Is It Time for Atlas to Shrug?

by Ouida on March 22, 2010


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From Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

“Mr. Rearden,” said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, “if you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier he world bore down on his shoulders – what would you tell him to do?”

“I… don’t know. What… could he do? What would you tell him?”

“To shrug.”

Health care has passed paid for with special taxes levied at the top 2% of income earners while subsidizing premium payments for 90% of households.  I voted for President Obama and I am a doctor.  I will be the first to tell you that our health care system is a mess.  Too much money is spent without significant gains in public health.  We have some of the best medical technology available in the world while lagging industrialized nations in infant mortality.  Physicians view each patient encounter as an opportunity to get sued and act defensively to prevent that from happening ordering unnecessary tests increasing health care costs.  We have become a nation of people who expect unlimited access to everything without regard to cost.  Creative mortgages for people who cannot truly afford to own a home.  Credit cards for people who cannot truly afford that flat screen TV. We have also become a nation of people who want without sacrifice. Everyone will benefit from the broader availability of health care, yet reform is paid for on the backs of a few people.  Our nation is in the middle of a class warfare that probably began with Clinton, was intensified by Bush and has continued with Obama.  I was attracted to our president because of his intellect and his  rhetoric of shared sacrifice but that rhetoric has given way to programs of income redistribution and a burgeoning sense of entitlement in our society. I am reminded of a bible story recounted by the late business philosopher, Jim Rohn:  Jesus and his disciples are receiving donations.  People of all classes give.  Finally a woman arrives and gives the equivalent of a penny.  Many of the disciples are incredulous.  Jesus is not, he recognizes the sacrifice of this woman’s gift and treasures it above all others.  Jim Rohn’s take on the story?  That in a civilized society, everyone must pay in order to enjoy the fruits of that society.  0.9% In Medicare taxes across the board would mean that the $30,000 per year wage earner would pay $22.50 per month to support a program that would benefit us all.  Is this an unreasonable amount of money?  I don’t think so especially because health care reform will subsidize that wage earner’s access to care.  As things stand, the person who makes $30,000 per year will receive the benefit without the sacrifice and will therefore have no ownership in the system.  Will Atlas Shrug?  I am not surrendering my passport but I do believe that continuing to tax certain members of society whose only crime is producing more is unsustainable and brings us closer to the day when we wake up and find our producers gone and our talent overseas.

What are your thoughts?

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Regarding HENRY
May 4, 2010 at 8:51 pm

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Deban March 23, 2010 at 5:32 am

Hey Ouida,

Perhaps I am misinformed. I think your position is right on and, I thought what I read would have us all contribute something even if subsidized. The requirement to purchase insurance or face tax penalty…the dang thing is 1990 pages so obviously I haven’t read it. Beuracracy at its mosy confounding.
I’ve been reading an interesting article in the Atlantic about the recession and its longterm likely effects and affects fpr that matter.
We are in a world of hurt in this country and need a rebalancing on so many levels, until we create a socially conscious democratic, neh, humancratic -I know, weird new word- type system, (socialism is not fascism) rather than a corporate stranglehold on every aspect of life I’m not sure how to approach it all.
More self responsibility and recognotion of true cost of knowledge, technology and innovation is a good start though.
Thanks for the morning wake-up!

Deban

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Ouida March 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Hey Deban:

Thanks! What is happening is the old carrot and the stick. Penalties for not having insurance, but subsidies to help you get it. But tacked on is essentially two new Medicare Taxes on certain high income households, 0.9% and 3.85%. The 0.9% is on wages the 3.85% is on investment income, income that both state and federal income taxes have already been paid on and income that was not previously subject to a Medicare tax. I like that word humancratic. It is up to all of us, not just a few folks to make our society work and everyone has to be invested.

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Ouida March 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm

PS. I just posted to Articles on Face Book from CNN Money about the additional Medicare Taxes being levied.

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Investor Junkie March 23, 2010 at 6:37 am

Ouida,

Your assessment I believe is correct. I too voted for Obama and wanted change.. Instead we got the same politics as usual. We were sold a bad bill of goods. I’m all for HC reform and do think we need to do something. Unfortunately this isn’t it.

There will come a time where I will not produce. Why should I after all it will be taken care of by the government. For the past 18 years of my career I’ve been anything but a slacker. I’ve sacrificed, worked long hours, and dealt with massive stress for what? So the government can give to someone else. Unfortunately, life will always be unfair no matter what anyone does (this includes what I’m saying). People will take the path of least resistance.

Based upon the amount of debt and government intervention we are in for a long drawn out process that will take years to fully recover if ever. I hope I’m wrong on my assessment.
Investor Junkie´s last blog ..Lending Club – Update My ComLuv Profile

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Ouida March 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Thank you! See that is the thing when we wonder whether or not we should produce then we are in trouble, but I have the same thoughts. My financial adviser reminded me that high taxes are a sign of success. The trouble is, I’ve seen the US balance sheet. This is the first in a wave of tax increases to come! Can we be taxed out of success?

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Investor Junkie March 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

“Can we be taxed out of success?” For the entire country? IMHO yes!
Investor Junkie´s last blog ..Lending Club – Update My ComLuv Profile

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Ruth T. Vincent March 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Ouida,

I enjoy reading your bl0g and positions on numerous issues but I disagree with your assessment of the unfair impact on 2% of the population by this historical health care legislation.

The remaining 98% of us would love to make $200,000+ and would gladly pay the additional medicare tax of .09% that will be assessed in 2013, The rest of us don’t get a free ride as we already pay the medicare payroll tax of 1.45% per month which is $36.25 per month on an annual income of $30,000. Believe me that takes a much bigger bite out of a $2500 monthly income than the additional $22.50 does on a monthly income of $16,666!

I’m in favor of everyone doing well and making as much money as their individual potentional, tenasity and hard work allows, but there will always be people who will not excell, if defined in monetary terms. We have become such a greedy nation! What has happened to our humanity and our compassion? We all want to live comfortable, some want to live well and some want to live in luxury but if you think for one moment that I feel sorry for the woman who might have to think twice about buying a pair of panties on sale for $125 in Neiman Marcus, think again!

I am just amazed that so many people are mad that President Obama has done with health care reform exactly what he campaigned to do with the help of loyal democrats. Just what did we expect of him? More empty promises? Give the man a break! Our President certainly has the weight of the world on his sholders and I only pray that he can shrug ocassionally to shift its weight!

In my opinion, our nation has always prepetuated and institutionalized class warfare since its founding by taking advantage of others. Now, there are just more people wanting a piece of the pie and those who have the pie are trying to hold on to all of it…just being greedy! Of course we have those who want something for nothing, but that by no means describes the majority of Americans. Among the many people who need health care coverage are those who contibute to society in ways not measured in terms of compensation often causing great sacrafice for them and their families as they in numerous ways try to help others.

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Ouida March 23, 2010 at 3:56 pm

My assertion wasn’t that the additional Medicare tax was unfair. My assertion was that it was inappropriate and unsustainable and it is still both of those things. This isn’t about greed. It is about everyone becoming a stakeholder in a system in which everyone will benefit and everyone sharing the cost Remember households up to an income of roughly 86K will qualify for a subsidy to help them afford insurance. The concern that I have is one segment of the population getting a subsidy while someone else pays for it. Friends of mine in the UK understand that their health care is not free and comes at a sacrifice that all share. One bloke explained it to me this way…to paraphrase,”everyone here, from the kid to gets his first job flipping burgers in McDonalds to the top executive pays a tax that goes to our national health system. By the time that kid has his first child, he has probably paid for a decent chunk of the care.” We are moving dangerously close to a time where the reward for success will be that someone, whether our government or our neighbor or our client, takes from the one who is successful. I would rather give money to charity because I want to, not because I’ve been told I have to and to what charity.

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Investor Junkie March 23, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I can’t remember in the past 20 years an administration so much against ones who produce in society. The fact is the top 10% pay 70% of taxes The top 50% pay 94ish% (I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me) When the bottom 50% have little or no skin in the game we have a problem. Sure they will vote for additional services, someone else is paying for it! It’s representation without taxation.

The funny thing is about taxes is people will always favor increases, as long as the people above them pay for it.
Investor Junkie´s last blog ..Lending Club – Update My ComLuv Profile

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Ouida March 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm

My financial adviser, Kim Butler, sent over tax tables since 1913. She reminded me that taxes are at historic lows which means there is no where to go but up!!!!

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Investor Junkie March 23, 2010 at 8:46 pm

I’m already planning for it.
Investor Junkie´s last blog ..Lending Club – Update My ComLuv Profile

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Ruth T. Vincent March 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I guess it comes down to ability to pay; everyone does not have the same ability to pay, but have both preventive and actual health care needs that require attention and treatment. Those without insurance crowd our emergency rooms and we who are fortunate enough to be taxpayers pay for those costs. Hopefully these subsidies will bend the health care cost curve by making preventive care available. See Dr. David Satcher’s (former Surgeon General) article about health care disparities. http://www.ajc.com/opinion/health-bill-will-iron-397860.html

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Ouida March 24, 2010 at 5:40 pm

No not ability to pay. Honestly I would be happy if the people of little means paid, like the woman in the bible story, the equivalent of a penny.

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