Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Wealthy Pay the Exact Same in Federal Income Taxes as Everyone Else

I'd like to propose a change in an argument I've seen online a great deal.  I've been seeing this argument in one form or another for the past 15 years (at least since Steve Forbes ran for President in 2000).  The idea is that a flat tax would be a fairer system of taxation because currently the rich pay a higher percentage of their income than the poor or middle class.

What this argument totally ignores is the fact that the rich actually pay a higher marginal tax rate.  However, they pay exactly the same rate as a poor or middle class person for the same income.  For example, a single person with no dependents, up to the first $8700 in income has a tax rate of 10%, no matter how much subsequent income they earn, for income between $8700 and $35k everyone has an income tax rate of 15%, and so on, until you reach the top tax bracket and currently pay a 35% federal income tax rate.  One of the big issues is that most citizens truly do not understand marginal tax rates.  They believe, incorrectly, that if you are in the top tax bracket you pay 35% on all of your income.

Also, I'd argue that the lower income is more important to the taxpayer, that it makes sense the rates go up.  One way to look at this is to calculate the opposite of one's Return on Investment for these different groups of individuals or families.  A rich family will clearly save more and spend a lower percentage of their income than a poor one (note:  there are always exceptions).  Therefore, the money at higher income levels is not as valued as the money at lower levels, and to match the value, should be taxed at a higher rate.  BTW, yes, I know I'm reaching here; but that's the beauty of having one's own blog to write down your thoughts.

Caveat: This totally ignores looking at standard deductions as well as other deductions for which people are eligible.  This will be a big issue if Romney is elected, because he has stated publicly that he will eliminate many of these deductions in order to reduce overall rates; however, I did not include deductions for simplicity.  However, since the deductions are taken off the top level income, if you have enough you can drop your marginal tax rate below the $85k pretty easily depending on your income.

The other point that is missed in whether the rich are overtaxed, is the fact that we are currently near historical lows for the rich in terms of their marginal tax rates.  In fact, this guy ran the numbers and determined that:
 if you want to maximize growth, the top rate should be raised to about 64% and the tax burden on folks at the lower end of the income scale should be lowered.
Now before you say, but 50% of people pay no income taxes, the lower end rates in the analysis also included other taxes like Social Security and Medicare which are regressive taxes taken out of your paychecks as FICA.  Why is this important, because one of the main taxes the GOP has tried to raise is the FICA tax rate which was reduced as part of the stimulus package that Obama in the beginning of his first term.

So, when someone tells you that the rich already pay their fare share of taxes, you can tell them, they paid the exact same amount as everyone else.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Open Letter to my Family

I was thinking of sending this letter to members of my family that have said they will not vote for Obama.  I know it probably will not convince any of them; however, I'd like to know what others think.

I know election time is coming up and it is not a big surprise that I am voting for Obama.  However, I am writing this letter to ask you to vote for him as well.  I know that some of you did not vote for him in 2008 and some of you who did are switching over to Romney because you don't like how he implemented his policies over the last four years.  I do have one argument to make and if that does not convince you fine; but, I'd like you to consider one thing when you do vote for Romney.

My daughter.

Now I know many of you have or continue to have health issues.  And the fact that you don't see how "Obamacare" is most likely the reason you will have healthcare in your old age is beyond me.  If Romney and Ryan are voted in with a majority in Congress and the Senate (definite possibilities) and you have any pre-existing condition and buy your insurance on the open market, you will not be able to buy an affordable plan.  If you reach an out-of-pocket maximum which will become legal again if Obamacare is repealed, an expensive monthly treatment will soon eat into that lifetime maximum along with any hospital stays you may have.  If you are out of work or lose your insurance for 90 days, you will automatically not be eligible for an individual policy that excludes pre-existing conditions.

Oh, and if you say, I'm already over 65 and receive medicare, they won't change mine.  Yeah, right.  Once everyone else sees that they have no chance to receive healthcare like the baby-boomer generation does, I'm pretty sure the rest of us will make sure that discrepancy goes away.  Also, I know the baby-boomers are considered the me generation, but "F.U., I've got mine", is no way to treat your children and grandchildren.

However, getting back to my daughter.  Do you really think there is a chance in hell that she will be able to get any form of health insurance after I stop working?  The only reason we are able to cover her is because I am on my large employer's group policy.  What do you think is one of the reasons I've worked there for over 19 years is?  Also, you say she receives some medi-cal to help offset many of her other medical expenses (copay and deductibles) we've faced over the past six years.  However, they have already stated that most states will receive 30% less in medicaid dollars if "Obamacare" is repealed.  Who do you think will be one of the first to be kicked off the medi-cal rolls, someone who uses medi-cal as supplemental insurance or someone who uses it for everything?

And if you think this is 20 years down the road, you are kidding yourself even more.  Yes, my Parkinson's is under control, but it is a deteriorating neurological disease.  While I hope for better treatments and possibly a cure in the next 20 years, I really have no clue how long I will be able to work.  My doctor gives me ranges of 10-20 years.  What happens to the rest of my (our) family after that?  Many of you know I have already begun discussing DBS with my neurologist.  Thank goodness I have insurance that will probably be willing to pay for this.  See my length of employment for reasons why.

As for another example, Romney's plan calls for making the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, into a national voucher program.  Part of this program helps fund all the therapists and aides that are required by the school to meet the needs of children with disabilities.  Please, relatives who worked in education their entire lives, explain how a voucher program will assist my daughter in receiving the OT, PT, Speech Therapy, DHH and other therapies and assistance that she receives from the school district.  She currently receives a larger percentage than most children and with a broken neck, may require even more for the next few months.  Do you really believe any voucher program would allow for different monetary values per child and do you believe she'd continue to get these services in school.  Since we'd get vouchers, the school districts wouldn't need to hire anyone because they could then tell us to use outside providers.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  If you're still going to vote for Romney fine.  But I hope you can come up with a better answer than I just don't trust Obama,  Because if you trust Romney more, we are at an impossible impasse.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Learn to be grateful

EDIT: I realized those just seeing this post probably don't realize what I'm talking about.  My daughter broke her neck on Friday.  See my previous post linked to in the next paragraph for more information.

I was angry. Very angry for a few days as shown in my post Sunday.  Since then, I have moved on, and accepted how lucky we were.  The reality is, my daughter was destined to have this issue and the fact that she is not paralyzed and will recover from her injuries is at a minimum, a miracle.

My daughter had a congenital defect called os odontoideum. Her doctors believe that this issue has been in the making for a while, and whatever caused her to collapse basically was the final straw.  The real incredible thing that I have seen are my wife, my daughter, my son, my employer and our friends and family.

I"ll start with the latter.  Our friends and family are amazing.  The love and outpouring they are giving us is beyond expectations.  We have no local "family" as both my wife and I grew up in other cities and states.  Every single one of our immediate family members offered and would have been on a plane within a day. They said this, and I know they meant it.  I know this, because when our daughter was in the NICU for 3 months after she was born, they did this.  There were literally only a handful of weeks that we did not have a family member fly out here during that time, and the times there was no one out here were because my wife and I needed some space.  My wife and I get constant texts from our family just checking in and seeing how we are doing without the expectation of an immediate response.

I said we have no local "family" but we do have family.  My wife and I have a local support structure beyond measure.  People often laugh at Facebook and question it's value.  After we informed our immediate family, my wife wrote an initial post on Facebook that we were dealing with this.  Besides the prayers and well wishes that were sent to that post and out to the world, our friends started to take action. Our friends from our synagogue established meal delivery to our family and are engaging other friends who want to assist as well.  Offers came in from everyone to assist in taking our son to/from school and activities while we are at the hospital, and setup play dates to keep him busy.  It's funny that my two best friends in town are not on Facebook, but I also must thank them because each has called me multiple times just to check in and see how we are doing and provide all the same offers that our other friends have made.

I have worked for the same company for over 19 years.  I may not make as much as I would have if I had left and gone to work for other companies, but I'll tell you what I do have, a company and management chain that understands my situation and appreciates that I will do my job, but need to take care of my family first.  I wrote a basic message to my boss and her boss saying my daughter had an accident and was in the hospital for a bit.  I went into very few details and said I would be out of the office for the week.  The response I got from everyone was your family is most important, we'll cover for you.  I tell that to folks at the hospital, and they are amazed.

My son stepped up and is delivering.  From the moment my daughter got hurt, he has been all about wanting to see her, make her laugh and happy and hoping she feels and gets better.  He has been well behaved for neighbors who are watching him and appreciates everything.  I took him to Sea World this weekend for a few hours, just so I could have some time with him and he could feel a bit normal.  He wanted to win a stuffed animal for his sister, and not only did he do that, but he won a six foot stuffed animal for himself at the same time.  He was so happy but still thinking of his sister and how much she'll enjoy her little animal as well. He is constantly reminding my wife and I that he wants his sister to see the animal as soon as she wakes up.

My wife is amazing.  She sat and slept with our daughter the entire first night we were in the hospital.  This is a woman who has run multiple triathlons (including a half-Ironman) and over a dozen half-marathons in about the last two years.  However, she is also one of the main reasons my daughter is thriving so well. She is the epitome of Mama Bears and understands my daughter better than any of the doctors that care for her.  She also has grounded me and is so positive as I described on Sunday.  She realized quickly that our situation could have been a lot worse, but wasn't and appreciated that most.

The most inspiring person I know is my daughter. This is a girl who has beaten the odds and expectations every time.  Her attitude, drive and determination are why I know she will be ok.  When her new doctors and nurses this week have read her chart, they're amazed at where she is at and how far she has come.  Every therapist this girl has ever had, loves her for her work ethic and determination.  My wife once wrote a blog post describing her determination and it sums it up perfectly.

Like my wife constantly says, I am grateful.  I just needed some time to realize how much.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Personal Rant

You're only given as much as you can handle at any given time
My wife and I hear this saying a lot. Besides the typical family stuff, the big issues we get to deal with: 
  1. My diagnosis 6 yrs ago at 34 with Parkinson's 
  2. Our daughter was born with a whole host of issues (deaf, vision-impaired, balance-disorder and she had a tracheostomy and feeding tube for multiple years).
However, to me, it's starting to mean thank goodness it's you, not me. This weekend it has reached a point where I am just pissed off and am moving back from acceptance to anger.

On Friday, my daughter broke her neck at gymnastics when she fell. Yes, I did say break her neck.  Luckily, she is not paralyzed which often happens with these type of injuries.  She now sits in a hospital with tubes in her once again and a months long recovery having to wear a contraption called a halo and still requiring one more surgery to fuse two vertebrae in her neck. More than anything I'm upset because she does not deserve this.
My wife is still looking at this as it could have been much worse which is true, but I'm just pissed. Leaving my wife at the hospital the first night at 3 am, driving home, I was just screaming out in anger for most of the ride. Our friends and family are very supportive but when I hear someone say this, I just feel like telling them, I'm done, it's someone else's turn.

Consider this rant for what its worth, absolutely nothing.  However, I hope it gives you some insight to what is going on in our family.  I know I'll get past the anger; it's just hard when I see so many not appreciating what they have and calling those of us who do sometimes need a little assistance, "takers."  These people are calling folks like my daughter and I "taker" because for the rest of her life, she will most likely need help with things like her medical bills.  However, they will never hold a candle to my daughter who has gone through so much and from the start is the patient all her therapists look forward to working with and hold up as the example of getting past the diagnosis and achieving more than anyone thought possible.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pre-existing Conditions and the Presidential Debate

If anyone with Parkinson's watched the debate last night on domestic issues and felt that their healthcare would be safe under a Romney administration, think again.  In fact,
Mitt Romney’s top advisers acknowledged that, as a result Romney’s plan to repeal Obamacare, people with pre-existing medical conditions would likely be unable to purchase insurance.
The fact of the matter is, that Obama even explained the details of Romney's plan better than Romney, right after Romney said that pre-existing conditions would be covered under his plan.  Obama said,
But let’s go back to what Governor Romney indicated, that under his plan he would be able to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Well, actually, Governor, that isn’t what your plan does. What your plan does is to duplicate what’s already the law, which says if you are out of health insurance for three months then you can end up getting continuous coverage and an insurance company can’t deny you if you’ve -- if it’s been under 90 days.
What that means is if you are not currently covered or you lose your insurance for more than 90 days, you're out of the system and have no way to get back in because of your pre-existing conditions.  I find it ridiculous that Obama had to explain to Romney how his health plan works. Although, it is not surprising that Romney did not accept the explanation.