White House officials say Mr. Bush has decided to forgo the traditional formula for the State of the Union — a laundry list of ideas, many of them dead on arrival — in favor of a more thematic speech that will concentrate on a few issues, like health care, immigration and energy, on which he hopes to make gains with the new Democrat-controlled Congress.Rather than attack this in theory, let me offer a response in particular:
The basic concept is that employer-provided health insurance, now treated as a fringe benefit exempt from taxation, would no longer be entirely tax-free. Workers could be taxed if their coverage exceeded limits set by the government. But the government would also offer a new tax deduction for people buying health insurance on their own.
My income (with my lovely wife's) is "low" enough that we regularly receive a nice tax refund every year. This has not always been true in our long marriage, but I've come to expect by now. It's a nice piece of change, living as we do, but in no way would it make up for buying decent healt care coverage. In fact, we do that now, through her employer, and it takes away more from our monthly income than the tax refund puts back. Would making the tax refund larger make us more likely to buy health insurance? No. The high cost of medical care (and the fact I'd have to go to the county hospital for treatment without insurance) makes us pay the premiums. But even those aren't so large, because we get it through the lovely wife's employer. Without that option, I couldn't buy health insurance at all, even if my federal taxes were reduced to zero.
It's an idiot's argument: that what keeps me from buying health insurance is my federal tax burden. Actually, if it was any tax burden, it would be my property taxes, which exceed my mortgage payment by a significant percentage. But low income workers don't do without health insurance because they have to pay taxes. They do without health insurance because they have to eat, have shelter, and buy clothes.
And then there's the whole problem of taxing those with insurance, which simply makes no sense at all.
Honestly: just when you think they can't get stupider....