Friday, July 17, 2009
Frank Pasquale (Seton Hall), Is the House’s Proposed Health Surcharge Progressive Enough?:
Beneath all the sturm und drang about soaking the rich, the press should focus on three underlying realities. First, income and wealth vastly increased at the top of the distribution over the past thirty years — in part because of corporate cost savings that included denial of health coverage to millions of workers. Second, inequality itself exacerbates the health care crisis, by fueling the allocation of medical care according to profit potential, not need. Third, inequality causes health problems, because societies grow “more dysfunctional, violent, sick and sad if the gap between social classes grows too wide.” The surcharge on the rich is not some random resentment inflicted by Frenchified Madame DeFarges on America’s John Galts. The surcharge will itself help address some of the problems health reform is designed to solve. I’ll unpack these thoughts in a series of posts this week.
Nevertheless, the surcharge is not progressive enough, and this should be the main message of liberals commenting on the House bill. ... The House’s top bracket for the surcharge is one million dollars, a slight improvement. But it is very hard for me to see why those who make that amount should be treated the same as those in the “Fortunate 400″–the 400 highest earning households which made, on average, more than $263 million apiece in 2006.