I See Your True Colors

There’s an article (with accompanying chart) making its way around the blogosphere, especially on the left. Its author and other backers of one of the proposed health care finance reform measures say that it is graphic proof of how good the plan is.

Let’s take a look at the chart:


The blue represents the amount the individual pays. The red is the amount the individual’s employer pays. And the red-blue stripe is the “subsidy” — the federal government’s assistance in paying the bill.

Damn, that looks convincing, doesn’t it? No matter how you cut it, both employees and employers make out. In one case, the the individual’s portion is reduced by over $4,500 and the employer’s by over $1,300. In the other case, it’s even better — the savings are in excess of $9,000 and $1,400. How the hell could anyone oppose that?

Well, anyone who actually reads the chart.

The author is exceptionally honest in the graphic — more so than in the article. The article doesn’t go into detail where the “subsidies” come from, but the chart does. Note the color coding — the family’s portion is blue, the employer’s is red, and the subsidy is striped blue and red.

Because that’s where the subsidy comes from — the blue and red.

The “subsidy” is the federal government’s contribution. And where will the federal government get that money? Why, by taking from individuals and employers — properly weighted, of course, to hit the more affluent segments of both. A redistribution of wealth to bring about social justice — “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”

A nice ideal, of course, but with a healthy dose of unreality to make it work. How will it be decided where the line will be drawn between the “poor enough to need help” and “wealthy enough to pay more?” Well, obviously the numbers will have to be jiggered to find the break-even point. Adjusted slightly downward, of course, so that there will be a surplus to cover unexpected shortages.

And let’s never forget that whenever the government is involved in redistributing wealth, it has to take its cut. Government programs require government workers to run them, and government workers don’t come cheap. No, in addition to their salaries, there’s also a huge amount of overhead expense in running a government program.

The average efficiency of the 200 biggest charities in the US is 89%, according to Forbes — meaning roughly seven dollars they take in goes towards their works, and less than one in eight for keeping themselves going. There are some that actually hit 100% on that chart, and a few dismal failures. (I note with a certain smugness that the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation is at the bottom, sucking up more than two out of every three dollars in overhead, and less than one in three for its works.)

The federal government is notoriously inefficient, but let’s spot them a little here. Let’s say that they manage to only suck up a quarter in overhead. (That puts them in the standings alongside the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Heart Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the YWCA of the USA — #s 172-176 on the list. Bill Clinton really, really blew the curve.)

That means for the best case scenario in that chart, where the government subsidizes health coverage for $5,885 per family per year, it will have to collect over $7,800 in taxes. And in the maximum case, where the subsidy is $10,286, that amount goes to over $13,600.

And remember those numbers are based on the government only taking a quarter in overhead. Anyone who thinks that that will actually happen needs to be locked up for their own safety.

The secret of the chart? It spells out just how much of a scam the proposed bill is. All it takes is a willingness to see not only what its author wants us to see, but what he doesn’t realize he’s saying.

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