Tag Archives: Medical Expenses

Contempt for the Great Generality: Hatch, Grassley, and the Great Unwashed

Every once in a while a Republican is caught being honest.  Consider the commentary from Iowa Senator Charles Grassley on the value of eliminating most of the inheritance tax because “they” invest, but the rest of the country…not so much. So, what to do when the comments create a social media fire storm?  Backtrack:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday said his comments that the estate tax rewards those who don’t spend “every darn penny” on “booze or women or movies” were taken out of context, saying he meant that the government shouldn’t punish investment.

“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” Grassley said in a statement.”

Nice try, but the “out of context” excuse has gotten thinner than the roast beef at the deli counter.  Senator Hatch (R-UT) was a bit more subtle when discussing the children’s health insurance funding, but not by much:

“In his speech, Hatch also said he thinks CHIP has done a “terrific job for people who really need the help” and noted that he had advocated for helping those who can’t help themselves throughout his Senate career. But, he continued, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.” He blamed a “liberal philosophy” for creating millions of people “who believe everything they are or ever hope to be depend upon the federal government rather than the opportunities that this great country grants them.”

There they go again.  Oh, those Undeserving Poors who just Want Stuff, and won’t work for it.   The median household income in Nevada is $52,421, meaning half the families in Nevada have annual income below that figure.   So, what does it cost to get the kid’s tonsils removed?  ($4,153 to $6,381, with an average cost of $5,442)  How about that common childhood injury — the broken arm?  Expect this to carve out some $2,500 from the family budget.   It the youngster has a chronic condition — asthma, heart problems,  diabetes,etc. the price, of course goes up, and up and up.   We’re not talking here about “people who won’t lift a finger.”  we’re discussing families — working families who are hard pressed to find the resources to pay for medical treatment for their children.  And now we come to the place where Hatch and Grassley’s perspectives merge in a miserable view of humanity.

What these members of the US Senate are doing is using the old Reagan Era “Welfare Queen” mythology to camouflage their contempt for their fellow Americans.

“They” just want everything done for them.   “They” won’t lift a finger.  “They” are cheating me out of my money.  It’s never something like the single mother of a six year old who has asthma having to maintain a family budget while keeping up with the costs of inhaler medication.  Nor, do we hear much about the family in which both parents are working two jobs to keep close to that $52,421 number, and who are coping with a youngster with diabetes.  Well, well, sputter the solons, we weren’t speaking of Them.  Of course not.  And, I’m assured they weren’t talking about children suffering with cerebral palsy or other chronic conditions with serious financial implications for the family.  So, who are they talking about?  The hard truth is that they aren’t talking about anyone!

They aren’t talking about real people.  They are talking about that imaginary Great Unwashed, who are Welfare Queens, who are urban — and probably African American.  The subject of the Hatch-Grassley fears are highly generalized, mostly mythological, nearly always racist, ideas about the Undeserving Poor, who don’t “lift a finger.”  People, whose stories would touch our hearts and stir our empathy, are ignored in favor of painting with the broadest spray can nozzle possible a picture of urban, black, moral decay from which white America may safely distance itself.

They can (almost) manage some sympathy for the poor white families in remote areas of  America.  However, mention cities, and the racism kicks in.  It’s a hard and tragic thing to see the loss of employment in mining regions but no such sympathy is extended to the members of minority communities who languish in the Rust Belt.   However, even that small instance of empathy is victim to Republican ideas of virtue.  Those afflicted with opioid addition in those former mining regions may be unemployable because of their addictions, but by Republican lights must be employed in order to qualify for treatment.  In short, they can’t win for losing.

The Republican Party, once the party of progressive legislation, and even later of fiscal conservatism, has devolved into the party of racists, radicals, and unreasonable shills for corporate interests.  It’s a sad state of affairs. And, a sadder commentary on the political discourse of contempt.

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Filed under Health Care, Politics, racism, Republicans

Taxscam 101 Part One — Satisfy the 1% and Soak the Rest of Us

I think it’s safe to assume that Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) will be supporting the House Republican version of the Tax Cut Cut Cut… the last three words indicating what will happen for corporations, not what average Nevada income earners can expect from the proposal.  USA Today has a preliminary summation of some deductions INDIVIDUALS and FAMILIES won’t be able to use, that increase in the standard deduction is supposed to make up for this?   USA Today’s points are listed below, in red font.

Adoption: A tax credit worth up to $13,750 per child would end.  It’s a little hard to explain this one, given the GOP “pro-life” stance. It’s even harder to understand when the average cost for an adoption (2012-2013) was $39,996 using an adoption agency and $34,093 for an “independent” adoption. [AmAdopt]  Eliminating the tax credit to alleviate the impact of these expenses seems a strange way of encouraging couples to adopt children in need of permanent homes.

Alimony: To eliminate what Ways and Means Committee documents referred to as a “divorce subsidy,” alimony would no longer be deductible by the payor for decrees issued after 2017. Payments would be excluded from the recipient’s income.  I’m not at all certain that rebranding alimony as a “divorce subsidy” encourages support for single parents? This would also seem to make it all the more difficult for a parent to make child support payments?

Classroom costs: Teachers could no longer write off the cost of supplies they buy.  The reality is that not so long ago school districts kept supplies from pencils to facial tissues on hand; today these items (along with hand sanitizer) end up on lists of items parents are expected to purchase when the school year begins.  What isn’t subsidized by parents whose children are enrolled in cash strapped districts is usually purchased by teachers, to the tune of an average of $500 per teacher per year, with some teachers spending much more. [CNN money]  It’s been reasonably obvious Republicans aren’t great friends of public school teachers — but this suggestion is a direct slap at teacher’s own bank accounts.

College boosters: Sports fans would no longer be able to deduct 80% of the cost of donations to colleges if they are made only to become eligible to buy seats for games or get preferences such as prime parking spots.  The University of Minnesota isn’t sure what will happen to its program in light of this proposal, and universities in Nevada probably aren’t either.   UNLV and UNR both use booster donations to support their athletic scholarship funds. Perhaps lost in this controversial proposal is the notion that scholarship funds are, in most cases, not limited to a particular program but also support our “Olympic Sports.”  Donors to UNR and UNLV athletic funds might want to ask Representative Amodei why he might be in favor of this Republican plan.

Disaster losses: Currently, losses from theft or events such as flood, fire or tornado that exceed 10% of adjusted gross income are deductible. The bill would repeal that deduction, with one exception — disasters given special treatment by a prior act of Congress. A law enacted Sept. 29 increased the deduction for losses caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and it was sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. Brady, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, is also sponsoring the tax overhaul.  How interesting — the plan doesn’t affect those battered by “Harvey” in Texas — but Florida, Puerto Rico, and others it’s YOYO time as far as the Republicans are concerned.  Since when do we, as a nation, not give people a break when they’ve lost everything, or nearly everything in a natural disaster?

Employee achievement awards: Complicated rules that allowed some cash awards from employers to be tax-free to the worker would become taxable.  Another interesting point — corporations can expect a big tax cuts, but employees earning cash awards from those corporations would be required to pay taxes on these kinds of achievement awards.

Employer-provided housing: Rules allowing for some workers to get housing and meals tax-free from their employers would face a new cap of $50,000, and benefits would be phased out for those earning more than $120,000.  So, if the employer has you (and perhaps your family) parked in “West Moose Bay” where groceries have to be flown in, and “housing” is only provided by the corporation — the subsidy is taxable?  And we haven’t even mentioned that Section 1310 eliminates moving expenses. (pdf)

Home sale gains: Right now, the gain on the sale of a home is not taxable if it is under $500,000 for joint filers as long as the home was the owner’s primary residence for two of the previous five years. New rules would require a home to be the primary home for five of the past eight years to qualify, and the income exclusion would be phased out for taxpayers with incomes over $500,000.  I suppose we can kiss the Bush Administration’s emphasis on home ownership goodbye? Little wonder there’s opposition to this proposal from the housing industry — and from those who construct homes as well. There’s more from USA Today on the topic of housing at this link.

Major medical costs: The decision to eliminate the deduction for medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of adjusted gross income was one of the bill’s “tough calls,” Brady said Friday. “The call is this: Do we want a tax code that has special provisions that you may need once in your life, or do we want a tax code that lowers rates every year of your life?” he said.  This may take the prize for lame explanations — ever.  Consider for a moment the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, some of whom will be facing major medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of their AGI — not just now but for years to come.  The idea that we should eliminate affordable comprehensive health insurance is bad enough, but this notion is downright heinous.  And, this from those who want to cut Medicare and Medicaid?

And this isn’t all — there are more atrocities in the USA Today article, and more specifics in the Ways and Means Committee summary of the bill.  (pdf)

Not to put too fine a point to it, but this bill, which will most likely be supported by Representative Amodei, could have been drafted by accountants and tax lawyers for major corporations and the top 1% of American income owners — to be paid for by those who are working in everyday jobs, who have to move to find employment, who are adoptive parents, who are victims of natural disasters, who are facing major medical expenses…

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Filed under Amodei, income tax, Nevada politics, Politics, tax revenue, Taxation