Free Markets, Free People
From a commenter on Arnold Kling’s Atlantic site, one of the more succinct summaries of what Waxman-Markey really is:
‘Cap and Tax’ simply provides more opportunities for political favoritism — creating arbitrary credits to be awarded to pet projects while getting others to pay for the favors. Meanwhile the energy expense baseline of the entire economy goes up. Waxman-Markey are gushing about how historic this bill is. That it is — it puts Smoot-Hawley in second place as potentially the most misguided economic legislation of the last 100 years.
Take the time to read Kling’s post as well.
If you’re wondering who will be paying “for the favors”, Conor Clarke at the Atlantic has been kind enough to put that in chart form using the CBO’s data on tax distribution:
But remember you 95% out there – your taxes won’t go up by a single dime – not one dime. Your fuel, electric, transportation, food and just about anything else you can imagine? Dimes won’t even begin to describe the increases you’ll see.
Michele Catalano starts her Pajama’s Media piece with this sentence:
There are more people who know what’s going on in the lives of Jon and Kate than what’s going on in Iran.
The “why” has never been more obvious to me than the two day “Michael Jackson is dead” orgy the television media has put us through. And of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this obsessive and non-stop coverage over a celebrity death.
But more importantly, Catalano points to a couple in a “reality” show who, quite frankly I had never heard of two weeks ago, as being a greater priority in people’s lives than what is happening in the world. Iran is reality. Jon and Kate? Well I have a confession to make – I simply don’t watch much TV. And so they definitely aren’t a reality to me.
Catalano’s point though, is well taken. I’ve been trying to follow the events in Iran closely for the past two weeks and during that time I’ve had “Jon and Kate” forced on me. Horror of horrors I learn they’re “breaking up”. Time was spent telling me how that has all come about. Anchors shook their head and told me how “sad” that was.
Meanwhile I had to learn of Neda’s death on the internet among the political blogs.
Then Michael Jackson dies. And here I am again trying to get word on a bill being voted on in the House that will radically change the lives of most Americans, see a little of the debate and find out the particulars of the legislation. Instead I have to watch the 15th viewing of the “Thriller” video, hear some yahoo tell me how much Michael Jackson meant to him, and listen to “reporters” speculate about his death and spread rumors about its cause.
Is there any question of why “more people … know what’s going on in the lives of Jon and Kate than what’s going on in Iran?”
But here’s the most important question:
Does the media decide what to feed us or do we tell it what we want to be fed?
Melanie Phillips points to an interesting contradiction:
As the world watched events unfold in Iran, Obama’s double standard over Israel was illuminated in flashing neon lights. How come he’s saying it is wrong for him to tell the Iranians what to do, people asked themselves, when he is dictating to Israel its policy on settlements?
It’s an excellent question. So what is the policy of the United States qua Barack Obama – strict hands off concerning the “internal affairs” of a country, or, in the case of Israel, what can only be considered “meddling” in internal affairs?
Just wondering …
No “gold plated” care for you – unless you’re in a union.
Yes, friends, it’s payback time in the health care legislation world. Bloomberg reports:
The U.S. Senate proposal to impose taxes for the first time on “gold-plated” health plans may bypass generous employee benefits negotiated by unions.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the chief congressional advocate of taxing some employer-provided benefits to help pay for an overhaul of the U.S. health system, says any change should exempt perks secured in existing collective- bargaining agreements, which can be in place for as long as five years.
The exception, which could make the proposal more politically palatable to Democrats from heavily unionized states such as Michigan, is adding controversy to an already contentious debate. It would shield the 12.4 percent of American workers who belong to unions from being taxed while exposing some other middle-income workers to the levy.
This is how they manage to get at your health care plan. Baucus wants to tax any health care benefit that is more costly than those provided federal employees. Those costs are about $4,200 for individuals and $13,000 for families. The claim is they again want to go after the “rich” who have “gold plated” plans. And the example in the Bloomberg article is the $40,543 in health benefits paid to Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the fifth largest U.S. bank.
Of course that threshold will also affect people much lower on the financial totem pole than Lloyd Blankfein. For example:
It can also affect companies such as Henderson, Nevada- based Zappos.com, where workers’ $11 per hour pay is supplemented by employer-paid health insurance plans worth about $7,500.
So immediately you have an $11 an hour employee liable for $495 at 15% of the difference. But remember, your taxes won’t go up by a dime. Not a single dime.
Why the desire to exempt unions? Well it gets a favored constituency off their back, is a measure of payback for their support and union members can then enjoy their “gold plated” coverage while $11 an hour workers pay the freight. Don’t believe unions have gold plated coverage. Try this example:
Sandra Carter, a retired Pacific Bell Telephone Co. technician from Stockton, California, said her health benefits, worth about $12,000 per year, were negotiated by the Communications Workers of America. She is unmarried with no children, meaning her individual coverage exceeds benefits paid to federal workers by about $7,800. If that amount were taxed at the 15 percent marginal rate, she would owe $1,170.
“I can’t afford the taxes I pay now,” said Carter, who said she suffers from diabetes. “Why should I get taxed on a benefit that keeps me a functioning person?”
Gee Ms Carter, why should anyone? Why is it any business of the government to limit the coverage to $4,200 and tax the rest. Who is Max Baucus, or anyone, to arbitrarily set the insurance limit at $4,200 for individuals and $13,000 for families and punish those who have better plans through taxation?
I would guess, however, Ms Carter is fine with unions being exempted and also fine with others being taxed in her stead.
Most unions, of course, see themselves as the exceptions deserving of such exemptions:
Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said in an interview that workers have often traded salary increases for better benefits in agreements.
Taxes “shouldn’t be taken from the backs of workers who have bargained away wages and other things for their benefits over the years,” Burger said.
But it is ok if others who’ve negotiated the same sort of exchange privately get nailed, eh Ms Burger? It’s not the principle, it’s the exception which is important here apparently.
To their credit, some unions are actually standing on principle:
“Either way, we are against a tax on health-care benefits in whatever form it takes,” said Jacob Hay, spokesman for the Laborers’ International Union of North America. The union represents 500,000 workers, largely in the construction industry.
Special interest democracy – political payback – so blatant now that you don’t even have to wonder if it is being done. Democrats are shameless in their pursuit of it. If you’re in a favored group, your ship has come in.