Guest opinion: We need regulations and programs for the needy
First and foremost, your columnist James Kellogg is under the assumption and the disillusionment that a free market capitalist structure without any government regulation or controls works. History has proven this to be painfully false.
Specifically, his most recent column starts with, “People buy the notion that they have a right to retirement, health care and welfare.”
These three do not belong in the same sentence. Retirement is both self-generated through self-funded plans as well as Social Security, which we pay into and in fact are entitled to. Welfare is a handout. Most people do not think we have a right to welfare.
He says we need to understand our basic rights, but he doesn’t point out that part of our right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not to have a draconian government that has oppressive surveillance, search-and-seizure laws as well as laws like the Patriot Act, which is anything but.
It is true that the Constitution doesn’t specifically give us the right to health care, but as the richest nation on earth and considering the fact that health is a large component of being free and happy, certainly we should have affordable and accessible health care for our citizens. He points out that Obamacare (the ACA, actually) will cost taxpayers $2.5 trillion over 10 years (fuzzy math; it’s actually about half that according to the Congressional Budget Office), but he should also point out that corporate welfare, tax credits and various tax code provisions will cost taxpayers $110 billion a year. That’s more than a trillion in 10 years, and those are literally handouts — welfare! Boeing got $13 billion alone. (Source: Forbes)
So to give that kind of money to huge, wealthy corporations is OK, but not to feed the poor and provide health care for the needy? In addition, to not mention the insane and unnecessary amounts we spend with taxpayer money on our military is irresponsible.
Without government regs and programs, our system of capitalism and greed would collapse, as it almost did in the 1930s and again recently in 2008.
He seems to blame skyrocketing health insurance cost on Obamacare, but in fact they have always gone up and out of control. He can’t have it both ways.
As a tax professional, I have to point out some errors in what he says about the tax code. First, the 35 percent corporate rate is the highest rate for corporations, and only large corporations pay that rate, and few corporations pay that rate due to the myriad of tax credits, deductions, etc. that they get. They get far more than his comment about how many tax breaks low-income earners receive.
In fact, many rich Americans pay less on their extremely high income than the poorest, as was pointed out by Warren Buffett. His solution of a flat tax is always interesting to me because we already have one; it’s called Alternative Minimum Tax, which is a flat tax that parallels our normal tax code with different rules, disallows many deductions like employee business deductions and taxes our income at a flat rate, which we must pay (not an alternative) if it’s higher than the normal tax rate.
Is the tax code unnecessarily and ridiculously complex? You bet it is. Is the government incredibly inefficient in many ways? You bet it is. Do we have way too many regulations and rules? You bet we do.
But the solution is not to continue to deceive ourselves into thinking that lofty idealism alone will give us our fundamental freedoms, especially when what government mostly does is serve the needs and “rights” (of which they were never granted) of corporate America.
We have grown as a nation and in complexity as well over the years. Our Constitution was meant to be a flexible and adaptable document to address our needs and rights into the future.
Sorry, we need regulations, we need programs that help the needy and less fortunate to become productive citizens, and we need affordable and decent health care for all. In fact, if we want to assist in the reduction of the welfare state, give workers a living wage for their work and they won’t need government assistance.
How does Mr. Kellogg expect people to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness when they aren’t paid enough to feed themselves and their children?
Lee Sheftel lives in Carbondale.