There’s an old, old adage which goes, “A rose by any other name smells as sweet.” And, no doubt a tax by any other name is still a tax. Conservative columnist, Cal Thomas, a chief apologist for the Republican Party, finally uttered something I agree with. Thomas, in a recent article commenting on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, said that any time you take money from the people and give it to the government, it’s a tax.
Obviously, Mr. Thomas is out of step with Rick Perry and the other Republican leaders in Texas who have told us for the past 10 years that what they have done in Austin amounts to budgeting with no new tax. Space prevents me from listing them all but, in short, the Texas Legislature--while smugly claiming no new tax--has raised almost every fee conceived by past legislatures and known to Texas’ citizens.
The Legislature has increased the cost of hunting and fishing licenses, created toll roads which we must pay to drive on, tripled college tuition, created fees in the form of surcharges on traffic tickets and even created an additional sticker to go on the windshield of your car for a fee (not a tax).
Applications for most licenses granted by the State of Texas have been increased. Special funds for specific purposes have been raided and diverted for other purposes by the Legislature so that they can claim adequate income to meet the “spend-as-you-go” provision of the state’s constitution–all in the name of no new taxes.
Unfortunately, Republicans and Democrats alike are engaged in a senseless debate of whether or not the Obama Affordable Healthcare Act is a tax--or whether or not the Romney-sponsored healthcare system in Massachusetts constituted a tax. Both seem to ignore the fact that there are millions of Americans, many of them children, who die every year because we do not have adequate healthcare delivery in the United States. The issue of healthcare, and the need, therefore makes the debate over whether it is or is not a tax pale by comparison.
The fact is, the healthcare act itself is not a tax. Its justification was based on the fact that the Congress of the United States has the power to tax. The ultimate thrust of the bill is that those citizens who do not choose to bear their own responsibility for providing themselves with healthcare will pay a penalty, or tax, or whatever you choose to call it. It is no more a tax than are the fines or penalties required when one is discovered driving the roads of Texas without providing liability insurance to protect his or her fellow citizens.
There is no doubt the Affordable Healthcare Act can and should be improved. What we have is the result of a president including measures for the sake of compromise and to induce members of the other party to join with him in an effort to attack the lack of adequate health coverage for Americans. The problem is the inducements didn’t work; and after demanding the concessions, which lessened the effect and made the bill less efficient, those the president sought to recruit in his efforts abandoned ship and now condemn the “whole ball of wax.”
The hypocrisy and fallacies in the Republican arguments are well demonstrated by the recent television comments of Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. When asked what plan the Republicans had for providing healthcare for citizens, Jindal argued that the best plan was to provide a great economy, which in turn would allow citizens to provide for their own healthcare and not depend on institutions of government. Governor Jindal then went on to boast about how much greater the economies were in Texas, Louisiana, and other Republican states. Unemployment was lower, investment was higher, and taxes lowest with Spartan-type budgets.
Texans, who care little about the suffering of their fellow citizens, should at least take a look at the dollars and cents implications of poor healthcare delivery. When we fail to provide pre-natal care, for example, to young, poor expectant mothers, we’re entering a “crap shoot” by which we are very likely to have infants with severe health problems for life, and to care for them on the public dole. When we refuse to invest in screening and early detection of ailments such as diabetes, we continue to almost double every few years the number of patients for which the state pays for their blindness, kidney dialysis, and amputations.
Under the guise of defending the constitution, apparently Governor Perry is willing to condemn about two million Texans to inferior healthcare and the risk of dying, or at least the risk of bankruptcy-- should their families face catastrophic illnesses.
The attitude on the part of our illustrious governor is shocking to me when you consider the emphasis put on individual responsibility and self-reliance touted by our governor. Of interest, this is the same governor who has charged us over two million dollars for his travel expenses while running for president.