Mary Pitt: Poor Johnny One-Note

Published: Thu 25 Jan 2007 11:10 AM
Poor Johnny One-Note
by Mary Pitt
Does anyone else even remember the little ditty about the poor guy who could blow only one note on his musical instrument? I was reminded of it when I heard the President making his suggestion about his "solution" to the problem of health care in America. He recommended providing tax cuts so that people could privately buy the exhorbitant product that is offered by the insurance corporations! That would cure all our problems, right? Wrong! If the average American worker were to find it possible to keep the premiums flowing all year, they would already be doing it! The prospect of being able to deduct it once a year and reduce their tax bill by, perhaps, twenty per cent, would be tantamount to trying to save a dehydrating steer with a cup of water and an eye-dropper.
This is the one note that the Republicans know how to blow. Got a problem? Tax cuts will fix it! When Health Care Savings Accounts were established, allowing people to "set aside" funds for future health care, it was found that only the wealthy were availing thenselves of the privilege, and they are using it as a tax shelter, not for the purpose for which it was intended. The reason is simple. If working families had the money to stick into a savings account for future health care, they would be spending it to cover the health care the lack of which they are suffering today! But we have been there before, haven't we? For a good many years, the American taxpayer was allowed to deduct the expense of health insurance from their income as a part of medical care expenses, but this practice was ended some time ago and, if my memory serves correctly, it was done as a matter of "tax reform" by that Great Guru of Republicanism, Ronald Reagan.
We saw the effects of tax deductions and tax credits in the Clinton welfare "reform". Single parents needed help in providing care for their children on a daily basis, not pie in the sky that would be delivered at the end of the year. People who were receiving supplemental aid from welfare were sometimes able to obtain child care through a direct-pay program provided by a state, but that was limited and the parent was still responsible for finding a person who would give reliable care to the child. The reason? The network of Federally-subsidized child-care centers ( to provide jobs for the previously welfare mothers with no other job skills) which was envisioned as an adjunct to the tax credit could not get to the floor of the Republican legislature. It was a job half-done and so was a failure.
Seeing that this effort was a miserable debacle, the politicians decided to to make the credits refundable. Those who owed no tax would receive this credit as a cash grant at the end of the year. The result was the same. The children still went home from school to empty houses and no supervision all year. The major effect of this measure was to move Christmas from December 31 to Tax Refund Day! Never heard of it? Then you don't have very many working poor in your neighborhood. Tax Refund Day is that glorious day in the early spring when the working poor get their child care tax credits. The check is more likely to be taken directly from the offices of H Block or another tax preparer, (with a slight deduction for interest on the "advance") than delivered by the postman, but it is eagerly awaited and desperately needed. A better car or new tires or repair for the old one, a nice toy and some new clothes for each child, a catch-up payment on delinquent rent, or even giving the utilities company enough of a payment to get the heat turned back on; any of the dire needs and strongest desires of the recipient family point forward to Tax Refund Day. But, does it solve the problem for which it was intended?
The same will be true of any Johnny One-Note solution to the health care crisis. Do they really believe that a parent with a take-home income of, perhaps, $1500 per month will run out and commit themselves to payments of $1000 a month to an insurance company just because "it is deductible"? Not likely! And it begs the question that any thinking person would likely ask: Would not health care costs be cut if only we could cut out the exhorbitant profits of the insurance companies? Some day, someone with more time than I have will compute the amounts of profits declared by health insurance companies in the United States, subtract that amount from that spent in total for health care in our country and find how much is actually spent for medical care. I am sure that it will amount to much less per capita than is represented by the current figures.
This adminstration has, from day one, operated from the corporatist position that we should cut taxes for the rich and leave the financial support of the government on the backs of the poor and middle-class. Then, when a problem arises, they can just throw them a bone of a small tax deductibility and make it all better. After all, we are boasting of a "robust economy" where the rich are totally convinced that everything is beautiful and the poor are nothing but a bunch of whining, lib-lefty, do-nothing moochers. It is up to us to remind them that some of those whining, lib-lefty, do-nothing moochers may even vote! Not only that , but they also have the temerity to believe that their vote counts equally with those of the rich. Furthermore, they are becoming very tired of the neglect of their urgent problems in favor of the present concentration upon world conquest and aggrandizement of public officials. For the sad result of the continuation of this condition, perhaps our President should consult our former friends, the French.
I don't know about you, but I intend to bring my knitting!
Mary Pitt is a septuagenarian Kansan, a free-thinker, and a warrior for truth and justice. Huzzahs and whiney complaints may be sent to

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