! Editorial -- the proprietor speaks

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A tax that is not a tax




Mister, your cat is weird

My cat is weird. I suppose all cats are weird, but really, there ought to be limits to this sort of thing. He spends a lot of time outdoors. I approve of that. Fewer things get destroyed that way. In the summertime he would come in from the outside to use his kitty litter box. What a good little kitty, always regular in his habits. Now it is winter. Now he won't use the kitty litter box; instead he goes outside and does his business in the snow. There must be some explanation. I'm almost sure there must be some explanation.


We all of us have our own little idiosyncracies of taste. Our Lady of the Large Black Dog doesn't like watermelon. Can't abide it. I just don't understand how someone could not like watermelon. Someone (I think he was Southern) said that God created Watermelon and Fried Chicken to let us know how great Heaven is going to be. I wouldn't go that far, but I count watermelon among the great goodnesses of life.

I, on the other hand, have my own little oddities of taste. For example, I don't like mayonnaise. Can't abide it. As a food fascist I have a number of arguments that I can bring to bear, arguments as to why one shouldn't include mayonnaise in your diet. The truth, though, is that I just don't like it.

Then there is the matter of spam. I like spam. I don't buy it very often. I don't want it very often. But every so often I get the urge. When I was younger I would buy it once every few months. Now that I am a food fascist it is a matter of once every few years. But when the urge strikes, I yield to it shamelessly. Let me put it this way - I won't say anything about your guilty secrets if you won't say anything about mine.

Which brings us to Thomas, the Grey Eminence of Chez Harter. Thomas likes potato chips. (I do not want to hear anything about how he could have discovered potato chips in my presence.) If I were to have a handful of potato chips in my hands (again, it would be a kindness if you were not to ask how such a thing could happen) Thomas would be all over me and nothing would suffice but to break off bits of potato chip for him to devour. It's not just potato chips. He likes corn chips as well. Deborah once put a small bowl of corn chips on the table. It took Thomas a couple of weeks but he ate them all. People keep telling me that it is weird for a cat to eat potato chips. That only shows what they know. I'm sure their cats like potato chips too. They just never noticed.


Then there is the matter of the toilet bowl. If I head for the bathroom Thomas is right there after me. If I don't get the door shut he will be in the bathroom for a bit of voyeurism. He sits by the toilet, waiting patiently while I urinate. That's not what he is there for. I suppose he would just as soon I get over with it as quickly as possible, but he really is very polite about the matter.

Eventually I am done. Now comes the moment he is waiting for. I flush the toilet. He climbs up on the edge of the bowl and watches the water swirl down the bowl. Apparently this is a sight that dwarfs the Niagara Falls in its fascination. When the vortex has ended and the water is refilled he climbs up on the toilet and sips his fill

I don't even begin to want to know what that is all about.

A tax that is not a tax

As of this writing a judge in Florida has ruled that Obamacare is unconstitutional because it mandates the purchase of health care insurance. I'm inclined to agree. After all if the government can tell you to buy health insurance because someobody thinks it is for the common good, then they can tell you to buy purple underwear because somebody thinks wearing purple underwear will all make us healthier or something. I really don't want to wear purple underwear.

In the fullness of time the issue will be settled by the Supreme Court, aka The Infallible Five and The Furious Four. I seriously doubt they will be consulting me for my opinion in the matter.

One of the arguments that proponents of the bill make intrigues me. Sometimes they argue that the mandate is not a tax (when they are putting out public spin) and sometimes they argue that is a tax (mostly when they are putting together a legal argument in court).

Be that as it may it occurs to me that there is a fundamental scam going on. The argument is that the mandate is financially necessary. But if health insurance were real legitimate insurance, a mandate wouldn't make a difference. In ordinary insurance, casualty and life, flood and fire, etc, premiums are proportionate to the risk to the insured. They are set high enough so that the insurance companies can make their well deserved obscene profits, but the essence is that that premiums are proportionate to risk to the insured.

Health insurance doesn't work that way because America drifted into a system in which employers "pay" for health insurance. The employees of a company form a pool of insureds, most of whom are likely to be healthy and relatively young, so the group rate is lower. That is, it is lower than it would be otherwise for the older and unhealthy employees, but it is higher than it would be otherwise for the younger, healthy employees. Why don't the younger, healthy employees opt out? The answer is simple enough - they aren't paying for their insurance (ignoring co-pays), they are getting it as a "benefit". The end result is that the young and healthy indirectly subsidize the old and infirm.

Employer based health insurance worked several decades ago, but it contained the seeds of its own destruction. There are two distinct reasons for this. The first is that it didn't work for people outside the system. The unemployed, the self-employed, people working in small businesses, the chronically ill, etc, aren't in a pool; they aren't subsidized. The second is that cost inflation is built into the system. The essence of the matter is that when a service is subsidized, it becomes more expensive over time. The providers can charge more and the receivers use more because of the subsidy. This has happened both in health care and in higher education. Cost control fails.

In short, the system is broken.

The "health care reform" doesn't fix the system; it expands it. The purpose of the mandate is to force the young and healthy to subsidize the old and infirm. The proponents are quite clear about this, though they don't put it quite that baldly. If that weren't the case they wouldn't need the mandate.

Look at as a tax. Okay, so it's a tax. However it's a very peculiar tax, because the tax collector isn't the government, it's the health insurance companies. For that reason it probably will get killed on constitutional grounds. However I suppose that will depend upon which set of election returns the Supreme Court reads.

Why did they end up with a tax that is not a tax, you ask? The answer is very simple. We have the best congress that money can buy. In this case the health insurance companies has put up the money and they got what they paid for. Congress had neither the courage or the will to say "screw the insurance companies, let's do it right." The President didn't provide leadership to kick Congress's ass to get them to put together something decent.

That's just my opinion, of course. You're free to disagree, even though you know I'm right.

Free source code found here

Every once in a while people write to me about source code that I have on my website. This month I tried to organize it a bit better. I put up a page that lists most of the goodies available, though it doesn't say anything about the dataflow engine stuff. Take a look if you are into that sort of thing.

Things might get hectic around here

The wedding is set for August 27, 2011. This is a lot to do before then so I don't know how that is going to play out. We have remodeling to do and lots of yard work. Somehow we have to merge our possessions. (This is known as "The Big Crunch".) Currently I am trying to cull the enormous volume of books that I have - all true book lovers know what that is like. In the future I will report on what happens - assuming that I find the time. We shall see.


This page was last updated February 1, 2011.

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