Sunday, August 14, 2011

Michele Bachmann

Yeah, I know - I've been absent for a while again. I get busy - and frustrated. But I'm back for another try.

I just saw Michele Bachmann interviewed after her Straw Poll win. I don't understand the obstinate nature of the Tea Party, insisting on a course of action economists inform us will only worsen our budget and credit rating crisis. In particular, she says two things I think everyone in the WORLD agrees with, and yet they are total lies meant to play on our sentiments. They are meant to stir up fear and anger, allowing unscrupulous politicians to use things such as "the default of America" as bargaining chips to further their own political careers, which Standard & Poor's flat out told us is the reason we've been downgraded.

The first thing she says that bothers me is that we (as a country) should not spend more than we make. That sounds so true, and yet it doesn't always work in reality (and NEVER works in a recession). She makes it sound like the US is going to hell in a hand basket because we've decided all our children should go to the most expensive private school, we have to have the most expensive package of not one, but EVERY cable and satellite TV provider in EVERY room of the house, and we're dining out nightly on caviar, veal, truffles, etc, after which we're so full we can't drive home so we need to stay in the MGM Grand's The Mansion.

But that's not the case. It's easy to say, "Hey, cut back on expenses," when the majority of your expenses are luxuries (actually, I've spoken to a lot of people who get into problems because they can't figure out how to spend less than $500 per month on their non-business phone and they can't imagine their kids in public school, but that just means their priorities are out of whack. A fat lot of good it will do to take your kids to private school in their new bedroom, the 1982 Mercedes you bought to replace the repo'd 2010 Landrover). The problem here is that the country has already put the metaphorical kids in public school, we're already watching TV via antenna, we're already dining on Mac N Cheese and Stone Soup every night, and we've already downsized from a queen to a double bed in our own apartments. So when little Justin turns up with Hodgkin's disease, do you just say, "Well, kid, you had a good run, but Mommy and Daddy don't have the money for your chemo, so it looks like this is it. Oh, and, uh, since you're not going to make it anyway, we've decided to reduce your food budget to zero. Jessica! You're our new #1 kid!" or do you go into debt, save Justin and take that second (or third) job to make ends meet?

This brings us to the second (and most glaring) lie the Tea Party tells us: "No one has said, Oh, please, raise my taxes. They aren't high enough already." The statement is true, but the meaning is a blatant lie. I am a doctor, and as such, I deal with difficult choices all the time. No one wants surgery (unless it will make them slimmer, give them a cuter nose, or make their boobs topple them over when they bend past 10 degrees from the vertical). I would never walk up to a patient and say, "Hey, everything looks great, how would you like to get a very painful shot?" or "Oh, hey, how about I lop off a testicle or two?" or "You have wonderful boobs, do you mind if I remove them?"

On the other hand, I most certainly will tell a syphilitic patient, "Hey, you have a disease that will make your life uncomfortable for the next few weeks, but then it will go away, but then it will come back, and then it will go away, and finally it will attack your brain and kill you. Do you mind if I give you a shot today that will cure it 100%?"

Or, "Hey, I have some bad news. While your breasts are stunning, we've found Stage IA cancer in your left breast, plus you've turned up positive for the BRCA 1 gene mutation, which means it is highly likely your cancer will recur. We most definitely need to remove your current tumor and then we should discuss radical bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction in the future. This is the best option to save your life now and preserve your body image afterward."

Or, "I'm sorry sir, but you have testicular cancer. While there are a lot of unwanted effects of orchiectomy, your best chance of survival is surgical removal of the tumor. This means we will have to remove the testicle."

So, if you walk up to anyone and say, "Hey, do you think we should raise your taxes?" Of COURSE they'll say "NO!" But if you ask, "Are you willing to pay more taxes if that means saving your job, your neighbors and the country at large?" I think most people would begrudgingly say, "Yeah, ok."

And those advocating tax hikes are not even saying, "Let's raise the taxes of Joe the Plummer." They're saying, "Let's raise the taxes of anyone making more than $250,000 per year." What does that mean? The average American, making $25,000 per year, last year fell into the 15% tax bracket. They paid $3,750 in taxes and kept $21,250. This would not change after the tax hike. They pay the same, and keep the same. But someone making $250,000 last year fell into the 33% tax bracket. They paid $82,500 in taxes, and kept $167,500. If the old tax rates (prior to Bush's tax reductions) went back into effect for these people, they would pay 36%, or $90,000, and keep $160,000. Following my previous analogy, this would be the equivalent of telling the country to get a second job. Actually, it's more like telling the country, "Hey, management can't have Monday and Friday off anymore. We need to work the full week to get the full pay."

So the question should become, "Do you think your taxes should stay the same, and that the people who are hurt the most from this tax increase should get to keep $160,000 instead of $167,500?"

I think you will get a very different answer from this question. Do I want you to cut off my testicles? No. Do I want you to perform an orchiectomy to save my life? Yes, please.