Monday, October 12, 2009

We're a capitalistic country

Let’s accept it, we’re a capitalistic country. That’s not good and that’s not bad, it’s just the choice of social and financial systems we’ve accepted as our model. But, along with that we must accept the type of society capitalism creates.

Capitalism focuses on money. Money focuses on personal financial gain. Personal gain emphasizes the “Me”, and not the, “Us” point of view.

I consider the majority of Americans (myself included) as capitalists regardless of their income. There are those who have interests in a more communal society but, even the majority of these, are financially secure outside of their pursuit of these broader interests.

To be even more blunt, we’re self centered and selfish. Only as our personal financial and other needs are satisfied do we become more aware/concerned/interested in others. It’s most direct to consider we’re interested in money and list the exceptions. The list of exceptions is much shorter. This isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just capitalism.

We’re currently in the midst of a national debate about restructuring our health insurance system and the prime position of most seems to be “I’ve got mine and I don’t want to lose it”. The “devil we know” argument. Of course, those with no insurance have no devil to know.

Health insurance is about having the resources to obtain health care. Health care is medical intervention in our personal health problems. Insurance, not care is what we’re talking about. Let’s not confuse or equate them.

Insurance is also about individual security within a group effort to spread the risk. That’s an “Us” game and not a “Me” game. Perhaps that’s why in this current discussion of health insurance, the 85% of us who already have insurance are reluctant to change the game.

Jumping to health care, that’s a very personal factor. Here, we can rightly be expected to look at what is best for “Me”. The mix of group insurance VS individual care may be what makes it so difficult to mingle the two.

I’m thinking that, in the end, the health insurance debate will be answered by the perceived benefit to the individual capitalist.

While lamentable that 15% of our citizens don’t have health insurance, the flip side is that 85% do. These 85% see themselves as possibly having to give up or pay more for something they already have to insure that those without health insurance are somehow protected.

Where is the fairness of it all? The problem I see is that the administration seems to be failing to address the concerns of the 85%.

Along this line, why does the administration as well as the media refuse to discuss how the major developed countries have handled the problem. Do you really think the well organized Germans adopted some funky system that is costly and ineffective? Do you think the French (One for all and all for one) have a system their countrymen don’t like?

Why, in the midst of this major debate don’t we at least check out how the competition has handled the problem.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Immigrants and taxes

One of the complaints I hear is that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes. This may sound probable in that many are paid under the table but it doesn’t mean they’re getting around paying taxes. If their kids go to school that’s paid for from property taxes collected by a local body. Many local services are paid for from sales taxes paid by the retailers who collect it from the customer. And any income immigrants receive is what’s left after their employer deducts income taxes.

When was the last time YOU paid taxes? Taxes paid directly to the taxing body that is.

We’ll all mention state and federal income taxes due that were not deducted from our wages. Some will list property taxes. But that’s about the whole list.

We DON’T pay taxes directly to the taxing body. Someone else does.

Our employer pays (or is supposed to pay) all due income, Social Security and Medicare taxes. Retailers are supposed to pass on to the state the sales tax we paid. The oil companies pay government the various taxes on gasoline. Our landlord pays the property tax and includes it in our monthly rent bill. We, individually, don’t usually pay any regular taxes directly.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is that the businesses that are required by law to collect and forward taxes to the appropriate body aren’t paying or forwarding those tax payments. And the immigrant workers are being blamed for not paying their taxes.

How come there’s no shouting and table pounding about the business owners stealing from the government by not paying these taxes? If immigrants can be thought to be escaping from paying their taxes it’s only because we never think that we don’t pay taxes directly either. Those who are supposed to collect and forward taxes to the appropriate government body are keeping the taxes for themselves.

For a year or two a few years back very prominent people who were being considered for high government appointments were withdrawing their names because they hadn’t paid the taxes on their privately hired household help. No outrage there.

We should check the condition of our glass house before we start throwing stones at our neighbors.