by law we are going to have to buy health insurance. Clever bunch those health care insurers. Pulled the wool right over everyone’s eyes in Washington.

I am not certain when the term “pre-existing” condition came into being, if it was an invention of some clever business school graduate brought on at one of the health care insurers, but that one term has increased the profits at health care insurers dramatically, I am sure, while it has simultaneously brought down the quality of health care in The United States, brought it down to that of a third world country in many instances. At one point I heard that close to forty percent of the population did not have health insurance. Well, why not just scrap it altogether, then? Something obviously isn’t working. Quite the opposite.

Outlawing the “pre-existing condition” status was in my opinion the one thing to come out of the current legislation on health care in this country to be of any measure. And it is an example of proper regulation. When the law says a corporation “must” do everything in its power to increase its profits and satisfy its shareholders, you will get things like the term “pre-existing condition.” Therefor, you must properly regulate against such behavior, and in this case, you must properly regulate health care insurers in general if you want costs in The United States to come down.

Furthermore, in reference to tweaking the system that I mentioned previously, it used to be that health care providers could not advertise their services as they can today. Advertising is not cheap, it’s expensive. All of those costs are incorporated into what you pay for health care. Do you think providers just throw that money out the door? No, the health care industry transfers those costs to you. So that brings health care costs up incredibly. In a “one system” form of health care, privatized or socialized, you make the choice, you would likely remove that part of the cost equation as well.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is much less expensive to administer one health care program in comparison to administering three or four programs at the federal level and then several again at the state level. One program for everyone and you will see the costs plummet. People will have more money for everything. The economy would likely flourish. Even major auto manufacturers and other industrial giants have said that health care costs are putting them out of business.

And, as a conservative I have to ask the question: Is having a government-run health care system comprised of multiple and perhaps likely redundant systems of care at both the federal and state levels actually better than having just one government-run system? The obvious answer is no. Having one system would be the better choice.

That is if a conservative can even accept having socialized or government-run health care in the first place? If in fact having one such system is much less expensive and more efficient than the multiple government and private systems we have today at such great cost, then of course the answer is a clear and definite yes, regardless of whether or not the system is totally government-run or private. It would be by default the most conservative system.

There are of course the questions which remain as to whether or not such a system could work in The United States. But we ought not to let the media front men decide that question for us.

In my opinion, if we want to lower health care costs in The United States we need to switch to one system and only one, whether it be private or public, into which everyone pays, and properly regulate that system. In that way, we will simplify and therefore decrease the administrative costs and insurance costs and everyone will likely live longer, as they won’t be sweating the cost of going to the doctor in the first place.

Copyright © William Thien 2011, 2105

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Last year one of my favorite sports personalities came clean about his use of “performance enhancing drugs.” It was a big deal in the media.

To me what was really disturbing about the episode, though, was not so much that he used steroids, or whatever he was using, but that almost immediately a regional convenience store and gasoline chain dropped its endorsement of the guy.

At first I suppose you could say, “Well, I guess he had it coming to him.”

But at the time the price of gasoline was well over $3 a gallon, closer to $4 a gallon, and it had remained at that level for several years.

It occurred to me that the convenience store chain’s move to drop their endorsement of the guy was a bit hypocritical.

Here they were raising the price of gasoline when someone sneezed in a foreign country or when the weather changed one way or the other (they used both as excuses), or when there was a tropical storm in some other part of the world, or when one single fuel truck somewhere ran off the road, or when some politician was caught for infidelity, or when some little war somewhere flared up, or when the seasons changed, or when there was a holiday and people were traveling, or when global warming was announced, then climate change, then it was determined that global warming might not happen, then only when climate change happened some times, then when baby boomers started retiring, when some volcano somewhere fired up, when it flooded somewhere, when there was a drought, when it snowed, when it rained, when the sun was shining, on cloudy days, when birds started migrating, when the birds returned, and the list goes on and on.

Here and everywhere else the gasoline station/convenience store chain was giving it pretty thoroughly to everyone up the you know what along with all of the others who sell gasoline and totally mucking up the economy, eating up everyone’s discretionary income, and THEY, yes THEY were dropping the endorsement of some guy who used performance enhancing drugs so he looked a little better on the field.

I tell you what!

Why don’t they take the ethanol out of my gasoline because that definitely doesn’t enhance the performance of my car and it is driving up the cost of food, too. Why don’t they stop adding water to the gasoline? That would help, particularly at this time of year. And take all of those varnish type solutions out of the gasoline so I can store it for a couple of years like I used to be able to do. If you ask me, America’s fuel supply could use some “performance enhancements” itself, particularly now that the price of gasoline though down recently is going right back up.

Needless to stay I stopped buying my gasoline from that convenience store chain.

Copyright © William Thien 2015

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William Thien:

One of the problems I have with the current state of the tax code in The United States is that in order to get elected politicians have been creating groups of the population that benefit disproportionately from the tax code when I believe the tax code should be based on the individual tax payer as the primary unit of taxation. The tax code should not favor one social group over another, but it does. The tax code favors families over individuals, for instance, and the tax code takes wealth from the individual and gives it to the family with no bearing in any foundational document or religious text. It’s done that way to get people elected. The tax code should not favor certain types of businesses over others, but it does, when often the businesses the tax code favors do not provide for the population or the economy in any substantial way. If the tax code is law, then the tax code should not harm the public in that regard, and it does so by taking from the public to favor enterprise that does not benefit the public, therefor applying contrary effort.

Since tax time is approaching, I just wanted to share those observations with you.

William Thien

Originally posted on William Thien:

It occurs to me that if I’m paying for others to fornicate and copulate and all other manner of sexual interaction and I’m paying for the brooding, education, medication, and frequently the incarceration of the related progeny, paying for all of that sex through the tax code, paying for others to claim dependent deductions on tax returns and through not having eligibility for withholding on my own paycheck since I have no children or dependents of my own, I am subject to a form of economic genocide. Because that’s exactly what economic genocide is. It’s just that in this case, the genocide is facilitated through America’s socialist tax code.

Copyright © William Thien 2015

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It occurs to me that if I’m paying for others to fornicate and copulate and all other manner of sexual interaction and I’m paying for the brooding, education, medication, and frequently the incarceration of the related progeny, paying for all of that sex through the tax code, paying for others to claim dependent deductions on tax returns and through not having eligibility for withholding on my own paycheck since I have no children or dependents of my own, I am subject to a form of economic genocide. Because that’s exactly what economic genocide is. It’s just that in this case, the genocide is facilitated through America’s socialist tax code.

Copyright © William Thien 2015

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As tax time approaches once again I wanted you to read one of my most popular essays, America’s Unfair Tax Code and The Brown Headed Cowbird. I have debated often about socialism and communism in The United States and how socialism and communism are implemented through the tax code and in that way their effects are less obvious, though still pernicious. I will be talking a lot about America’s tax code in the next couple of months. To my friends and colleagues who utilize the tax breaks I speak of, I say, use them. Don’t feel guilty for my meager commentary on what is unfair about them. Were I in your shoes, I would do the same. But know they must change. The tax code must be made fair. It was in fact the unfair tax code during colonial times that led to the formation of this country and I don’t see that things should ever change in that regard.

America’s Unfair Tax Code and The Brown Headed Cowbird

An associate of mine was telling me that he had received a substantial tax refund this year and when comparing it to mine I was rather surprised as it was many thousands of dollars more. During the time that we have worked together, he has received close to a year’s salary in total tax refunds more than I. That’s substantial and a bit of an insult to me since we have the same position and are paid exactly the same. We are not businessmen so we do not have a large number of operating costs we can write off. We both make the same amount of money. He is married, I am not, but that was only a minor difference. The major difference between his tax return and mine was that he has five children.

On his tax return each of his children represented a large deduction to his earnings and as a result, he received a substantially larger tax refund than I did. At first I thought, OK, raising children is expensive these days, why shouldn’t he get some help from the government (that’s us the taxpayers, by the way)? But then the thought occurred to me (I didn’t tell him and I hope he doesn’t read my blog) that his children are going to public schools and at times he has used public services for medical support of his family. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. It is good that we offer the best public education in the world and can provide medical support to families in need.

But to give him a tax break substantially larger than mine when in fact he uses more public services than I do, uses more services in a substantially greater amount than I do, seems like foolish and definitely unfair tax policy. What is essentially happening is that I am paying for his children to attend school and to obtain free health care. The tax break, the deduction that he receives is possible because I do not receive the tax break. In essence I am paying to raise his children. That’s how they offer him a tax break. They take it from me in some way or another and give it to him in the form of a deduction.

In the region of the country where I live there is a bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and then lets the other birds rear their young. The name of the bird is The Brown Headed Cowbird. It sneaks up to another bird’s nest when the other bird is away foraging and deposits its egg in the other bird’s nest. When the bird that is out foraging returns to the nest, more often than not they simply begin incubating the Brown Headed Cowbird’s egg along with their own and then they rear the fledgling as if it was their own. Sometimes the host bird can’t raise its own and is only able to raise the fledgling of the Brown Headed Cowbird due to diminished resources in that vicinity and the voracity of the Cowbird fledgling.

It occurs to me that much like the unwitting bird who is rearing the Brown Headed Cowbird’s egg, the invader’s egg, a parasite as defined by ornithologists, I am paying to raise the children of others. If you ask me, that is unfair tax policy. Some might say, well that’s just the way it is, and I myself, I’m not certain I have a problem with that really.

But perhaps many of the problems we have with balancing governmental budgets, many of the problems we have with massive abuses of the huge system of entitlements we have in this country stems from the perception that people have originating from the tax code. Can we afford to have another child? Heck yea! It’s a tax break! And as families have more and more children using more and more government services, we as a country are at a loss for how to pay for those services used because we in fact give people a tax break for using them. In a sense, that is what is happening. And similar tax policies apply to corporations as well for conducting certain types of business or using certain types of resources, natural resources even.

No business in their right mind pays people 100 percent of the cost of their products to purchase their products. You will not find one truly successful business that says, “we will give you five dollars for every hamburger you buy from us.” Instead of you paying us, we will pay you. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Until of course it comes time to pay all those people behind the counter, the servers, the ones cooking the food, the maintenance people. Where is the money? Well, boss, we gave it to the customers. Well, where are they? Get the money back! They are at the restaurant across the street eating with the money we gave them. Well whose harebrained idea was it to give them the money in the first place?

It seems to me that if we want to balance the country’s budget and the budgets of all of the states and municipalities we need realistic tax codes and policies that address budget disparities, tax policies that somehow seek payment for services used and not payment to the users, particularly the Brown Headed Cowbirds of America.

It’s only fair.

Or, how about this? Do you have a Brown Headed Cowbird living in your back yard? Check this box for your standard Brown Headed Cowbird deduction, and if you are a corporation, double the deduction.

Copyright © William Thien 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

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