Yes to Tax Cuts, No to Universal Health Care

February 06, 2007

Yes To Tax Cuts, No To Universal Health Care

Joe Bell

Opinion Editorials

On February 5, President Bush sent his $2.9 trillion budget to Congress. Among other things, the proposal would make permanent his first term tax cuts. Congress should take action to meet that goal.

On the same day former Senator John Edwards, a Democrat presidential candidate, made public his plan for universal health care, which would require all businesses to provide health care, oblige all Americans to have it and would impose tax increases to meet the anticipated cost of $120 billion a year. Unlike Bush’s tax proposal, Edwards’ idea merits a discussion that should last only long enough to deliver a sound rejection.

America’s economy is on the upswing and tax increases would damage the progress that has been made. In December, unemployment was 4.5 percent, which is below 2005’s average of 5.1 percent. After tax income per person has risen more than $2,800 during the Bush Administration. Failing to make the tax cuts permanent would impose a major tax hike on American families who are using their revenue for saving, spending and investing.

During testimony before the Senate Committee on the Budget, Heritage Foundation scholar Stuart Butler explained that the key to a sound economy is not to increase taxes but to curb unneeded and unwise entitlement spending. For example, the 2003 Medicare senior citizen drug bill should never have been passed as written. That entitlement went far beyond providing assistance to seniors who needed help to purchase their prescription medications. The legislation gives aid to every retiree who is on Medicare, including millions of seniors who are able to pay for their drugs on their own. Public resources should not be used to help those who can help themselves and Congress should reform the law this year.

Butler said, “If we were to balance the budget without tackling entitlements, and maintained discretionary spending at the same proportion of GDP today, federal taxes would have to rise to almost 30 percent of GDP by 2050 – two-thirds higher than today. Add in state and local taxes of approximately 10 percent and our children and grandchildren will face total taxes similar to low-growth, high-unemployment Europe.”

Implementing the Edwards universal health care proposal would only add to the gargantuan entitlement burden taxpayers already shoulder. And does anyone believe the $120 billion annual projection for the program would not balloon significantly like every other government entitlement? The cost of the senior prescription drug program offers insight as to what universal health care would look like. When assessing projected government expenditures we would do well to recall an article from the January 30, 2004 edition of the Boston Globe that reported, “The new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost about 35 percent more than Congress anticipated… The prescription drug plan … will cost about $540 billion over 10 years, instead of the $396 billion projected by the law Congress approved last year…”

In fact, America should not even pursue an agenda of universal health care. Citizens living in nations that have created such a structure find themselves paying for a system that forces them to wait months for treatment. Robert Moffit, in a paper written for the Heritage Foundation, found that in Canada individuals have died waiting for surgery and others had been removed from a list because they had become medically unsuitable for surgery while waiting their turn.

A study released in January 2005, by the Cato Institute, reported, “Countries with national health insurance limit health care spending by limiting supply. They do so primarily by imposing global budgets on hospitals and area health authorities and skimping on high-tech equipment. The result is rationing by waiting. In Britain, with a population of almost 60 million, government statistics show that more than 1 million are waiting to be admitted to hospitals at any one time. …in New Zealand, with a population of about 3.6 million, almost 111,000 people are on waiting lists for surgery and other treatments.”

The rationing of health care in these countries is government policy. Cato reported, “Canadian patients waited an average 8.3 weeks in 2003 from the time they were referred to a specialist until the actual consultation, and another 9.5 weeks before treatment, including surgery.”

This is not a scenario the United States should seek to emulate. Nevertheless, some might be persuaded to insist universal health care is preferable and cite a 2006 survey conducted by Statistics Canada and the U.S. Center for Health Studies to support their contention. The survey found that Canadians live longer than U.S. citizens, have fewer instances of diabetes and high blood pressure and that U.S. citizens tend to be more obese. The problem with promoting universal health care with that data is that those health problems are more related to lifestyle than access to a physician.

Commenting on the study in the Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2006, Dr. David Gratzer, of the Manhattan Institute, wrote, “We shouldn’t confuse problems in public health with flaws in health care systems. Americans may be heavier than Canadians but this speaks more to genetics, diet, exercise and culture than to the accessibility or inaccessibility of health services.”

Making Bush’s tax cuts permanent, allowing people to keep more of their own paychecks, reducing unnecessary entitlement spending and pursuing health care reforms like expanding association health plans so small businesses can better afford health care coverage would do far more for America’s health care situation than higher taxes and a costly and inefficient universal program run by the government. ### Joseph Bell has hosted a radio talk show and is a former editorial writer/columnist for several Connecticut newspapers. A former liberal Democrat, Bell has not been on the conservative side of the aisle for very long. He voted for Clinton/Gore in 1992. Abandoning the convictions that he had held and defended through adolescence and into adulthood was not easy. Sincere soul-searching and a commitment to distinguish fact from fiction compelled him to accept that liberal ideology was bankrupt.

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