Government To Expand Permanent Underclass

As government prepares to complete it’s takeover of medicine, the Taxman — which it has successfully kept hidden in the basement, drugged, with the windows covered in newspapers and the boom-box going full blast — can be hidden no longer. Details of how the government plans to subsidize the mother of all entitlements are finally coming out. They have avoided the details to date for good reason.

Greg Mankiw highlights the views of health care expert James Capretta – who notes the following:

As incomes rise, however, the Baucus bill cuts the value of the entitlement. A family with an income at twice the poverty line, or $48,000 in 2016, would get $9,072 in federal assistance for coverage — still a substantial sum. But it’s $7,400 less than the family would get if they earned half as much. The Baucus plan thus imposes an implicit marginal tax rate of about 30 percent ($7,400/$24,000) on wages earned by families in this income range.

And that would come on top of the high implicit taxes already built into current law. Low-wage families with children also get the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC boosts incomes for those with the very lowest wages, but it is also phased-out as incomes rise. Past a certain threshold (about $21,400 in 2016), the EITC is reduced by $0.21 for every additional $1 earned. Throw in the individual income tax rate (15 percent) and payroll taxes (7.65 percent), and the effective, implicit tax rate for workers between 100 and 200 percent of the federal poverty line would quickly approach 70 percent — not even counting food stamps and housing vouchers.

In plain English, high marginal tax rates mean that there is little incentive for people at or near poverty levels to report higher incomes in future years, because most of it will be offset by losing various entitlements which they no longer would qualify for. If the government was trying to create a permanent underclass, I’m not sure how this structure of incentives would differ.

Below is my effort to quantify part of Mr. Capretta’s example:

Please click on image to enlarge or print

Blog post referenced is copied in full at end of post.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009 – A 70 Percent Tax on Work

President Obama said Monday that the debate on health care has gone on long enough, and now is the time to pass something.

But does Congress, let alone the public, really understand what these bills would mean for the health sector and the wider U.S. economy? In 1994, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a lengthy assessment of the Clinton administration’s proposal, covering everything from its distributional consequences to the budgetary treatment of its various moving parts. The public should get the same kind of thorough review of what Obamacare would mean before Congress takes any further steps toward passage.

For instance, there hasn’t yet been a thorough analysis of what the bills moving in the House and Senate would mean for work incentives among low-wage families. A cursory review indicates that Obamacare would impose a massive new implicit tax on low-wage households, effectively penalizing the family that tries to do the right thing by working their way into the middle class.

According to CBO, family coverage in 2016 is likely to cost about $14,400 under the so-called “silver option” in the health-care reform plan sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. In the Baucus plan, a family of four at the poverty line (about $24,000 in 2016) would have pay to about $1,400 toward coverage, with the federal government paying the other $13,000 on their behalf. In addition, the government would also provide $3,500 to reduce the family’s deductible and co-payment costs for health services. Thus, the new entitlement provided by the Baucus bill would be worth a whopping $16,500 for a family at the poverty line.

As incomes rise, however, the Baucus bill cuts the value of the entitlement. A family with an income at twice the poverty line, or $48,000 in 2016, would get $9,072 in federal assistance for coverage — still a substantial sum. But it’s $7,400 less than the family would get if they earned half as much. The Baucus plan thus imposes an implicit marginal tax rate of about 30 percent ($7,400/$24,000) on wages earned by families in this income range.

And that would come on top of the high implicit taxes already built into current law. Low-wage families with children also get the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC boosts incomes for those with the very lowest wages, but it is also phased-out as incomes rise. Past a certain threshold (about $21,400 in 2016), the EITC is reduced by $0.21 for every additional $1 earned. Throw in the individual income tax rate (15 percent) and payroll taxes (7.65 percent), and the effective, implicit tax rate for workers between 100 and 200 percent of the federal poverty line would quickly approach 70 percent — not even counting food stamps and housing vouchers.

The more Obamacare is rushed through Congress, the more likely it is to produce highly regrettable unintended consequences. Surely even the Democrats in Congress can see how damaging it would be to send signals to low-wage breadwinners that it no longer makes sense to seek a higher-paying job.

posted by James C. Capretta
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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One Response to Government To Expand Permanent Underclass

  1. Luis says:

    So the President's promise of leaving the tax rates of those who make less than $250,000 a year is a farce? What a surprise. For 75 years the Democratic Party has been able to direct American economic policy (with a brief respite during the Reagan Era) and we are over 40 years into building “the Great Society” but the poor are still with us? Given the rate of gov't spending (think Weimarer Republik) I am sure that it has never been about helping the poor but rather USING the poor for another purpose. The American ecomomy is being driven to the point of crisis and has been for years. These are not economic policies but military policies in a post atomic age were some no longer wage war on potmarked battle fields but, rather, in the currency markets. After all, if “War is the continuation of policy (politics) by other means.”- Karl von Clausewitz why not vice/versa. Are these “economic policies” clearly and objectively the policies of enemies of the Republic. How much money can we print before no one will accept it?

    What will the USA look like when the full course of these “policies” have run?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloward-Piven_Strategy

    Wiki Cloward Piven Strategy


    American Thinker on CPS

    What once appeared as the ramblings of tin-foil-hat wearing survivalists has taken on a different hue in the light of such excess “stupidity” in matters budgetary. No?

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