Thursday, January 22, 2015

Affordable Care Excise Tax, Part III

Paying Your Fair Share

:: By: Larry Walker II ::

In Tax Simplification, Part II, I expounded on a 2010 Annual Report to Congress, in which National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson focused on the need for tax reform as the No. 1 priority in tax administration. In particular, she focused on the problem of delivering social benefits through the tax system, which complicates the mission of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), resulting in a dual mission of welfare administration as well as revenue collection. But instead of taking heed, the federal government doubled down, adding a new health care excise tax and health insurance premium tax credit to the IRS’s burden.

Telephone hold times with the IRS can sometimes run as long as four to seven hours these days, and if you don’t believe me try calling yourself. A taxpayer facing a federal tax lien, levy or wage garnishment doesn’t have a choice. He or she must call immediately in order to prevent an adverse action, but unless they have a day to spare and a very powerful battery, may wind up on the phone for several days just trying to get someone on the line. The federal government has taken an agency best suited for revenue collection, and turned it into a socialist style welfare office, long lines and all.

In Part 2, I affirmed that the shared responsibility payment isn’t a fee, because nothing is received in return. Nor is it a penalty, because failure to purchase health insurance doesn’t constitute a crime. The individual shared responsibility provision imposes an excise tax on a tiny minority of U.S. residents who don’t have government-mandated health insurance or qualify for one of several exemptions. Although Internal Revenue Code – Section 5000A refers to it as a penalty, in general, if it involves filling out a federal income tax form (i.e. Form 8965), and is assessed on and payable with your personal income tax return, it’s a tax.

Opting Out

Many U.S. residents opted out of government mandated health insurance last year. Most simply couldn’t handle the government dictated concoction of monthly premiums and annual deductibles. For these, the Affordable Care Act’s punitive excise tax only makes matters worse. To those affected by this odious tax, it represents a discriminatory confiscation of wealth they are least likely to possess.

For example, the lowest cost Bronze Plan in the state of Georgia currently costs a married couple in their late 40’s to early 50’s (without children and with annual income of around $80,000) a monthly premium of around $622. Conjoined with an annual deductible of $12,600, their insurance policy won’t cover a dime of medical expenses until they have exhausted slightly over a quarter of their annual income ($20,064 / $80,000).

If the couple reasons that they may be able to afford the first $7,464 in medical bills, but would be screwed if they had to pay an additional $12,600, they would be better off not wasting their money on insurance premiums. Once having come to this conclusion, in steps the government to impose the execrated tax. The couple is then forced to hand over 1% of their income (above the filing threshold) in 2014, 2% in 2015, 2.5% in 2016, and more thereafter.

In this example, the government-inflicted excise tax is meant to encourage, or if you will, coerce the couple into purchasing a service they deemed impractical from the get go. But will it? Since the problem boils down to its exorbitant overall cost, how does a government imposed tax of $597, $1,194 or $1,493 help this couple? Newsflash: It doesn’t. Taking money away from one middle class taxpayer and handing it to another serves no meaningful purpose.

What is the purpose?

The premise behind the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was originally as follows: Too many Americans are being denied access to medical care. Health care is a fundamental right for every American. Therefore, every American should have universal access to health care. Anything less is immoral. Yet, in spite of an unprecedented level of government intervention, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), roughly 30 million nonelderly U.S. residents will remain uninsured in 2016, and every year thereafter.

One critical detail, virtually forgotten in its more than 20,000 pages of regulations, is that prior to implementation of the ACA, 42 million U.S. residents were uninsured, according to an annual report from the U.S. Census Bureau. And now, after upending the entire American health care system, and throwing another monkey wrench into U.S. tax administration, come to find out that 71% of them will remain uninsured for the duration.

But at least 12 to 13 million got covered, right? Well perhaps, but not without taxpayer assistance, or what’s known in the real world as additional government debt. According to the Heritage Foundation, roughly 6 million of the newly insured were added to taxpayer-funded Medicaid programs. And according to H&R Block, the other 6.8 million purchased health insurance, but only after employing taxpayer-funded subsidies (i.e. premium tax credits).

In short, 30 million of the 42 million who were uninsured prior to the ACA will remain uninsured in 2016 and every year thereafter. And, of the 12 to 13 million newly insured, every last one received a taxpayer handout. What’s up with that? Couldn’t we have achieved the same result without maiming the tax code?

Ironically, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 30 million U.S. residents, age 18 or older, never made it past the 11th grade, but that’s another story. Although not likely the same 30 million who will never have health insurance (because they get theirs for free), you can bet Progressive’s will constantly characterize them as hard-working Americans worthy of evermore governmental assistance (i.e. a higher minimum wage, free child care, free junior college, free health care, etc… etc…)

Right, so they didn’t make it past the 11th grade, but now it’s our job to hand them a free ride? Are you kidding me? These are not hard-working Americans; they are society’s losers. Close to half probably aren’t even legal. Oops! The notion of robbing the middle class, in order to dole out freebies to a bunch of flunkies is absurd. If you want something in life, work for it like the rest of us. But I digress. The affordable excise tax, being levied against the true middle class, is damnable.

Are you paying your fair share?

Now get this. Of the 30 million (or so) who will remain eternally uninsured, the majority are expected to be exempt from the new excise tax. That’s right! Despite the federal government’s ultimatum, the CBO estimates that 23 million will qualify for one or more of the following exemptions:

  1. Not lawfully present. Any individual who is neither a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, nor an alien lawfully present in the U.S. If you are in the U.S. illegally, then according to the law you are exempt.

  2. No filing requirement. An individual whose household income is below the minimum threshold for filing a tax return. The requirement to file a federal tax return depends on filing status, age, and types and amounts of income. If you are not required to file a return, then no other action is required.

  3. Income below the federal poverty level. You were determined ineligible for Medicaid because your state didn't expand eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

  4. Plans are unaffordable. You have no affordable coverage options because the minimum amount you must pay in annual premiums is more than 8% of your household income.

  5. Indian tribes. Any member of a federally recognized Indian tribe. You may claim this exemption directly on your tax return through self-attestation.

  6. Incarceration. Any individual in jail, prison, or a similar penal institution or correctional facility. You may claim this exemption through self-attestation when you fill out your federal tax return.

For more on exemptions, see Part 2. So in the year 2016, only around 7 million of the 30 million uninsured will have to deal with this new excise tax, in one fashion or another. The CBO estimates that among the 7 million, 3 million will either request hardship exemptions, or simply refuse to pay (i.e. take advantage of the IRS’s inability to administer and collect the tax).

All in all, the CBO believes a mere 4 million hapless Americans will be forced to fork over an estimated $4 billion in affordable care excise taxes in the year 2016. The figure climbs to an estimated $5 billion a year from 2017 to 2024. Note: The CBO neglected to offer estimates for tax years 2014 and 2015, which will likely involve higher numbers subject to the tax due to novelty of the law.

In brief, 4 million pay, while 26 million get a pass. Well, so much for the vaunted Fair Share theory! Perhaps all should be granted immunity, or at least an opportunity to purchase catastrophic health insurance policies, as I pleaded for in Part 1.

Squashing the Real Middle Class

Among the doomed 4 million (i.e. those subject to the affordable care excise tax), the CBO estimates that roughly 74% will be from what many consider to be the middle class (i.e. income exceeds 200% of federal poverty guidelines), with the remaining 26% in the low income category (i.e. income below 199% of federal poverty guidelines).Great!

So by the year 2016, out of 30 million perpetually uninsured Americans, comprising roughly 10% of the population, only 4 million, or just over 1% of the population, will be forced to pay what the Supreme Court said, “…may reasonably be characterized as a tax.” The bulk of the disheartened will represent the middle class, with a minority from the lower middle class. Wow!

Prior to the ACA, 42 million U.S. residents were uninsured. Following its implementation, 30 million, or 71%, will remain uninsured indefinitely. Of the 12 to 13 million newly insured, every single one is on the government dole, either through free Medicaid or subsidized health insurance premiums. In 2016, 4 million uninsured American citizens will be forced to hand over 2.5% of their income to the federal government in exchange for nothing, while another 26 million, in essentially the same boat, will remain uninsured but at least suffer no further humiliation. So the U.S. is finally taxing the 1%, eh?

Although the ACA focuses its excise tax on a tiny fraction of permanently uninsured Americans, at the same time it provides subsidies for people making up to four times the federal poverty line (i.e. $46,680 for a single person, $62,920 for a family of two, and $95,400 for a family of four). Can you say overpriced? As a general rule, when a product or service is subsidized it’s being sold at a premium (i.e. the insurance is overpriced). But not to worry, the ACA’s premium tax credits turn out to be a load of bull as well.

According to the Washington Examiner as many as 3.4 million of the 6.8 million who received taxpayer subsidized health insurance may owe money back to the federal government. H&R Block estimates that as many as half of the 6.8 million people who received insurance premium subsidies under the ACA benefited from subsidies that were too large. Oh, for crying out loud!

At this point, if you’re a left-winger you’re probably thinking, “Yippee, we did it!” If you’re conservative you’re likely saying, “I told you so.” And if you find yourself in the crosshairs of the affordable excise tax, you’re probably muttering words you dare not convey in public.

To be continued…

Related:

Affordable Care Excise Tax, Part I

Affordable Care Excise Tax, Part II

#Healthcare

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Affordable Care Excise Tax, Part II

Effing the Middle Class

:: By: Larry Walker II ::

In Part 1, we voiced concern that in constitutional law sense, an excise tax is usually an event tax as opposed to a “state of being” tax, the recent exception to this principle being the "minimum essential coverage" tax under Internal Revenue Code section 5000A as enacted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111–148), whereby an indirect tax is imposed on the condition of not having purchased health insurance coverage.

This is not the first time in history the United States has forced its middle class to pay a tax supposedly for our common good; Social Security and Medicare taxes come to mind. However, this is the first time the federal government has ordered its middle class to either engage in an act of commerce, or else hand over a percentage of its hard earned income.

Nearly 18 million state and local government employees as well as a few conscientious religious objectors are exempt from Social Security taxes, while the rest of us are bound to a sinking ship. Is it fair that millions of Americans get a better deal, while the masses are forced to contribute to the welfare of others?

Under the Affordable Care Act it's worse. Those who voluntarily purchase private company health insurance plans, predetermined by the federal government as meeting their needs, and deemed affordable to them based on contrived criteria, are allowed to escape the new tax, while those in need (i.e. stuck in the middle and still uninsured) get screwed.

If the principle behind the affordable care tax were applied consistently across the board, then those participating in qualified retirement plans should be exempt from Social Security tax, and owners of long-term care insurance contracts should be excluded from Medicare tax. This would be fair and equitable, but as it stands the new tax represents a major departure from Americanism.

Under this latest departure from common sense, the poor receive free health care through state-run Medicaid programs, the rich can handily afford the best of insurance plans, and the middle class are either stuck with high premiums compounded by soaring deductibles, or slapped with an excise tax for not purchasing a government mandated plan.

Members of the middle class, and those once aspiring, who refuse on principle, or are for myriad reasons unable to purchase a government mandated health insurance plan, and not meeting one of several exemptions, are subject to this new “state of being” tax. In other words, the state of being stuck between a rock and a hard place makes the middle class a prime target for funding government subsidies to the poor.

If you and your family did not have minimum essential coverage in 2014, you will need to meet a specific exemption to avoid paying the new excise tax. If you would like to obtain coverage for 2015, the deadline for doing so is February 15, 2015. To obtain coverage, your options include:

  • Health insurance provided by your employer;

  • Health insurance purchased through the Federal website (healthcare.gov), or your State’s Marketplace;

  • Coverage provided under a government sponsored program (i.e. Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Administration);

  • Health insurance purchased directly from an insurance company; or

  • Other health insurance coverage that is recognized by the Department of Health & Human Services.

Who is exempt?

The Affordable Care Act mandates individuals without health insurance to pay an excise tax on top of their regular federal tax obligation, however there are exemptions. If you are exempt from the requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage, the excise tax won’t apply when you file your 2014 federal tax return. An exemption may apply if you meet one of the following criteria:

  1. You have no affordable coverage options because the minimum amount you must pay in annual premiums is more than 8% of your household income; or

  2. You have a gap in coverage for less than three consecutive months; or

  3. You qualify for one of the hardship exemptions listed below, or belong to an exempt group (explained later).

Numbers 1 and 2 (above) may be claimed directly on your income tax return, but a hardship exemption (number 3) must be approved by a government bureaucrat. To claim a hardship exemption, you must complete and mail an application to what’s being called the Health Insurance Marketplace (i.e. the federal government). Upon approval, you will receive an "exemption certificate number" (ECN), which must be included on your tax return to receive the exemption.

Please be aware, that if you do not qualify for exemption numbers 1 and 2 (above), and think you may qualify for one of the following hardship exemptions, the time to submit an application is now. If you wait until tax season, the filing of your tax return may be delayed (awaiting receipt of an ECN), or you may have to file without an exemption and amend your return later. Choosing the latter will affect the amount of your refund or balance owed.

If any of the following hardships apply to you, you must submit an application for exemption as discussed in Part 1:

  1. You were homeless.

  2. You were evicted in the past 6 months or were facing eviction or foreclosure.

  3. You received a shut-off notice from a utility company.

  4. You recently experienced domestic violence.

  5. You recently experienced the death of a close family member.

  6. You experienced a fire, flood, or other natural or human-caused disaster that caused substantial damage to your property.

  7. You filed for bankruptcy in the last 6 months.

  8. You had medical expenses you couldn't pay in the last 24 months that resulted in substantial debt.

  9. You experienced unexpected increases in necessary expenses due to caring for an ill, disabled, or aging family member.

  10. You expect to claim a child as a tax dependent who's been denied coverage in Medicaid and CHIP, and another person is required by court order to give medical support to the child. In this case, you don't have the pay the penalty for the child.

  11. As a result of an eligibility appeals decision, you're eligible for enrollment in a qualified health plan (QHP) through the Marketplace, lower costs on your monthly premiums, or cost-sharing reductions for a time period when you weren't enrolled in a QHP through the Marketplace.

  12. You were determined ineligible for Medicaid because your state didn't expand eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

  13. Your individual insurance plan was cancelled and you believe other Marketplace plans are unaffordable.

  14. You experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance.

If any of the 14 hardships (above) apply to you, and you wish to be excluded from the affordable excise tax, then you must submit a hardship application, along with proper documentation supporting your claim. If approved, you will be granted an ECN to enter on your tax return. Good luck with that. If denied, you may need to pay the tax, or if you are expecting a refund the IRS will conveniently subtract it out.

Exempt Groups: The following individuals are exempt from coverage:

  1. Religious conscience. Any member of a religious sect that is recognized as conscientiously opposed to accepting insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration administers a similar process allowing exemption from Social Security and Medicare taxes. You must submit an application to claim this exemption.

  2. Health care sharing ministry. Any member of a recognized health care sharing ministry. Health care sharing ministries (HCSM) provide health care cost sharing arrangements among persons of similar and sincerely held beliefs. HCSMs are operated by not-for-profit religious organizations acting as a clearinghouse for those who have medical expenses and those who desire to share the burden of those medical expenses. You may claim this exemption directly on your tax return through self-attestation.

  3. Indian tribes. Any member of a federally recognized Indian tribe. You may claim this exemption directly on your tax return through self-attestation.

  4. No filing requirement. An individual whose household income is below the minimum threshold for filing a tax return. The requirement to file a federal tax return depends on filing status, age, and types and amounts of income. If you are not required to file a return, then no other action is required.

  5. Incarceration. Any individual in jail, prison, or a similar penal institution or correctional facility. You may claim this exemption through self-attestation when you fill out your federal tax return.

  6. Not lawfully present. Any individual who is neither a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, nor an alien lawfully present in the U.S. If you are in the U.S. illegally, then according to the law you are exempt. Well, imagine that.

You’ve Been Grubered

The affordable excise tax maxes out at 1% of household income (above the filing threshold) in 2014, increases to 2% in 2015 (i.e. a 100% increase), then to 2.5% in 2016 (i.e. an additional 25% hike) and is automatically adjusted for inflation thereafter. What’s the rationale behind the dramatic rate of increase? Is inflation expected to rise by 100% in 2015 and by another 25% in 2016? Are middle class wages expected to grow at anywhere near this clip?

You’ve got to give it up for the Grubers (i.e. Democrats), for pulling the wool over our eyes and sneaking this baloney into law. As if their deception wasn’t bad enough on its own, what’s even more disturbing is their blatant persistence in calling this “state of being” excise tax a fee or penalty, even after the Supreme Court ruled it to be a tax. One has to wonder just who they are trying to fool at this point? Certainly members of the middle class, who are beginning to feel the pinch, are not fooled.

If the affordable care tax is indeed a fee, doesn’t the act of paying a fee normally correspond with the receipt of some good or service? Sure, but in the matter at hand, what does the middle class get in return for this so-called fee? Do we receive health insurance? Nope.

All the middle class winds up with is less money to cover its uninsured, out-of-pocket, health care expenses, and less to put towards compliance with the nefarious Act. So how exactly does this help the uninsured? Well, it doesn’t help this group.

If the affordable care tax is a penalty, doesn’t the assessment of a penalty normally succeed an act of wrongdoing? Yes, but in this matter, what wrong has been committed? Is the act of paying one’s own health care expenses out-of-pocket (without the benefit of health insurance) a crime? Since the statute waives criminal penalties for non-compliance with the requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage, it’s not a crime.

The Supreme Court agrees, its Chief Justice having stated that, “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax…” Had the court deemed it a penalty, the entire law could have been ruled unconstitutional. Face it, the affordable excise tax is just that, a tax. It’s not a fee, nor is it a penalty, so it’s high time you Grubers cut the B.S. and start calling it what it is. Hopefully, the new Congress will bring an expeditious end to this looming catastrophic nightmare.

To be continued…

Related:

Affordable Care Excise Tax, Part I

#Health+Care

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Affordable Care Excise Tax, Part I

What the Individual Mandate means for you and your family

:: By: Larry Walker II ::

Under the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014, State governments, insurers, employers, and selected individuals are supposed to share in the responsibility of providing health insurance coverage.

The Act’s shared responsibility provision, also known as the individual mandate, requires you and each member of your family to either:

  • Have minimum essential coverage; or
  • An exemption from the responsibility to have minimum essential coverage; or
  • Pay an Excise Tax.

You will report minimum essential coverage, claim an exemption therefrom, or make an excise tax payment when you file your 2014 federal income tax return in 2015.

Now let’s stop and think about what this means. What it means for me, since I chose not to purchase health insurance this year, instead choosing to pay my own health care expenses out-of-pocket, is that on top of what I have already paid this year (which incidentally comes to less than 10% of my income so none of it will be tax deductible), I am also being punished by way of an excise tax. An excise tax for what exactly? For not purchasing a service which I deem to be worth less than its cost, due to high deductibles coupled with premiums?

'State of Being' Tax

In the United States, an Excise tax is an indirect tax on listed items. In constitutional law sense, an excise tax is usually an event tax (as opposed to a state of being tax). A recent exception to this "state of being" principle is the "minimum essential coverage" tax under Internal Revenue Code section 5000A as enacted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111–148), whereby an indirect tax is imposed on the condition of not having health insurance coverage.

In case you didn’t catch that, excise taxes are usually assessed on events, such as the purchase of a quantity of a particular item like gasoline, diesel fuel, liquor, wine, cigarettes, airline tickets, tires, trucks, etc. Such a tax is usually included in the price of the item—not listed separately like sales taxes. To minimize tax accounting complications, excise taxes are generally imposed on quantities like gallons of fuel, gallons of wine or liquor, packets of cigarettes, etc. and are usually paid by the manufacturer or retailer.

Other examples of excise taxes imposed in the U.S. relate to such things as luxury passenger automobiles, heavy trucks and trailers, "gas guzzler" vehicles, tires, petroleum products, coal, vaccines, medical devices, recreational equipment, firearms (see National Firearms Act), communications services (see Telephone federal excise tax), air transportation, policies issued by foreign insurance companies, wagering, water transportation, removal of hard mineral resources from deep seabeds, chemicals, certain imported substances, non-deductible contributions to certain employer plans, and many other subjects.

Excise taxes are normally passed on to the consumer who eventually consumes the product. The price for which the item is eventually sold is usually not considered in calculating the amount of the excise tax. Income taxes, value added taxes (VATs), sales taxes, and transfer taxes are examples of other excise taxes but are typically not called such (in the United States) because of the different ways they are imposed. In the U.S. the only taxes called excise taxes are essentially taxes on quantities of enumerated items (whiskey, wine, tobacco, gasoline, tires, etc.). Other taxes on certain events may technically be considered excise taxes, but may or may not be collected under the name "excise tax."

Virtually every excise tax levied since the founding of this nation (perhaps since the dawn of time) has been levied for actively participating in some event. If you buy gasoline, you pay an excise tax on each gallon purchased, but if you don’t own a vehicle and don’t purchase gasoline, the tax is not levied. If you use a land-based or mobile telephone service, you pay an excise tax, but if you don’t have a phone, you don’t get charged. If you legally purchase tobacco, you pay an excise tax, but if you don’t smoke, you are spared. And I might add, if you are caught bootlegging a couple of loose cigarettes (loosies) on a street corner, you’re liable to get choked by a corybantic cop, and left to die on a New York sidewalk.

Anyway, will someone please explain to me why a person choosing not to engage in an event should be taxed? In effect, I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. If I pay the premiums for the least expensive health insurance policy that the government insists I can afford (without so much as bothering to check my balance sheet), won’t I still have to pay the first $6,300, or more, in medical expenses to meet its annual deductible? Yes. And, if my out-of-pocket expenses turn out to be less than the deductible, barring some major catastrophe, won’t I have needlessly wasted my money? Yes. So what’s the point?

If it was up to me, and by the way it should be, I would purchase a low-cost catastrophic health care plan, just in case something happens down the road. The only thing standing in my way is the federal government. That’s because under the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, catastrophic plans are only allowed to persons either under the age of 30, or to those over 30 who wish to go through the torture of completing an eleven, or more, page hardship exemption application, which must then be approved by a nameless, faceless government bureaucrat.

Catastrophe in the Making

My first problem with having to complete a hardship application is that I shouldn’t have to. If I want to buy a catastrophic plan, I should have the freedom to do so. Secondly, after looking over the application and all the information my government wants from me, my initial thoughts are as follows: Why don’t they know most of this already? Followed by, it’s none of your damned business. Here are just a few examples from the requisite exemption application.

  1. Tell us about yourself (name, address, county, phone numbers, and email address). – [Okay.]

  2. Tell us about members of your household (your spouse and dependents). – [Okay.]

  3. Provide everyone in your household’s name, date of birth, sex, social security number. – [Incidentally, just beneath the space where your SSN is entered, it says in bold type: You are not required to have an SSN to get this exemption. Really, but if I don’t have a social security number, why would I need an exemption? Duh!]

  4. Are you pregnant? – [Not that I’m aware of.]

  5. Were you in foster care at age 18 or older? – [Uh, what does this have to do with anything?]

  6. Have you used tobacco in the last 6 months? – [If I did will my request be denied?]

  7. Are you a U.S. Citizen or U.S. national? – [Shouldn’t you wizards know this by my name, date of birth, and social security number entered at the top? Don’t tell me you didn’t bother to add citizenship status to your Master-File database.]

  8. Are you a naturalized or derived citizen? – [Uh, what perchance is a derived citizen? And again, if you don’t know this by the information entered above, then you have serious yet solvable problems.]

  9. Optional: What is your race? – [Do I have a better shot if I’m a person of color?]

  10. Are you enrolled in health care coverage? – [If I was enrolled in health care coverage, then I wouldn’t be wasting my time?]

  11. Are you offered health coverage from a job? – [I’m self-employed, and haven’t offered myself coverage.]

  12. What company do you work for? – [Does it really matter?]

  13. How much money do you make and how often are you paid? – [Ah, now we’re getting down to brass tacks.]

  14. How many hours do you work each week? – [Too many, but since I’m not paid by the hour, does it really matter?]

  15. When did you start this job, and when will it end? – [When will it end? Perhaps sooner than it should, due to this lousy law.]

  16. What months do you expect to have income from this job this year and next? – [Who knows? Hopefully all of them.]

  17. Are you self-employed? If so, what type of work do you do, and how much is your net income? – [Yes. Why does it matter what I do? And I’m not sure what my net income is yet, because you guys are still working out the final details of the 2014 tax law. However, I’m pretty sure I’m not making much headway burning valuable time and energy reading all of your rules and regulations, and filling out this application.]

  18. When did you start this self-employment and when will it end? – [When will it end? Why don’t you tell me, since you’re mucking up the works, and have predetermined that I can afford your prescribed coverage?]

  19. What month’s do you expect income from self-employment over the next two years? – [Two years? I’m not sure, but at this pace my prospects are dimming.]

  20. Tell us about your other income (unemployment, retirement, pension, farming/fishing, rental/royalty, alimony, social security, etc…) – [Gross, or after expenses, principal debt repayments and taxes?]

  21. Now tell us about deductions you claim on your tax return (alimony paid, IRA deduction, student loan interest, and other…) – [What about my out-of-pocket medical expenses, mortgage interest, property taxes, state income taxes, employee business expenses and other itemized deductions? I guess these don’t count.]

  22. Now do the same for your spouse and any dependents you claim on your tax return. – [Damn it. Oh, I almost forgot; good thing I’m still technically single.]

  23. Proof of yearly income: Submit proof of each type of income listed for each person on this application (copy of your most recent tax return, original W-2 and 1099 Forms, one or more pay stubs, financial statements, Schedule C, Form 1120S, lease agreements, court documents for alimony, etc.) – [Are you kidding me? Anything else before we get to the long-awaited catastrophic health plan?]

  24. Just one more question before you sign. Is anyone listed on this application incarcerated? – [WTH? Not yet anyway.]

  25. Now just sign, date and wait. – [Well alrighty then, but since this statement is not sworn under penalties of perjury, does that mean it can be a complete fabrication without consequence? And since this is a pseudo-government agency, how long before I get an answer — months or years?]

After assessing the prospect of completing and submitting the requisite hardship application along with supporting documents, and awaiting approval or denial from a faceless, faraway bureaucrat; solely to obtain permission to purchase a catastrophic health care plan, which is all I really want and need; I’m seriously leaning towards just forking over the 1% excise tax next year, another 2% in 2016, and 2.5% in 2017. What a catastrophe! So not only am I paying my actual out-of-pocket health care expenses, some of which already include excise taxes, but on top of that I’m being unfairly taxed (based on a percentage of gross income above the filing threshold) for the privilege of doing so. This is a travesty of justice.

The bottom line: An “event tax” should not be imposed on anyone who chooses not to participate in the event. The Affordable Care Excise Tax, being levied against Americans for not purchasing health insurance, is thus immoral. No American should be subject to an excise tax for choosing to take personal responsibility for his or her own health care expenses, without insurance. And, no American, desiring to do so, should be denied, or forced to jump through hoops for the right to purchase a catastrophic health care policy. You may proceed with this unjust confiscation of my money (if you will), and then go blank yourselves, or you can do what only true Americans would do. Open the damned “marketplace” so that health insurance plans available to selected Americans are available to all Americans.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Lessons from the Ferguson Fiasco

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." - James 3:17 (NIV)

- By: Larry Walker II -

It was back in the late 90's when a good friend of mine, an old Air Force veteran named Dan, relayed to me that he had recently killed a young Black male at a bus stop. When I first heard this I was shocked and in disbelief. Old Dan must have been close to 70 years old at the time, his body riddled with cancer, brain tumors, and other serious ailments, worn-down by years of battling with the disease of alcoholism. To me, he didn't appear capable of killing anyone. I had talked with him every day since the incident, but he didn't bother to mention a word about it for more than a week.

Dan was a Russian immigrant, a tough old bird, and a proud veteran. Yet his physical ailments eventually got the best of him. He passed away just a few months after the incident; God rest his soul. He spent the last day of his life sober, and doing the same as he had on the day he took that young man’s life, helping young folks recover from their struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction. Here's the story he told me.

He had just gotten off of work and walked to the bus stop to make his way home. It was raining that day, so he was carrying an umbrella. As he sat there, smoking a cigarette while waiting on the bus, a car full of young Black males crept by slowly on the opposite side of the street, its occupants staring him down. Suddenly, one guy shouted out, "What you looking at cracker?" Dan tried to ignore them, but his heart began to race due to the threatening tone.

Then the predictable happened, his worst nightmare. The car made a U-turn, and slowly pulled up, parking just a few yards away. Suddenly, a young man darted out of the vehicle and began walking directly towards him, one hand concealed under his coat. Again he shouted out, "I said, what the eff you looking at cracker?" Dan replied, "I'm not looking at anything, just waiting on the bus." The young man looked around, and then sped up his approach, his hand yet concealed.

When he got within a couple of feet, that's when my friend reacted. He took the only weapon at his disposal, his trusty umbrella, and lunged at the perpetrator, thrusting it straightway through his abdomen, a fatal blow, killing him instantly. The car sped off. The police arrived within minutes, and determined that the deceased indeed had a concealed firearm under his coat and had intended to do my friend harm. The cops believed Dan's story and he wasn't charged with any crime. It was clearly a case of self-defense. There was no public outcry. Not even a story on the evening news. It was just one of those senseless deaths that occur nearly every day across this nation.

Dan-o didn't want to mention it to me, because he thought I would be upset over a White man taking the life of a Black youth, but I reassured my friend that he had done right. I couldn't care less whether the perpetrator was Black, White, Brown, Red or Yellow; he had no right to threaten my friend’s life. I was more than happy that Dan had survived. Now let's turn to Ferguson, Missouri.

Lessons from Ferguson

I don't know any of the parties involved in the Ferguson Fiasco. I've been to St. Louis, where I recall being warned not to venture into certain parts of town alone, but I’ve never been to Ferguson, and don't think I'll ever visit. The point of this post is not to pass judgment, but to glean whatever lessons we may from the tragic events surrounding the death of Michael Brown. My hope is to aid in preventing the next senseless death of perhaps one young man or woman, no matter their race.

I stand firmly against police brutality, having been a victim in the past, and I’m not afraid to call them out on it. My stomach turns every time I hear about an unjust killing, whether committed by police officers, the military or anyone else. However, at the same time, I am keenly aware that not a day passes in America without some young thug robbing, beating, kidnapping, or taking the life of an innocent victim. Sometimes they get away with it for a space, but eventually, thanks to the police, they get caught. Other times they pick on the wrong person, like old Dan, and wind up severely injured or dead.

In no way am I implying that the police are always right. Far too often they use unnecessary force, and too often they unjustly injure or take the life of an innocent victim, who is merely attempting to comply. However, there is a reason we have police officers, and there is a reason they carry firearms. With this in mind, what lessons can we learn from the Ferguson Fiasco?

Mike Brown, the young man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, committed a crime when he shoplifted a box of cigars from a local merchant, and then strong-armed one of its employees on his way out the door. The incident was caught on tape, so there’s no way it can be disputed. Now here's a newsflash for the rabble-rousers: Stealing is wrong. That's the Eighth Commandment for you simpletons. "Thou shalt not steal." It’s also a Class A Misdemeanor in Missouri, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Assaulting a store clerk, or anyone else, is also a crime, punishable by anywhere from 15 days in jail and a $500 fine, up to 15 years in prison.

If you’re not aware that theft and assault are wrong, then you haven't been brought up right. If Mike Brown wasn't aware, then we can blame only one of two parties. His ignorance was either due to bad parenting, or his failure to obey the Fifth Commandment, which teaches us to honor our mother and father. Either Mike Brown's parents failed to teach him right from wrong, or he disobeyed their instruction. But so far, I haven't heard a word of edification, from any of the so-called community leaders or rabble-rousers, instructing our youth that theft and assault are wrong. These are the first lessons of the Ferguson Fiasco.

Mike Brown's third, fourth and fifth mistakes occurred when he disobeyed the instructions of a police officer, disrespected him and ultimately struck him in the face. The truth is had Mr. Brown risen his hands from the get go, at the moment the police officer commanded him to stop; he would still be alive today. The time to put your hands up is at the moment you’re confronted by a police officer, not after insulting him or her, punching them in the face, and struggling for control of their weapon. For you simpletons, that means get your hands out of your pockets, out of your waistband, from up under your coat, drop anything you’re holding and raise both hands in the air. This is the final lesson of the Ferguson Fiasco.

Since when did it become acceptable behavior for a young man to strike a cop? If you think this is acceptable, and you choose to practice it in your own affairs, then your days will likely be short and miserable. If you are a Christian, the book of Romans, Chapter 13, versus 2-5 teaches us that police officers are appointed by God, and when we resist them, we will incur God's judgment. It further advises that we have no reason to fear a police officer so long as we are obeying the law. However, it also warns us that if we are up to no good, we should be afraid, because they don't carry a sidearm in vain.

"Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience."

If you’re not a Christian, then why not apply some good old common sense? The surest way to get roughed-up, injured or shot by the police is to resist them, disobey their orders, get smart with them, or even more stupidly, to walk up and strike one of them in the face. Thus far, I haven't heard any useful lessons from so-called community leaders and rabble-rousers regarding this. Instead, they seem to be justifying Mike Brown's behavior, while leaping to judgment against one appointed to deal with such miscreants. So here’s what I will ask them.

Is punching a police officer right or wrong? And when they seek to evade the question, I will answer it for them. It was wrong yesterday, it's wrong today, and it will be wrong tomorrow. If you errantly choose to strike a gun-packing police officer, know that you will likely wind up in a hospital bed, or worst yet in the county morgue. Don't do it. If a police officer orders you to put your hands in the air, on a wall or to get on the ground, if you value your own life, you best shut your mouth and do exactly what he or she says. Worry about what comes next later.

If you don't believe any of the above, then open your ears and hear wisdom. I speak from experience. When a police officer asks you a question, answer it, and then shut your mouth. If he or she orders you to do something, do it. The same applies to judges. Click here to see what happens when you get smart with a judge. The point is when dealing with local authorities; you need to show them the utmost respect. If you don't respect your own parents, or anyone else's, respect the police. If you don't respect yourself or anyone else, you had best respect a judge.

The bottom line:

We can’t bring Mike Brown back, but we can learn from the circumstances surrounding his death, and pass it on in hopes of saving the next life. If you don't want to be a statistic, don't commit strong-armed robbery, then punch a cop in the face and try to snatch his or her gun. Guilty or innocent, the first thing you do when confronted by the police is put your hands up. Stealing, looting and shoplifting are wrong. Threatening to cause, and/or causing bodily injury are wrong. Arson and destruction of property are wrong. Strong-armed robbery is wrong. Disobeying authorities is wrong. And, striking a police officer is a potentially fatal action. The Golden Rule should be applied in all matters. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

References:

Trayvon’s Fatal Mistake

Hope and Change on Ice

Paranoid LA Cops: Shoot first, use brain never.

Image via: Live Your Life - The Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln: Day 4

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Political Racism

Ending Identity Politics

Eradicating Identity Politics

:: By: Larry Walker II ::

Those who say that Republican’s don’t like President Obama’s policies, solely because of the color of his skin, tend to forget that he’s also a member of the Democratic Party. In the United States, we basically have a two-party system comprised of Republicans (25%) and Democrats (31%). Even though the majority of us are independents (42%), who may at times be persuaded either way, we essentially have a two-party system with each side on opposite poles on just about every issue, foreign and domestic.

Generally, Republican voters stand for lower taxes, limited government, and a strong national defense; while Democratic voters slant towards higher taxes, an immense government, and a feeble defense. Both parties generally lean towards the preservation of individual liberties, except when it comes to certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act and an assortment of overbearing government regulations, but overall one would be correct in concluding that Republican voters disapprove of the Democratic Party’s policies period.

When it comes to President Obama, and the majority of Republicans feelings toward him, once this forgotten variable (the fact that he’s a Democrat) is added to the mix, one would be correct in stating that Republican voters don’t like President Obama because he adheres to Democratic Party policies. Say this and you’ve got it right. Say anything else and you’re a moron. When we are honest, and free of the poison of identity politics, we know this is the truth, but conflating differences in political ideology with racism is so far from reality that it borders on absurdity.

Political Racism

In short, racism is the belief that one race is superior to another. Formally defined, racism is, “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” But is there such a thing as political racism? If so, let us clearly describe what it would look like.

First of all, each major political party is comprised of members of each and every race. So is it possible for White Republicans to believe their race superior to that of Black Democrats? No, but isn’t that what the hucksters are saying? If this were true, then wouldn’t White Republicans also have to believe themselves superior to Black Republicans, as well as to White Democrats? Assuming all of this was true, it would follow that Black Republicans must believe their race is superior to that of Black Democrats. Wait, isn’t this all just foolishness? Here’s a newsflash for you: White Republicans are not a race, neither are White Democrats, Black Republicans nor Black Democrats.

To have any validity whatsoever, such political racism would have to arise between members of the same political party. For example, if there were a Black male Democrat who believed in essentially the same things as, let’s say, a White female Democrat, and one chose to pull the race card in order to discredit and belittle the other, perhaps then you could make a case for racism. But to be viable, you must begin with members of the same political party, who agree 100% on everything, par for par, apples to apples, where the only difference between them is race. But even then, their disagreements may not be due to racism.

It may just be that only one member can hold the office up for grabs, and there are essentially no differences between them, other than race. Who do you vote for when this arises? Will it be that every time a Black candidate faces off against a White candidate, we must all goose step to the drumbeat of the Black candidate, regardless of his or her moral character, political affiliation or beliefs? Must the Black candidate win 100% to 0%, in order to dispel any allegation of racism? Following such an election, must the public then agree 100% with whatever policies the Black officeholder dictates, without question? Is this how we are to correct the racial injustices of centuries past?

Identity Politics

It turns out that what 21st century Democrats are slobbering about isn’t racism at all, but rather a form of identity politics. Through identity politics, social pressure is applied in an attempt to influence the majority to accept the beliefs or behavior of a minority. But, we should never confuse beliefs and behavior with race. I am a Black Conservative, and entitled to my own opinions. Thank you! If I don’t like your brand of politics, and your policies have negatively influenced my life, why in the world would you expect me to convert to your position?

What did you think would happen when the first Black President was spawned from the Democratic Party? Did you expect Republicans to change their ideology? Did you think a light would dawn in the minds of Republicans, wherein they would realize they had been wrong about low taxes, limited government, and a strong national defense, altogether? Did you expect the entire party to repent, and join ranks with the Democratic Party? Is that how you thought it was supposed to work?

Did all Democratic Party members suddenly drop their party allegiance and join ranks with Republicans when George W. Bush was elected to the presidency? No, they didn’t. Rather, they screamed, hollered, whined and protested constantly about almost everything the man did or said. So now that the shoe is on the other foot, the same bunch is crying racism. Those that didn’t bother to vote in the 2014 mid-term elections did us all a favor. They know better. Here’s another newsflash: Abstention is a vote.

Repealing Obamacare

It would not matter whether President Obama was White, Hispanic, Asian, straight, gay, male or female; Republicans would disagree with his, and the Democratic Party’s policies period. My personal feelings about Mr. Obama are thus: I despise the man and everything he stands for. I have nothing against his wife and children, and if he wasn’t the President, I wouldn’t have an opinion either way. In fact, before he ran for President, I kind of enjoyed hearing what he and his fellow left-wingers had to say. But my personal animosity towards him began on the day he started campaigning for the office. For me it’s not personal, it’s all about his brand and style of politics.

Here’s the crux: I don’t like anyone telling me I have to do something, or if I refuse I’m going to be punished. Here’s a prime example: “You have to join our religion, or else we’re going to cut your head off.” Well, come on and take your best shot. You see, it’s one thing to make improvements to our national health care system, which actually improve our health and lower costs, but entirely another when it boils down to the government commanding me to buy one of its prescribed insurance plans, or else I will be forced to pay a tax. Pardon my French, but eff that!

The fact is if Mr. Obama’s health insurance plans were so great, and so affordable, then no one would have to force me to buy one, I would happily do so. However, as things stand today, in my opinion, his plans suck, and I can’t afford either available combination of premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. But what sucks even more is this notion that the federal government will impose an additional tax on me, for not complying with Mr. Obama’s individual mandate. The employer mandate is equally bad for America. Both should be repealed.

Whether you got a better deal through the Affordable Care Act, or nothing changed, you should realize that thousands upon thousands of your fellow Americans got screwed. My life was already tough enough without the government threatening to take more out of my pocket than it already takes, under the guise of this misnamed piece of legislation. They should rename it the “Either You Will Buy One of the Health Insurance Plans We Prescribe, or Else Hand Over a Percentage of Your Income to the Government Act”. The concept of play or pay doesn’t mesh with the ideal of liberty in my book. I should have enough freedom to say, “No thank you”.

The bottom line: Those of us who have adopted Conservative-Republican ideals will likely never join ranks with Democrats, no matter the identity of the Democratic Party leader du jour. Democrats can nominate anyone of their choosing next time, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, mixed, feminist, gay or lesbian, Christian or Muslim, but it won’t alter Conservative-Republican political beliefs one iota. Masking unpopular and unjust political policies behind the aura of anyone’s personal identity is akin to identity theft. President Obama’s policies aren’t Black or White; they belong to the Democratic Party, and are thus mostly defective outside the realm of a classroom. It’s time we end this errant notion of identity politics, and resume arguing our ideological differences at face value.

Image Via: The Pittsfield Police Department

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Georgia's Laconic U.S. Senate Race

It's Perdue vs. Reid

:: By: Larry Walker II ::

On October 2nd, President Barack Obama correctly uttered, “I am not on the ballot this fall... But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.” True, Obama is 'Not' on the ballot this fall, but he neglected to mention that his left-hand henchman, the one responsible for ramming through Obamacare without any Republican support, for killing more legislation passed by the people's house than any other Senate majority leader in U.S. history, and the second most divisive and hated man in American politics today, Harry Reid is.

Just yesterday, a client lamented to me that she and her husband's health insurance is going up by $1,000 a month next year, from around $526 per month to $1,526, and that they were in process of exploring other options. During the same conversation, she happened to mention that she wasn't sure who to vote for this fall, Michelle Nunn or David Perdue. She heard some things about Perdue that she's “not comfortable with”. I exclaimed, “You don't know who to vote for?” I'm going to share with you what I told her and how I really feel.

Basically, you've got David Perdue, a successful businessman, against Harry Reid. Reid may be cloaked under the guise of the daughter of retired politician Sam Nunn, but make no mistake about it, a vote for Michelle Nunn is a vote for Harry Reid, no more and no less. In fact, when asked whether she would vote to keep Mr. Reid in charge of the U.S. Senate, Michelle Nunn merely quoted a so-called joke she says a farmer told her: “If David Perdue wants to run against Harry Reid so much, why doesn’t he just move to Nevada?”

I didn't get the joke. The truth is that if I thought it would do any good, and if I could go back in time, I would move to Nevada myself, for the sole purpose of voting Harry Reid out of office. When Harry Reid ran for re-election in 2010, I felt powerless and utterly disgusted as I watched Nevadan's vote against their own, and America's interests. Whether Reid runs for re-election in 2016 is up in the air. Questions about the 74-year-old’s health, among other things, lead some knowledgeable insiders to speculate that he will retire rather than face a challenge in 2016.

Fortunately for us, Harry Reid is on the ballot this year. There are 36 U.S. Senate seats up for election in 2014, and Harry Reid's fate is on the line in each and every race. This is our chance. This is our moment. We finally have a shot at decapitating the second most hated SOB in American politics today, and we don't even have to leave home. It boils down to this. If you want to keep Harry Reid in power, then go ahead and cast your vote for Michelle Nunn (or the Harry Reid clone in your state).

But, if like me, you're sick and tired of partisan politics, and want to send a direct message of your disgust to Washington D.C., by delivering a pink slip directly to Harry Reid's desk, then it's real simple. Vote against the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate this fall, and vote for the Republican candidate. A vote for Michelle Nunn is a vote for Harry Reid, and a vote for David Perdue is a vote against Harry Reid. This year I'm voting against Harry Reid, and therefore in favor of David Perdue.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Georgia's 4th Congressional District - November 2014

Useless Idiot

- By: Larry Walker II -

President Barack Obama has endorsed Congressman Hank Johnson for re-election in the Fourth Congressional District of Georgia.

“Congressman Johnson has done an outstanding job,” said President Obama. “Together, we are fighting to restore middle class security and expand opportunity for all Americans. I’ve worked with Congressman Johnson as we’ve extended the security of health care to millions and pulled our economy back from the brink of collapse while protecting consumers and passing historic Wall Street reform. I am proud to stand with Hank and support his re-election.”

Congressman Johnson is famous for his on the record comment in March of 2010, where he reasoned that if 8,000 Marines were stationed on the Island of Guam, he feared the island could tip over and capsize due to overpopulation (see clip below).

And let's not forget his 30 minute rant, Giants Need Midgets, in December of 2012 (see clip below). Despite these and many more idiotic comments, Johnson has not only been endorsed by Barack Obama, but he's been re-elected 4 times, and runs virtually unopposed this year.

Unfortunately, there is no Republican candidate opposing Johnson in next month's election. One has to wonder why. It seems that no one in the district is willing or able to oppose this moron. However there is one, and only one, alternative. Raymond L. Davis stands as the sole Certified Non-Partisan Write-In Candidate opposing Johnson this year. He may be our last hope.

Raymond L. Davis has lived in the Atlanta area for 33 years. The 50 year old is a licensed and ordained Minister at the Greater Traveler's Rest Baptist Church, "House of Hope" in Decatur. He's also the Founder, President/CEO of Genesis Network International, Inc., a 501c(3) non-profit organization that he has run for more than twenty years. Davis sits on many boards and is well known as an international and national advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

If you're sick and tired of President Obama's policies, and his useless idiots like Hank Johnson, then don't just skip over the District 4 U.S. Congressional section on this year's ballot. It's time to give someone else a shot. It's time to send a clear message. This year, remember to write in Raymond L. Davis for United States House of Representatives, District 4.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Georgia’s Proposed Constitutional Amendments – November 2014

Photo by: Larry Walker II
Savannah City Hall

A Yes-No Proposition

- By: Larry Walker II -

There are two Proposed Constitutional Amendments on Georgia’s ballot this November 4th. They are as follows:

A. To prohibit an increase in the state income tax rate in effect January 1, 2015 (Senate Resolution 415). "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to prohibit the General Assembly from increasing the maximum state income tax rate?"

B. Adding reckless driving penalties or fees to the brain and spinal injury trust fund (House Resolution 1183). "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional reckless driving penalties or fees to be added to the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative services for Georgia citizens who have survived neurotrauma with head or spinal cord injuries?"

Yes on Proposal A

Well, Proposal A is pretty much a no-brainer. Do you want to increase the State’s income tax rate, and thus reduce its, and thereby your, competitiveness? I think not. A Yes vote on Proposal A prevents the General Assembly from calling a special session to raise taxes before the next official session begins on January 1, 2015. Therefore, I’m voting Yes on Proposal A.

No on Proposal B

I will be voting No on Proposal B, although the reasons are a bit more complicated. Increasing fines on those convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, or reckless driving, in order to allocate such additional funds to a Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund sounds like a noble idea, however, I believe this concept is best suited for a public Charity. We don’t really need the current Commission to provide such grants. A public charity will do just fine. Ironically, the Commission already accepts public donations. Who knew?

In exploring this proposal intelligently, two important questions arise. First, what is the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund? And second, why does it need more money?

The Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund was created through a constitutional amendment passed by Georgia voters in November 1998. Who knows what we were thinking back then? It is funded solely through a surcharge on DUI (and reckless driving) fines, to assist Georgians with traumatic brain and/or spinal cord injuries, by awarding grants to help alleviate a portion of the often insurmountable costs of procuring necessary equipment and services to help rebuild lives after a traumatic injury.

Why does the Commission need more money? The Trust Fund has never been lower than it is today, with collections having fallen from a peak of $2,069,640 in FY-2008, to just $1,579,626 in FY-2013. The commission only awarded 242 grants in FY-2013, with a total value of $1,343,136. This amounted to an average of just $5,550 per grantee. The reason Trust Fund collections have dwindled is because the number of DUI convictions is down. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out (Fewer DUI’s = Less Revenue).

Wait a minute! Wasn’t the Trust Fund created to penalize, and thus discourage the number of DUI’s? If so, then it’s working. However, if its real purpose was to establish a government-backed slush fund, then perhaps fines should be increased, and rather dramatically, since any increase would have to be proportional to the declining number of DUI convictions. What this would mean is if the number of DUI’s dropped to 10 on an annual basis, then this lucky 10 would have to pay fines of around $206,964 apiece, in order to reboot the Trust Fund. Did you get that? If not, here are a few more reasons to vote No on Proposal B.

In its FY-2013 Annual Report, the Brain & Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission stated that the estimated lifetime costs of care for a person with a traumatic brain and spinal injury could reach upwards of $4,000,000. Yet, according to the same report, the maximum lifetime cap on awards through the Commission is just $15,000 per applicant, hardly a drop in the bucket.

Further, because the Trust Fund is a payer of last resort, an applicant must have exhausted all other fund sources, such as Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, Private Insurance, Disability Insurance, VA, Victims Compensation Fund, etc…, in order to be eligible. In other words, only a handful of applicants will ever even qualify for this penury.

And then there’s this. Eligibility depends on the cause of injury, which must be one of the following: accidental fall, accidentally struck by or against an object/person, assault, self-inflicted injury, sports/recreation injury, and last but not least – a transportation/motor vehicle accident. So let me get this straight, we are collecting fees from those convicted of DUI and reckless driving (traffic) violations, and giving it to persons injured in non-traffic related accidents. What’s wrong with this picture?

Finally, according to its FY-2013 Annual Report, there were a total of 73,770 statewide traumatic brain and spinal injuries in 2013, yet the Commission was only able to grant awards to 242 persons, averaging $5,550 each. This leads me to conclude that the Trust Fund isn’t of much use to anyone at this point in time.

If you all want to punish those convicted of DUI and reckless driving, by all means, do it. But if you want to use this as an excuse for maintaining a government slush fund, then forget about it. I’m voting No on Proposal B, and if I could, I would vote to completely disband the Brain & Spinal Injury Trust Fund and its Commission. Its mission, although a noble one, can more effectively be carried out by, and should be transferred over to, a public charity. You got that?