There’s an old, old, adage taken from Shakespeare that goes, “A rose by any other name smells as sweet.” No doubt a tax by any other name is still a tax. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas, a chief apologist for the Republican Party, finally uttered something I agree with. Thomas, in a recent piece commenting on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, said that any time you take money from the people and give it to the government, it’s a tax.
Obviously, Mr. Thomas is out of step with Rick Perry and the other Republican leaders in Texas who have told us for the past 10 years that what they have done in Austin amounts to budgeting with no new taxes. Space prevents me from listing them all, but in short, the Texas Legislature, while smugly claiming no new taxes, has raised almost every fee conceived by past legislatures and known to Texas citizens.
The Legislature has increased the cost of hunting and fishing licenses, created toll roads that we must pay to drive on, tripled college tuition, created fees in the form of surcharges on traffic tickets and have even created an additional sticker to go on the windshield of your car for a fee (not a tax). Applications for most licenses granted by the State of Texas have been increased. Special funds for specific purposes have been raided and diverted for other purposes by the Legislature so that they can claim adequate income to meet the “spend-as-you-go” provision of the state’s constitution — all in the name of no new taxes.Unfortunately, Republicans and Democrats alike are engaged in a senseless debate of whether or not the Affordable Healthcare Act is a tax, or whether or not the Romney-sponsored health-care system in Massachusetts constituted a tax. Both seem to ignore the fact there are untold numbers of Americans, many of them children, who die every year because we do not have adequate health-care delivery in the United States. The issue of health care and the need therefor makes the debate over whether it is a tax or not a tax pale by comparison. The fact is the health care law itself is not a tax, but its justification was based on the fact that the Congress of the United States has the power to tax. The ultimate thrust of the bill is that those citizens who do not choose to bear their own responsibility for providing themselves with health care will pay a penalty, or tax or whatever you choose to call it. It is no more a tax than are the fines or penalties required when one is discovered driving the roads of Texas without providing liability insurance to protect his or her fellow citizens.There is no doubt the Affordable Healthcare Act can and should be improved. What we have is the result of a president including measures for the sake of compromise and to induce members of the other party to join with him in an effort to attack the lack of adequate health coverage for Americans. The problem is the inducements didn’t work, and after demanding the concessions, which lessened the effect and made the bill less efficient, those the president sought to recruit in his efforts abandoned ship and now condemn the “whole ball of wax.”
The hypocrisy and fallacies in the Republican arguments are well demonstrated by the recent television comments of Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. When asked what plan the Republicans had for providing health care for citizens, Jindal argued that the best plan was to provide a great economy, which in turn would allow citizens to provide for their own health care and not depend on institutions of government. Gov. Jindal then went on to boast about how much greater the economies were in Texas, Louisiana and other Republican states. Unemployment was lower, investment was higher, taxes lowest with Spartan-like budgets.
Texans who care little about the suffering of their fellow citizens should at least take a look at the dollars and cents implications of poor health-care delivery. When we fail to provide pre-natal care, for example, to young, poor expectant mothers, we’re entering a crapshoot in which we are very likely to have infants with severe health problems for life to care for on the public dole. When we refuse to invest in screening and early detection of ailments such as diabetes, we continue to almost double every few years the number of patients for which the state pays for their blindness, kidney dialysis and amputations.
Under the guise of defending the Constitution, apparently Gov. Perry is willing to condemn about 2 million Texans to inferior health care, the risk of dying, or at least the risk of bankruptcy should their family face catastrophic illnesses.
The attitude on the part of our illustrious governor is shocking to me when you consider the emphasis put on individual responsibility and self-reliance touted by our governor. This is the same governor who has charged us more than $2 million dollars for his travel expenses while running for president.
Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas, including many regarding consumer safety. His e-mail is cap1934 [at] aol [dot] com.