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Thanks to the Wall Street Journal, we have this terrible opinion piece added to the national debate about healthcare, although I’m not sure you can consider it an addition to anything. Some notable (false) points of the article, discussing the current Pelosi-sponsored bill working its way through the House, are:

“The bill creates a new and probably unrepealable middle-class entitlement that is designed to expand over time.”

First, nothing is unrepealable. Second, if the (unnamed) author can derogatorily call universal health care “middle-class entitlement”, I can call unregulated capitalist ideology that includes lowering taxes on the wealthiest individuals and allowing corporate interests absolute power “upper-class protectionism”. But none of this name calling is relevant to the debate.

“The goal is to ram through whatever income-redistribution scheme they [Democrats] can claim to be “universal coverage.” The result will be destructive on every level—for the health-care system, for the country’s fiscal condition, and ultimately for American freedom and prosperity.”

It’s true that universal health care is a form of income-redistribution, as are all government services, right down to the provision of highway networks and schools. The question is, how exactly is universal health care going to be so destructive to freedom and prosperity? Recent research shows that approximately 62% of personal bankruptcies are directly related to health issues, and 57.1% specifically cite medical bills as the most important cause of bankruptcy. Those bankruptcies have a cost that is currently absorbed by our financial system, and it would make much more sense to explicitly provide a safety net against medical emergencies by providing universal health care than to ignore the problem and implicitly allow “the system” to handle the costs of these bankruptcies.

“The cost of insurance [assuming the House bill is passed], naturally, will skyrocket.”

Really? Everyone in the U.S. will be paying a premium (some with government help), which will increase the total available money to pay for health care expenses. Also, hospitals will no longer have to pick up the tab for visits from the uninsured, which will lower their costs. Private health insurance companies will have to compete (hopefully) with a government option, which will be an incentive for them to keep administrative costs down in order to maintain profitability.

“The burden [of increased taxes to pay for universal health care] will mostly fall on the small businesses that have organized as Subchapter S or limited liability corporations, since the truly wealthy won’t have any difficulty sheltering their incomes.”

All of the tax calculations done by Congress, and mentioned in the article as well, are based on existing tax return data. This is data from people who are paying their taxes. But this gets to the central issue that should determine the outcome of universal health care in the U.S.: whether or not we should raise taxes on the wealthy. There are at least two reasons why we should:

1) Income inequality is now worse than it was during the Gilded Age. The period of approximately 40 years after WWII was amazingly prosperous for the U.S., and for the average American. This growth and prosperity took place at the same time that income was being redistributed in a big way due to New Deal programs, and income inequality was at its lowest. This is not an accident, nor is it an accident that, as income inequality has increased drastically in the last two decades and taxes on the rich have been greatly decreased (from ~70% on the highest income bracket in the 1950’s to ~40% now), the average American is now enduring a severe economic crisis while executive pay remains astronomical and corporate profits get protected by government bailouts. In the end, the taxpayer is the one who pays, so why not make that payment explicit by raising taxes and taking a larger share from the wealthy?

2) What, exactly, is the problem with increasing the tax burden on businesses and high earners? Obviously if you are in that group it is not desirable, but if you are like the 90% of us who have an annual family income under $104,700, you are not in that group. Furthermore, those businesses and high earners, almost without exception, “make” their money either by the use of your time and effort in your job, or from money that you spend in the course of your life. Either way, the lower- and middle-classes shouldn’t be ashamed to demand a larger share of that money to be distributed back to them, especially in the form of better health care insurance options. The real question is, are we (the lower and middle class of America) strong enough to make that demand, or are we going to continue to allow the wealthiest among us to squeeze us more and more in the name of “freedom and prosperity.”

The discussion about health care in the U.S. needs to happen, and assuming enough of us can agree that the current system is in desperate need of repair, we need to focus on finding ways to create change. The danger of articles such as this WSJ piece (other than their obvious lack of intellectual honesty and blatant attempts to manipulate using fear) is that they make the problem appear unsolvable, and they distract from the fact that America can and must find a way to get better and stronger. I’m convinced that such strength will include universal health coverage.

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