The Affordable Care Act: an accepted wrong

The Congressional Budget Office recently released a report saying that the estimated number of Americans who will have to pay the health-care tax penalty has risen by 50 percent.

That may sound impressive, and it is indeed a significant increase. What may sound less impressive is that the number rose from a seemingly-minimal 4 million to 6 million who will have to pay the tax penalty. On top of that, those 6 million are all above the poverty line.

So, what could possibly be wrong with that? A few Americans who seem to be doing well enough for themselves simply have to cough up some more cash. To be precise, they will have to pay an additional $695 or 2.5% of their income, whichever is higher. That may not sound overbearing, until you consider the qualification, “whichever is higher.” Over 60% of the 6 million paying the penalty will be paying almost double the $695 floor.

Two-and-a-half percent of one’s income does not seem to be a crippling tax. Surely, people can live off of 97.5% of their income. That may be true, but that also naïvely assumes individuals have no other financial commitments outside of paying this single, solitary tax. Families have more to pay for—income taxes, property taxes, house payments, car payments, bills, food, gas—the works. To give some perspective, financial advisors largely agree that one’s housing payment (rent or mortgage) should not exceed one-third of one’s income at any time. Any higher payment would be financially crippling to the individual. This health-care tax penalty alone is already 7.5% of the way to that threshold. Adding this tax to the numerous tax burdens and other necessary financial burdens Americans carry is, quite simply, excessive.

While the pure financials of the health-care tax penalty are alarming, there remains the ethicality of the tax penalty itself: Is it just?

This country was (and I would like to believe still is) founded on principles of freedom. While there is certainly a difference between freedom and anarchy, there are clear lines in the sand between anarchy, freedom, and tyranny. The important aspect of each of these is not the content of what it delivers; it is the method. Communism can bring you ‘free’ food, ‘free’ healthcare and ‘free’ housing, but that does not make it a good thing. The methodology of getting these things is inherently wrong. The magnitude is immaterial. The amount of poison in a glass of water is beside the point. One drop is just as deadly as is if the whole contents were pure poison. Wrongly taking 2.5% of one’s income is no less wrong than taking 25% or 75% or 100%. A wrong is a wrong.

America does not seem to think this way. A tax penalty of 2.5% does not seem to merit serious thought about the ethics of it. I can guarantee you that if that tax penalty were 25% there would be a massive outcry from the public, including those who do not even have to pay it. There seems to be a threshold.

At what point does it become wrong? When is a tax for something the government should not be involved in too much? Five percent? Ten percent? Twenty percent? As long as the American people keep giving the government leash, they will keep taking it, and from a certain point, it is hard to blame them. We would like to think there IS a line we will not allow lawmakers to cross. Is there?