OFF THE GRID

Do I Have to Pay for Your Health Care?

Jul 17, 09 | 10:16 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The Democrats want me to pay for your health care and I am trying to think how I feel about this.

With a 5.4% tax on anything above $350,000, we’re not talking chopped liver.

True, I am happy to be in the top 2% of American earners. But not so happy, or flush, that I’m eager to pay your doctors' bills.

I suppose, however, I don’t mind, if, say, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who made $68.7 million in 2007 and, with Goldman’s black arts, may match that this year, has to pay $3.7 million to cover your medical costs. Still, Blankfein probably feels paying $3.7 million for other people’s health care is a lot to ask. And, indeed, if you’re going to ask for $3.7 million—which, after all, still leaves him with $65 million—hell, why not ask for $60 million, which would still leave him with $8.7, which would make almost anyone else deliriously happy.

It’s all relative.

One reason that taxes, for the past generation, have had such a bad reputation is that so many people who weren’t rich actually thought they might someday get rich. Hoi polloi were projecting their desire: to be rich and to keep their imagined dough. Today it is much harder to believe in future wealth, so if you’re never going to get it, why not feel a little better by taking it from the people who have it? This is the zeitgeist moment that tax-and-spend liberals are trying to seize—and to seize before the zeitgeist shifts. Yesterday, I called attention to Goldman’s big numbers and suggested that this could portend a renewed belief in easy riches for clever men (in a world where every knucklehead thinks he’s a genius). So the rush is on for the liberals to lay in some taxes while they can.

The conservative rebuttal is not that Blankfein needs his $3.7 million, but that if you chip away at the rewards of being rich, fewer people will want to be rich, and, hence, the country’s economic engine, propelled by reward if not greed, will slow down.

Which is exactly what the super liberals have in mind. If you tax the rich to excess, fewer people will want to be rich, and that will help make a more equitable and hence happier—though perhaps poorer and duller and slower—nation.

The moderate liberals, ever optimistic, believe that if you just give everyone health care, people will be happier, and if you shift burdens from small business and hard-pressed individuals, this will have a salutary effect on the economy and we will all get richer.

The two things I dislike thinking about the most are taxes and health care—which, especially if I didn’t have to think about it, I wish everyone had enough of.

So yes, let’s just get this over with. I’ll write my check.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com.




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