Wayne Root: ‘The Big Obama Healthcare Lie’

Emailed to contact.ipr@gmail.com:

THE BIG LIE: Obama Says Healthcare Won’t Add to Our Budget Deficit.

The Smoking Gun That Proves Obama’s Government-Run Healthcare will Fail: The Bankruptcy of OTB (New York’s Off Track Betting).

Any Government That Can’t Make a Profit in the Gambling Business or the Brothel Business, Can’t Be Allowed to Run the Nation’s Healthcare.

By Wayne Allyn Root, Author
The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution with God, Guns, Gambling & Tax Cuts

As Ronald Reagan might have said, “There he goes again.” Obama was telling the big lie again last night- promising that his healthcare plan would not add to the deficit. Do you remember Obama’s promise that his stimulus plan would “add 3 million jobs.” Instead we lost almost 3 million jobs. Do you remember Obama and liberal politicians arguing that the money we gave GM and Chrysler would not be a waste, and that much of it would be repaid? Well a new study now predicts $22 billion in auto bailouts is lost forever. How about “Cash for Clunkers?” The government ran out of money in 4 days! How do we know that government-run healthcare won’t run out of money in a week?

Or let’s examine the predictions for Medicare. Back in 1970, government “experts” predicted that Medicare would cost $12 billion by 1990. The real cost: $110 billion. Government was only off by almost ten times. Now Obama says his plan will “only” cost $900 billion and not add to the growing budget deficit. Anyone wanna bet? This Las Vegas oddsmaker-turned Libertarian Vice Presidential nominee is taking that action.

But a breaking story in New York may be the best case for defeating government-run healthcare (or government-run anything). OTB just declared bankruptcy. OTB (Off Track Betting) is government-run gambling. Not just any gambling- but rather the most profitable gambling business model on earth. You see OTB doesn’t even take a chance. They cannot lose. They simply take a cut off the top to pay out winners, and keep the rest for themselves. Yet OTB is over $200 million in debt, and has over $500 million in unfunded liability for the pensions and healthcare of OTB’s 40,000 employees.

What does all this prove? That government is incompetent and cannot be trusted to run anything. That government fails at virtually everything it does- from running brothels in Nevada, to running gambling in New York. That many government employees couldn’t survive even a week in the private sector. And of course that government wastes money by employing too many people and paying them far too much. I’ll bet (excuse the pun) that OTB could run successfully and profitably with 4000 employees instead of 40,000. The moral to the story is if you can’t make money in the sex or gambling business, you can’t run the healthcare of the United States of America.

But worst of all, the OTB story proves the foolishness of the idea of providing universal healthcare to 300,000,000 Americans. OTB is broke because they have $500 million in unfunded liabilities just from paying bloated pensions and free healthcare for 40,000 people. If you can’t fund free healthcare for 40,000 people in the gambling business, can you even imagine the debt from trying to pay for free healthcare for every person in the country?

Wayne Allyn Root was the 2008 Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate. His new book is entitled, “The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution with God, Guns, Gambling & Tax Cuts.” For more of Wayne’s views, commentaries, or to watch his many national media appearances, please visit his web site at: www.ROOTforAmerica.com. Wayne will be available to the media live on book tour in New York on September 9th-11th.

82 thoughts on “Wayne Root: ‘The Big Obama Healthcare Lie’

  1. Pingback: So how are we gonna pay for it?! - Politics and Other Controversies - Page 4 - City-Data Forum

  2. Mike in PA

    Hey Wait! The worst lie is that “if you like your current health care, you can keep it.”

    Yeah right! Not if your employer pays for your health insurance! They’ll have to pay an 8% tax penalty for not insuring you, but it’s cheaper than providing your insurance plan. You won’t have a choice; any business worth their investment rating will dump their plans – and you. You won’t have a choice or option or whatever they want to call it next.

  3. Michael H. Wilson

    Well the problem as I see it is that we don’t have a clear understanding as to what the Libertarian party proposes as an alternative and how people will benefit.

  4. Bill Wood

    The Libertarian Party will work towards the following:

    1. Establish Medical Saving Accounts.
    Under this program, you could deposit tax-free money into a Medical Savings Account (MSA). Whenever you need the money to pay medical bills, you will be able to withdraw it. For individuals without an MSA, the Libertarian Party will work to make all healthcare expenditures 100 percent tax deductible.

    2. Deregulate the healthcare industry.
    We should repeal all government policies that increase health costs and decrease the availability of medical services. For example, every state has laws that mandate coverage of specific disabilities and diseases. These laws reduce consumer choice and increase the cost of health insurance. By making insurance more expensive, mandated benefits increase the number of uninsured American workers.

    3. Remove barriers to safe, affordable medicines.
    We should replace harmful government agencies like the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) with more agile, free-market alternatives. The mission of the FDA is to protect us from unsafe medicines. In fact, the FDA has driven up healthcare costs and deprived millions of Americans of much-needed treatments. For example, during a 10-year delay in approving Propanolol Propranolol (a heart medication for treating angina and hypertension), approximately 100,000 people died who could have been treated with this lifesaving drug. Bureaucratic roadblocks kill sick Americans.

  5. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bill,

    Why should the LP promise to engage in social engineering with the tax code?

    Why should my money be tax exempt if I save it for something the federal government thinks I should use it for (health care), but not if I save it for (or spend it on) something else that I prefer (amassing a first-rate porn collection, maybe, or taking a trip to Tahiti)?

  6. Frank from VA

    Like it or not. We are already pointing in the direction of an all government, public or whatever you want to call it healthcare system. Why? Because health is not a commodity, so you can never establish a $ amount to it. Also, private companys can’t eliminate the profit component. Nor should they, it’s their survival. It’s not fair to ask the hungry fox to guard the sheep. So lets face it, someone has to pay for it and that someone is us.
    So, it’s not a matter of, if this is going to happen, but when.
    At that point, all we can do as tax payers paying for this, is to make sure that “we the people” keep the politicians out of it and let that agency do it’s job for us. Remember, they tell us every day how bad the government does things, as if there are nothing but aliens running the government. They are the government and they have the nerve to point-blank tell us that they do a lousy job. If I told my boss this, I would be one more added to the unemployment line.
    So, when this happens, fear not, despite what they tell you, there are government organizations that can and do a great job, like our beloved Military, God bless em! Or the FAA. The “ONLY” time these agencies can’t get the job done is when the politicians get involved. So I would like the believe that when the time comes, we can develope a healthcare agency that would provide the services “we” want, and do a good job. All we need to do is demand this from our government this time, not let up and get the ones that tell us that they do a lousy job on the unemployment line

  7. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    If a health savings account bill included a provision prohibiting the adjustment of the tax rate to maintain revenue neutrality, that would be using healthcare savings as “an excuse to cut taxes.”

    Without such a provision, it wouldn’t be a tax cut, it would be a redistribution of the tax burden from people who spend their money the way the government wants them to to people who don’t.

  8. Bill Wood

    Tom, I really don’t want government involved at all with my healthcare , nor anything else. Although, if we do go to Government healthcare, I would probably benefit in becoming a government worker. Instead of working hard to keep my customers happy, and trying to keep their business. As a government employee giving the same service, I would not have to care, probably get paid more and work less hours. Oh, and retire with a huge government pension. LOL

  9. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bill,

    You write:

    “I really don’t want government involved at all with my healthcare , nor anything else.”

    I agree.

    Having government cut a special tax break for people who save/spend money on “health care” involves government in your health care, if for no other reason than that government will then define “health care.”

    If you pull a muscle, maybe you go to your family doctor or the ER. If I pull a muscle, maybe I go to a massage parlor — you know, one of those with the hot Asian chicks … er, “experienced therapeutic masseuses.” One of us gets a tax credit, the other one still has to pony up.

    I’m all for tax cuts for everyone. I don’t government should get to decide that people only get a tax cut if they spend the money that wasn’t taken from them on health care, World of Warcraft or bulk quantities of beer.

  10. Brian Holtz

    Tom, when you complain about any change to tax incidence as “redistribution”, you morally privilege the status quo ante. I don’t see anything morally privileged about e.g. the historical accident that employer-purchased healthcare is tax-advantaged compared to individually-purchased healthcare.

    Also: if law change X grants a tax break and does nothing else, then that’s a tax cut. You don’t get to win this argument by stipulating that there’s no such thing as a tax cut — or at least, that a tax cut doesn’t count as a tax cut unless accompanied by some kind of constitutional amendment (or other extraordinary legislative hurdle) against later raising some other tax.

  11. Michael H. Wilson

    In the issue section of the national LP website the section on Healthcare begins like this; “As recently as the 1960s, low-cost health insurance was available to virtually everyone in America – including”.

    This suggests that medical care existed in a free market prior to 1960. Nothing could be further from the truth. Midwives had been pretty much outlawed by that time, chiropractors had to fight for the right to practice, naturopaths were and still are prohibited in some states and we can list more alternative practices that were virtually illegal at the time and maybe still are.

    Today midwives still find it difficult to practice in many places in America, but the Libertarian Party makes no mention of the problems with occupational licensing laws in our materials. Midwives generally have better outcomes than doctors. That is lower maternal mortality rates, lower infant mortality rates and at lower costs for births.

    “Kennedy and Shannon (2004) noted that the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan, not the United States, lead the world in healthy perinatal outcomes. Unlike the United States, these other countries use midwives for primary maternity care, reserving obstetricians for high-risk pregnancies and births (Kennedy & Shannon, 2004).
    MacDorman and Singh (1998) corroborated the findings of Blanchette (1995) to compare the outcomes of all low- and high-risk, physician- and nurse-midwife-attended singleton vaginal births in the United States in 1991. After controlling for medical and sociodemographic risk factors, the data demonstrated decreased infant mortality (19%), decreased neonatal mortality (33%), and decreased occurrence of low infant birth weight (31%) for nurse-midwife-attended births.”http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2517192

    The LP should be loud and clear on the issues related to midwives and the value they bring to medical care and patients as evidence that occupational licensing laws have no value to consumers and are there only to protect those with the loudest political voice.

  12. Brian Holtz

    2.9 Health Care

    We favor restoring and reviving a free market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want, the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions.

  13. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    You write:

    “You don’t get to win this argument by stipulating that there’s no such thing as a tax cut — or at least, that a tax cut doesn’t count as a tax cut unless accompanied by some kind of constitutional amendment (or other extraordinary legislative hurdle) against later raising some other tax.”

    No problem, then — I haven’t tried to do that and I don’t plan to, but now I know in advance that I shouldn’t.

    Social engineering through “targeted” tax cuts is a bad idea for several reasons.

    One is that it allows government to exert control over how you spend your money. Spend it on A, it’s tax-deductible or even refundable as a tax credit. Spend it on B and it isn’t. It isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the government’s business what people spend their money on.

    Another is that it has unintended consequences. For example, the home mortgage interest credit was a long-term factor in the creation of the housing bubble that blew up in America’s face over the last couple of years.

    I have no problem with using health care costs as a reason or an argument for a tax cut. Let’s figure up the average cost per person for health care in the United States and add that amount to the personal exemption to the income tax. Voila — problem solved. If people spend that additional money they got to keep on health care, that’s just peachy. If they decide to spend it on big-screen TVs and new bowling shoes, that’s fine too.

  14. Michael H. Wilson

    @ 16 Brian were you replying to my point above?

    And may I point out that the first part of that sentence is incorrect. The U.S. has never had a free market in healthcare or much of anything else.

  15. Brian Holtz

    Tom, any policy change whatsoever that falls short of Libertopia Tomorrow Morning can be labeled “social engineering” compared to possible alternatives. In the real world, utopia is not on the menu, and hunger strikes just make the nanny state fatter. If you can’t see tax-incentive-based healthcare reform as a potential way to head off the final socialization of the industry, and as a path toward eventually separating medicine and state, then I just don’t have time to show you any more eye charts.

  16. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    I didn’t suggest “Libertopia tomorrow morning.”

    I suggested that if we want to cut taxes and reduce government involvement in health care, we should work on cutting taxes and reducing government involvement in health care instead of coming up with new and different ways to manipulate people through their taxes and keep the government involved in health care.

    I think health care is important. I think baseball and television are important, too. And I love tax cuts.

    I’m not, however, going to go to the American people and tell them that my big idea is a tax cut — but only for people who buy World Series tickets and “House: Season Five” DVD sets. And I don’t support my party doing so either.

    I’m not sure why you think this is such a radical concept. Ronald Reagan pushed for (and got) straight tax cuts without tying them to the purchase of unicorns, ice cream or collectible Marvel comic books. So did JFK.

    I can see why the Republicans and Democrats support this “targeted” nonsense — they rake in big campaign contributions from the industries that benefit when a tax cut is pre-conditioned on purchasing the goods and services they offer — but I don’t understand what you see in it. Did Kaiser Permanente just drop a big check on LPC or something?

  17. Robert Capozzi

    A way around the whole “social engineering”/tax incentive discussion is to advocate for expansion of the exisiting IRA program to include current health spending. Raise the ceiling on IRAs. Use it as an HSA and education, for that matter.

  18. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    Well, yes, calling a spade a rake or a pruning shear is certainly a “way around” calling it a bloody shovel. I’m not particularly interested in finding “ways around” calling things what they are.

    Either we support cutting taxes, or we support shuffling tax burdens around to engineer taxpayer behavior for the benefit of favored lobbies. Which one is it?

  19. Brian Holtz

    That false dichotomy is what earned you the Libertopia Tomorrow remark. We can say that we favor any reduction in income tax rates, but as long as they are non-zero then individually-purchased health insurance should be just as deductible as employer-purchased health insurance. Do you defend the social engineering of tax preferences for the latter?

    Tom, you’re too thoughtful a left-libertarian for me to believe that you’ve bought all the way in to the Rothbardian no-order-of-destatization nonsense. Many Libertarians talk about repealing the (progressive) income tax without ever mentioning (regressive) payroll taxes. If there were a button that could do that, would you push it? E.g. if there were a constitutional amendment banning just the one but not the other, would Rep. Knapp be willing to provide the swing vote to pass it? I would, but then as a calculating “social engineer” I have no qualms about saying that some sequences of destatization are better than others.

  20. Robert Capozzi

    Oddly enough, the Rockbard crowd have stumbled upon the truth that property itself is “social engineering.”

    The state of nature is not social engineering.

    I’d suggest that Ls should be less knee-jerk about the FORM of social engineering and focus more on undoing coercive government. That requires judgment and strategy. For me, IRAs represent the beginnings of a peaceful solution to retirement. Why not expand them for things that are popular and viewed as “necessities” by vast majorities…health care and education fit that criterion. Reversing the State’s chokehold on those important aspects of life sounds quite L to me, and would tend to illustate just how unnecessary the State is in a host of economic activities.

  21. paulie Post author

    So, when this happens, fear not, despite what they tell you, there are government organizations that can and do a great job, like our beloved Military, God bless em! Or the FAA.

    ROFLMAO. Yeah, sure they do.

    They are the government and they have the nerve to point-blank tell us that they do a lousy job. If I told my boss this, I would be one more added to the unemployment line.

    Good idea. Let them find jobs that are not paid for with extorted money.

  22. Michael H. Wilson

    If there are tax deductions that are specific for heathcare expenditures people may end up spending more for doctor visits and related expenses just because they know that at the end of the year they will end up paying less in taxes.

    Taxpayers will see it not as their own dollars, but government dollars and thus are just as likely to spend it as they spend money now for medical needs because their employer is picking up the tab.

    Targeted healthcare deductions may end up driving up healthcare expenses in the long run.

  23. Robert Capozzi

    mhw, yes, I’d agree, but I’d suggest the current configuration has served to drive health care prices far more. Those who are insured have zero incentive to price shop, and indeed have incentives to make maximum use of his or her insurance plan, esp. low deductible. low co-pay plans.

    On the other end, those uncovered have incentives to use “free” services like Medicaid, which reimburses at currently below market rates. Providers have incentives to overcharge paying customers to maintain service levels.

    My suggestion of a super IRA allows taxpayers maximum control over his or her own funds. It could be used for retirement, for catastrophic health insurance, for office visits, and for education. This at least gives taxpayers MORE flexibility in how they spend their own money.

    When at sea, paddle toward the shore, unless and until the Star Trek transporter is invented 😉

  24. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    You write:

    “We can say that we favor any reduction in income tax rates, but as long as they are non-zero then individually-purchased health insurance should be just as deductible as employer-purchased health insurance. Do you defend the social engineering of tax preferences for the latter?”

    I agree that individually purchased health insurance should be just as deductible as employer-purchased health insurance. If that was the issue before me as a voting congresscritter or a bill-signing president, I’d go for it in a heartbeat. Ditto for medical savings accounts, etc.

    BUT! What I’d accept is not the same thing as what I’d run on, or what I’d prefer my party set as its standard.

    President Bush’s 2007 proposal called for a maximum $7500 deduction for an individual, or $15,000 for a family, for health insurance costs.

    Screw that. We should support adding $7500 per individual, $15k per family to the STANDARD deduction.

    Better yet, add it to the personal exemption instead of the standard deduction, so that it doesn’t negatively impact people’s ability to increase their deductions by itemizing.

    I have no problem with arguing in support of that move to the effect that it will enable more people to buy health insurance, but it shouldn’t be legally tied to their purchase of health insurance. If they want to spend it on a down payment for a new car, a Caribbean cruise or a lifetime supply of Krispy Kremes, that’s fine too.

    Bob,

    You write:

    “For me, IRAs represent the beginnings of a peaceful solution to retirement.”

    They represent that to a lot of people.

    On the other hand, to other people they represent a flood of money that was artificially directed into use as investment capital when it might otherwise have been spent on cars, houses, big screen TVs, inexpensive Chinese doodads with hilarious warning labels on them, etc.

    The coincidence of the arc of IRA/Roth IRA, etc. and the arcs of “irrational exuberance,” shady weirdass derivatives, Madoff and Stanford ripoffs, harsh corrections, etc. aren’t … um, coincidental. When you artificially direct huge sums of new money into a market by mandate (“put it there, no taxee; do anything else with it, yes taxee”), yes, it drives prices in that market up. It also attracts the con artists, fly-by-nighters and chiselers.

  25. Michael H. Wilson

    Hey all I appreciate all the comments regarding taxes and healthcare expenditures. I am writing an article on this issue and related ones for our news letter and have been puzzling over this for a couple of weeks. So keep em comin’

    Thanks,
    MW

  26. Michael Seebeck

    A simple improvement, whether it’s considered social engineering through the tax code or not, would be this:

    1) Drop the 7.5% bottom threshold of AGI to 0% for deductible medical expenses.
    2) Include medical insurance premiums as deductible.
    3) Move the deduction off of Schedule A and onto the 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ.

    Now, that’s obviously not the only solution, but it would help the bottom tax line. It would make all medical expenses deductible, no matter how much, for everyone, including the insurance. The question is, what are the ramifications on insurance and medical costs for doing that to the consumer the rest of the year, beyond the tax form ritual? I’m not certain.

  27. Michael H. Wilson

    One of the biggest problems I see is that patients don’t know the costs of medical procedures. I have read of some docs who post this info, but it is rare. Originally I understand that it was done because it was unprofessional to discuss prices. Whatever that means.

    So how dow we overcome that? Can you mandate the prices be posted? Use anti-trust laws?

  28. Brian Holtz

    The reason patients don’t know healthcare prices is they don’t have to pay them. By far the biggest problem in American healthcare is the prevalance of third-party payment for routine care. Listen to the National Center for Policy Analysis on this topic, as they discuss cosmetic surgery, LASIK, walk-in clinics, telephone consultation, and medical tourism — all areas where competition due to out-of-pocket payments has kept a lid on (or even reduced) healthcare costs: The Market for Medical Care: Why You Don’t Know the Price; Why You Don’t Know about Quality; And What Can Be Done about It

  29. Michael H. Wilson

    Brian I aware of that, but it is not the only reason that prices are not posted. There was a time when the medical organization frowned on posting prices. It was seen as unprofessional. Lawyers do the same thing. So how do we overcome that?

    And I get the NCPA email everyday.

  30. Michael H. Wilson

    The blog I’ve posted to below discusses the problem of pricing ,etc in the legal profession. A similar thing happens in the medical profession.
    How do we overcome that bias against posting prices up front for consumers?

    “While I was in law school, bar association Minimum Fee Schedules went from being commonplace, apple-pie, “old-time rock-n-roll” in the legal profession, to being Risky Business in violation of antitrust law. The fee schedules were lists of recommended minimum prices for common legal services. Through disciplinary actions and ethics opinions, bar associations made it clear that a pattern of charging less than the minimum fee constituted misconduct. See, for example, this NY Bar ethics opinion from 1964; a 1961 Colorado Bar opinion; and the Virginia Bar opinion discussed by the Supreme Court at Fn 1. in Goldfarb. The president of the New York Bar Association had himself requested the 1964 opinion concerning departures from the minimum fee schedule, and his so-called ethics committee agreed with him that:”

    http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2009/02/24/alf-3-dont-forget-those-minimum-fee-schedules/

  31. Brian Holtz

    Getting rid of occupational licensure would go a long way toward solving this problem, which is basically a problem of market entry. I refuse to believe that price-fixing collusion can long survive in a market that has no artificial barriers to entry (and that isn’t a natural monopoly — i.e. high fixed costs and low marginal costs, as with physical networks of roads, pipes, and wires).

  32. Michael H. Wilson

    I’ll agree with your first sentence.

    This is a classic case of asymetrical information. The doctor has the information regarding price and the patient doesn’t.

    Do we have the tools to solve that available to us?

  33. Brian Holtz

    The bigger knowledge problem in healthcare is that the practitioner knows more about what treatment the consumer really needs. Get rid of barriers to entry and artificial encouragement of third-party-payer schemes, and healthcare prices will be publicized — and pressured down — faster than you can say “Lasik”. 🙂

    For the harder knowledge problem, there might need to be separate markets in diagnosis and treatment. I’ll bet there are government/licensure-derived barriers to markets for second opinions.

  34. Robert Capozzi

    tk, I definitely hear ya. My take is we’ll never know how resources would have been allocated had the State not had such a massive distortive effect on the economy. It certainly seems that individually and in aggregate people would buy heath care and education and would invest for retirement, yes?

    If we Ls can make that case that such important consumption goods and investments should get ringfenced BUT that individuals could allocate among those 3 things seems both attractive politically and sound economically. Sure, I’d like to see no taxes on other “non-essentials,” but I’m an incrementalist, as I believe you are, too.

    You are the first I’ve ever heard of someone suggesting that IRA’s caused stock market crashes. Seems a stretch.

    I’d prefer to have one super IRA vs. the crazy quilt of IRAs, pensions, 401Ks, Roth IRAs, etc. The current configuation seems even more distortive than what I propose. Still, when we have what we have now — distortion upon distortion upon distortion — I’d say that just about any move away from State control seems worth a try. I’d say we should be paralyzed by theoretical constructs. The perfect really is the enemy of the good, I’d submit.

  35. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    You write:

    “If we Ls can make that case that such important consumption goods and investments should get ringfenced BUT that individuals could allocate among those 3 things seems both attractive politically and sound economically.”

    If “we” make the case that such important consumption goods and investments should be ringfenced, then “we,” by definition, aren’t “Ls.”

    For fuck’s sake, that’s one of the very clearest and most visible dividing lines. L = not wanting to run everyone’s life.

    The way to get away from trying to run everyone’s life is to propose ways and areas in which to stop running everyone’s life, not to propose new and different ways and areas in which to run everyone’s life.

  36. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    You write:

    “You are the first I’ve ever heard of someone suggesting that IRA’s caused stock market crashes. Seems a stretch.”

    I didn’t say that IRAs “cause stock market crashes.” It’s not quite that simple. But it’s hardly a stretch to notice that IRAs now constitute a very large chunk of capital which has been directed into the stock market because government treats money directed there differently than it treats money directed elsewhere, and that that can and will have unintended consequences:

    Effect of IRA & 401K Contributions to Stock Prices — powered by eHow.com

  37. Brian Holtz

    Again, Tom’s not distinguishing between incremental steps and ultimate goals. However, he already “agree[d] that individually purchased health insurance should be just as deductible as employer-purchased health insurance.” So this is the part where he says that the LP’s job is not to rally people to the available choices that will most move public policy in a libertarian direction, but rather to hold high the black flag of libertopian principle.

    Oddly, Tom had earlier said he didn’t object to the draft St. Louis Accord, but perhaps he didn’t read it closely enough before.

  38. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    Yeah, because JFK and Reagan were such outrageously abolitionist black-flag-hoisting anarchist revolutionaries.

    I agree that individually purchased health insurance should be just as deductible as employer-purchased health insurance … and that both should be just as deductible as individually purchased copies of the Bob Dylan box CD set, tickets for four to Six Flags over Lodi, or a nice bottle of Pinot Noir.

    I don’t have to make the case for eliminating all taxes to make the case for cutting taxes, period, instead of attempting to use tax cuts as a way to engineer spending/saving outcomes.

  39. Brian Holtz

    Tom, Reagan favored both across-the-board tax cuts as well as targeted tax incentives, so his example only proves that your dichotomy is a false one. We can advocate both at the same time. It’s easy. I’ve done it. Didn’t even break a sweat.

    I’m still waiting for you to admit — or attempt to deny — that some orders of destatization are better than others. I do hear you saying that there are some policy options on the table that you would “go for in a heartbeat” but aren’t willing to advocate as incremental progress. Sorry, but I must therefore take a scissors to your incrementalist card. Incrementalism doesn’t consist in simply smiling at the increases in liberty that land in your lap and vacuously claiming that they are the result of waving the black flag. Incrementalism consists in entering the arena and greedily fighting for the biggest increases available.

  40. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    Yes, Reagan favored both tax cuts and social engineering through the tax code. I like the libertarian (tax-cutting) part of his program. I don’t like the anti-libertarian (social engineering) part of it.

    Fucking around with the tax code to push people in the directions you want them to go isn’t “incremental progress,” it’s just fucking around with the tax code to push people in the directions you want them to go.

    If all that’s put in front of me to support is a tax reduction for the most Holtz-compliant serfs instead of a tax cut for everyone, sure I’ll support it — if I can be convinced that its social engineering effects are outweighed by its production of a general increase in freedom .

    But I’d rather have a tax cut for everyone than a perk for Holtz-compliant serfs, just like I’d rather desegregate the city buses than allocate an additional, specially marked row of seats closer to the front of each bus for those dusky-hued riders who were especially demonstrative in doffing their hats and expressing their gratitude to Massa Holtz for how well he runs their lives the last time he came walking down the street and they stepped off the sidewalk to make way. I’d only support the Massa Holtz Memorial Bus Seat Row for Especially Good Negroes if I believed that doing so would at least reduce the crowding at the back of the bus for everyone or have some other salutary general effect.

    And I sure as hell wouldn’t want my party to inscribe “SEGREGATION LITER” rather than “DESEGREGATION” on its banner.

  41. Robert Capozzi

    tk: Fucking around with the tax code to push people in the directions you want them to go isn’t “incremental progress,” it’s just fucking around with the tax code to push people in the directions you want them to go.

    me: In my case, I don’t want to “push people” in any particular direction. I want to roll back the state. In my judgment, if using the tax code works toward that end, I’m for it and will advocate it.

    Of course, while I want to reverse social engineering, I realize that on some level all law is social engineering. I’ve come to realize that the aversion to social engineering is part of L vestigial connection to conservatism.

  42. Robert Capozzi

    tk, recall when Obama first took office, and his advisers were floating the idea of severely constraining charitable deductions. That should be no surprise for a statist.

    I believe Ls should consider using the tax code to remove the obstacles to charitable giving. Most Ls I know believe that charitable functions would flourish under liberty, and that most state functions should be charitable and voluntary.

    In order to de-State charitable functions, I’m aOK with Ls advocating tax preferences for charities, too. Indeed, it seems indicated, since making the shift from State to voluntary requires transitions.

  43. Michael H. Wilson

    @ 43 Tom points us towards “Effect of IRA & 401K Contributions to Stock Prices — powered by eHow.com”

    I have to agree, but then this occurs on a couple of different levels. The stock market goes up as the money supply goes up. And there is what is known as the Calpers effect. The California Public Employees Retirement fund is so large it can move the market by itself.

    But then you come to medical expenses, or any other specific expenses, how do you avoid the problem of pushing up prices? Expensing corporate medical purchases for employees will drive up costs and allowing a deduction for personal medical expenses will tend to do the same. People will look at the money and figure if they don’t spend it then it’ll just go to the government. That is one of the factors in driving up medical costs.

    If I have a flat deduction, credit or whatever you care to call it of say $7000 annually and all taxpayers have the same then we spend most of it on medical care and it’ll tend to up the costs by increasing demand. If I don’t spend the money then it goes to the government.

    I’ll bet that any time you target expenses to a specific industry for deduction you end up increasing demand and driving up costs.

    Tom I agree that we might be better off just increasing the peresonal deduction across the board to $7500, but what happens when my medical expenses exceed $7500 which is a problem we have now?

  44. paulie Post author

    Again, Tom’s not distinguishing between incremental steps and ultimate goals. However, he already “agree[d] that individually purchased health insurance should be just as deductible as employer-purchased health insurance.” So this is the part where he says that the LP’s job is not to rally people to the available choices that will most move public policy in a libertarian direction, but rather to hold high the black flag of libertopian principle.

    Under a flat tax, which I don’t think is libertopian, individually purchased health insurance would be just as deductible as employer-purchased health insurance – that is, not at all, since there would be no such thing as deductible.

  45. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    You write: “In my case, I don’t want to ‘push people’ in any particular direction. I want to roll back the state. In my judgment, if using the tax code works toward that end, I’m for it and will advocate it.”

    And that all sounds very nice, until we unpack what you mean.

    Take a good or service, X. X might be health care, or education, or whatever.

    If the goal is to get government out of, or even less involved in, X, then “targeted deductions” or “refundable credits” or whatever DON’T DO THAT.

    They do shift mechanisms in a way that may increase the efficiency with which X is purchased (see Milton Friedman on the various incentives attending how money is spent in Free to Choose), but they affect the freedom of people to BUY OR NOT BUY X not at all. The state is still decreeing that X shall be bought, whether people want to buy it or not. The only choice involved is “buy it yourself, or we’ll take your money and buy it for you.”

    MUGGER: Give me your money. I’m going to buy you steak and eggs.

    VICTIM: I don’t want to give you my money! And I don’t want steak and eggs!

    MUGGER: Fine. I’ll follow you with my gun and make sure you buy the steak and eggs yourself, then.

  46. Robert Capozzi

    tk, your analogy might sorta hold if there was a mandate. I don’t advocate a mandate. My super IRA ALLOWS people to save for retirement, health care and education.

    Big difference.

  47. Michael H. Wilson

    @ 35 Brian writes; “The reason patients don’t know healthcare prices is they don’t have to pay them. By far the biggest problem in American healthcare is the prevalance of third-party payment for routine care.”

    Brian the reason patients don’t know healthcare prices is because no one tells them.

    I have a copay every time I see my HMO and I also have a bill from my HMO in the files that is 48 pages thick and it is utterly impossible to understand.

    If I buy a house the builder doesn’t bill me for each individual stud, nail and X square feet of sheetrock, but that seems to be how doctors and hospitals bill their patients.

    Opening the market to other providers may help encourage the posting of prices, but there may be a desire of the new occupations to want to be seen as “professional” so they start acting as the well established professionals do. We see some of this with nurse midwives who are trying to differentiate themselves from certified midwives. Some of the nurse midwives try to emulate doctors in much of what they do and how they practice whereas certified midwives don’t seem to be drawn in that same direction as much. Caution: lots of variables in this issue and areas of gray.

    Is it possible in a libertarian world to say that not discussing costs with a patient is an act of fraud? or something similar? I can see where we might argue it is, but I can also see where arguing such places someone on thin ice.

    Comments please.

  48. Robert Capozzi

    mhw, fraud? I’d say no. Some MDs are offering patients annual fee programs outside of insurance, where you can see the doc as frequently as you’d like. Kinda like a gym membership.

    Markets take many different forms.

  49. Thomas L. Knapp

    Robert,

    Yes, big difference — you allow the victim to choose steak and eggs, pancakes and sausage, or a breakfast burrito. And if they don’t want breakfast at all and would rather catch a movie or pick up a 12-pack of beer and a bag of Cheezy Poofs? Too bad — Bob Capozzi’s mandate says that’s not allowed.

  50. Robert Capozzi

    tk, I’m surprised at you. Nowhere have I advocated not allowing Cheezy Poofs. What I don’t advocate is tax preferring Cheezy Poofs, which is different. I would of course like Cheezy Poofs to be taxed less than they are now.

    Strategically, however, I think we make more headway if we advocate transition plans that appeal to the vast majority who wish to save for retirement, get health care, and get education. Since government is on our throats in those areas disproportionately and those areas are viewed by the vast majority as essential, I prefer that Ls recognize that reality and offer real-world short- to intermediate-term solutions to generations of massive government intervention.

    Silly me 😉

  51. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    OK, I’ll phrase it in the form of a question instead of an explanation:

    How does mandating the purchase of X (or, in your “Super IRA” plan, X, Y and Z) via Mechanism B rather than via Mechanism A proposal constitute a “transition plan” away from mandating the purchase of X (or X, Y and Z)?

  52. Robert Capozzi

    tk, yes, a super IRA does restrict the purchase from the IRA funds to 3 things, until retirement. After retirement, the IRA is unrestricted.

    No one is forced to participate in the IRA, however.

    More importantly, alternative, non-government institutions are created and/or have disincentives removed. Over time, the dependence on government programs is lessened. In aggregate, this is good for liberty.

    In my judgment, ending SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and all public schools tomorrow is a non-starter. Removing disincentives creates the potential for a virtuous circle. Socialists did the opposite over the past 100 years, creating government institutions that have made people MORE dependent on government.

    I’d like to reverse that; and I’d like to reverse that in a plausible, humane way.

  53. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    You’re correct: No one is forced to participate in the IRA. They’re forced to either participate in the IRA or give the government money to spend on the things the IRA was allegedly for. That’s like saying I can either place a bet on a horse or just give the amount of the bet to the track owner … but I’m not allowed to keep my money in my pocket, leave the track and spend it on Moons Over My Hammy at Denny’s.

    Yes, your “targeted” plan bring institutions into existence that might not have existed otherwise. The problem is that they’re are not necessarily the institutions that would have come into existence if the government hadn’t demanded that the deduction or credit be spent on X. These institutions are a functional economic distortion.

    “In my judgment, ending SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and all public schools tomorrow is a non-starter.”

    I invite you to point out where I said that the alternative to social engineering through “targeted” deductions, credits, etc. is “ending SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and all public schools tomorrow.”

    What I proposed is that a preferable alternative to a tax deduction or credit for X is a tax deduction or credit — or, more simply expressed, a tax REDUCTION — period.

    Like I said, the Bush administration’s 2007 proposal was for a $7.5k personal or $15k family deduction, but one explicitly linked to the purchase of medical insurance or health care.

    My counter-proposal is to add $7.5k per individual or $15k per family to the personal exemption.

    The essential difference between the Bush administration’s proposal and my proposal is that under my proposal the individual who earned that money decides where and upon what to spend it, whereas under the Bush administration’s proposal the government controls, at least in broad outline, where and upon what that money is spent.

    If “health care” is really the priority of the taxpayer in question, that money will go into health care — which means the government got what it was aiming at.

    If health care isn’t the priority of the taxpayer in question, then requiring that that money be spent on it would in essence come to nothing more or less than mandating malinvestment.

  54. Michael H. Wilson

    @ 55 Robert Capozzi writes:

    “mhw, fraud? I’d say no. Some MDs are offering patients annual fee programs outside of insurance, where you can see the doc as frequently as you’d like. Kinda like a gym membership.

    Markets take many different forms.”

    Docs like the lawyers have kept the prices of their services unpublished in order to help increase their income and for so called professional reasons. This is one of the many factors in driving up the costs. As for competition. Well the market is closed.In theory
    is it possible to use common law to correct this until we open the marketplace?

    I have to go to an LP meeting across the state. I have no more time to waste not getting anywhere.

  55. Brian Holtz

    Adding a tax incentive does not create a mandate. Whatever mandate is involved was already there. True incrementalists understand that advocating an incremental change doesn’t mean advocating the resulting situation as optimal and thus opposing all bigger or subsequent changes.

    Another interesting source of incremental healthcare reform would be the application of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_paternalism.

    But Tom will bitterly oppose advocating that, too, because it turns out he’s really not an incrementalist. If it’s 90 degrees in his house, then sure, he’ll welcome an 85-degree breeze, but he won’t turn on an air conditioner that can only cool the house 5 degrees, because he doesn’t want to be thought of as advocating that the house be hotter than 78.

  56. Robert Capozzi

    tk, yes, we agree that bottom-up tax cutting is more sellable. What form it takes I’m open to, including your plan.

    I support reductions in coercion, and my take is spending cuts are even more important than tax cuts, at least from an economic-analysis perspective. “Starve the beast” has failed as a strategy, IMO.

    I’ve got no problem with being opportunistic, so long as things move in a peaceful direction. Calibrating the opportunism is a function of judgment more than “principle,” since principal is about directions and goals, not strategy and tactics.

  57. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    You write:

    “Adding a tax incentive does not create a mandate. Whatever mandate is involved was already there.”

    Correct. It doesn’t create the mandate, it just reinforces the mandate — bleeds some of the economic distortions out into the marketplace, creates some illusions of “choice,” and reinforces some of the state’s more vulnerable spots.

    What it doesn’t do is “reduce coercion,” incrementally or otherwise.

    Telling me that I absolutely, positively must eat pasta for dinner, but that instead of paying you to deliver it to my door I’m “free” to pay Pasta House or Olive Garden if I’d rather doesn’t change the fact of the coercion or reduce the amount of coercion. It just allows you to purvey the illusion of “choice” while still requiring that I spend my money on the things you want me to spend it on.

  58. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    You write:

    “I support reductions in coercion.”

    That’s great. I’m glad we’re in agreement.

    Now, repeat after me three times:

    Giving someone a menu of coercion dishes, all of which contain the same number of coercion calories, fat and carbohydrates, and requiring them to order from and pay for one or more of the items on that menu is no less coercive than grabbing their wallet, shoving their face in a plate of the slop you chose for them and screaming at them to eat.

    Until you guys get it through your heads that “incrementalism” actually implies a movement in the direction of freedom rather than a rearrangement of the forms of coercion, you’re the last two people on earth who rate to accuse me of not being an incrementalist.

  59. Brian Holtz

    Tom, it’s just silly to claim that a tax incentive for healthcare “requires” that anyone “absolutely, postively must” spend so much as a penny on healthcare.

    It’s equally silly to claim that, on a day in which Congress does nothing other than enact the same tax advantage for individually-purchased healthcare as already exists for employer-purchased healthcare, the Congress has not moved us in the direction of freedom — especially when the impending alternative is something like Obamacare.

    You tip your hand when you confirm that you’re so worried about “reinforcing” the existence of the state. Your hysterics about “slop” and “screaming” and “shoving” prove nothing more than that trying to be an incrementalist anarchist involves severe cognitive stresses.

  60. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    First you say that it’s “just silly to claim that a tax incentive for healthcare ‘requires’ that anyone ‘absolutely, postively must’ spend so much as a penny on healthcare.”

    Then you turn around and say that the alternative to the tax incentive you support is ObamaCare. Unless you really believe that ObamaCare will be free (which is itself silly), you’re making what you yourself characterize as a silly claim.

    I said nothing about the tax incentive “reinforcing the existence of the state.” What I said was that it reinforces (a better word might be perpetuates, or extends the life of) the particular mandate.

    It probably does reinforce the existence of the state to the extent that it creates a new class, or at least further enriches an existing class, of rent seekers beholden to the state for pushing that money their way … but that’s not the argument I was making.

    I’m good with incrementalism. I just don’t think that parroting the “us too! us too! We have a plan too!” paternalism of the GOP either amounts to actual incrementalism in practice or constitutes a good differentiation strategy for the LP.

    I’m grateful for this discussion. It’s been very revealing.

  61. paulie Post author

    trying to be an incrementalist anarchist involves severe cognitive stresses.

    I haven’t found it to be too stressful.

  62. Brian Holtz

    Tom, I don’t understand your point about Obamacare at all.

    Sorry, but I don’t stay up nights worrying that the GOP might agree with some of my goals or even some of my tactics. Again, this is more confirmation that you’re too much worried about how your advocacy will make you and others feel about you(rself), and not enough about how to most move public policy in a libertarian direction.

    As it happens, the GOP plan for healthcare is not close to my plan at all. The 2008 GOP platform would preserve Medicare and Bush’s horrible prescription drug benefit, but I wouldn’t. My plan is here.

  63. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    I think I’ve figured out the problem.

    I measure “freedom” as the extent to which an individual is free to act so long as he or she does not coerce.

    You seem to define “freedom” as the extent to which government mandates “correct” the “failure” of the market to produce the amount of any particular good or service that you consider “optimal.”

  64. Brian Holtz

    Not even close — but thanks for measuring just how much cognitive dissonance is required for you to rationalize our disagreement.

    I say on a day in which Congress does nothing other than enact the same tax advantage for individually-purchased healthcare as already exists for employer-purchased healthcare, the Congress has moved us in the direction of freedom. Unless you can assert the grammatical negation of this sentence — or identify some questionable assumption that it is smuggling — then you’re just not competently disagreeing with me.

  65. Brian Holtz

    It’s sloppy to use “coerce” as a synonym for “initiate force”.

    I measure freedom as the extent to which 1) you enjoy full rights to your body, labor, peaceful production, and voluntary exchanges, and 2) your access to the Earth’s natural commons is not impaired by anyone’s monopolization, depletion, pollution, or congestion of them.

    (The natural commons of the Earth are everything except persons and the wealth that they have produced, and thus include underground minerals, metals, and oil; wildlife, including forests; the genetic variety of life; oceans, lakes, and streams; the atmosphere, wind, precipitation, and sunlight; the electromagnetic spectrum; orbits; and the surface area of the Earth.)

  66. Robert Capozzi

    tk: I measure “freedom” as the extent to which an individual is free to act so long as he or she does not coerce.

    me: I’d say that’s an OK way to look at it, but I’m not sure how actionable it is. It seems to go to an atomistic place, but politics deals with aggregate levels of relative freedom. I’m mostly interested in reducing the State’s distortive effects, and sometimes that means using tools available to re-lever the equation away from an increased State control over our lives toward increased control by the people.

    Given the choice between unshackling a few or loosening the shackles on most, I choose the latter.

    My super IRA allows most to use services most use to be entirely untaxed. We might add a 4th expenditure for Cheezy Poofs or beer, but that might make the plan sound non-serious.

  67. Robert Capozzi

    mhw: is it possible to use common law to correct this until we open the marketplace?

    me: possibly. But of course doctors and lawyers are not commodities. I’ve seen situations where the $500/hr lawyer was the better choice than the $200/hr one. Lawyers sometimes work on contingency.

  68. paulie Post author

    I say on a day in which Congress does nothing other than enact the same tax advantage for individually-purchased healthcare as already exists for employer-purchased healthcare, the Congress has moved us in the direction of freedom. Unless you can assert the grammatical negation of this sentence — or identify some questionable assumption that it is smuggling — then you’re just not competently disagreeing with me.

    The assumption that freedom can be advanced through tax advantages.

  69. Thomas L. Knapp

    Because technically, to “coerce” simply means to apply force. Without modifiers, it is not obvious that coercion is necessarily initiatory force.

    While it may seem obvious that reducing initiation of force would also reduce defensive and retaliatory force (since there would be less to defend against or retaliate for), theoretical calculation-based and/or consequentialist arguments to the contrary could be offered. i.e. that coercion to extract payment for unrequested defensive/retaliatory services isn’t an initiation of force but rather preemptive defensive/retaliatory force. I’m not asserting that those arguments are valid, mind you, just that they could be offered. As a matter of fact, they’ve been offered frequently, just not quite so baldly.

  70. paulie Post author

    Because technically, to “coerce” simply means to apply force. Without modifiers, it is not obvious that coercion is necessarily initiatory force.

    Thanks – I was unaware of this.

    So self-defense is a form of coercion?

  71. Brian Holtz

    Paulie, we’ll have to agree to disagree about whether a reduction in tax burden/incidence only counts as movement toward freedom if everybody gets exactly the same benefit from the reduction at the same time.

  72. Robert Capozzi

    “coerce” works for me:

    1. to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, esp. without regard for individual desire or volition: They coerced him into signing the document.
    2. to bring about through the use of force or other forms of compulsion; exact: to coerce obedience.
    3. to dominate or control, esp. by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.: The state is based on successfully coercing the individual.

  73. paulie Post author

    Paulie, we’ll have to agree to disagree about whether a reduction in tax burden/incidence only counts as movement toward freedom if everybody gets exactly the same benefit from the reduction at the same time.

    I’m not sure I necessarily disagree with you. It may or may not be a step toward freedom. Your question was whether one can identify a questionable assumption in the paragraph I was replying to; I believe I did.

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