Monday, October 28, 2019

Trump's economists will be missed

When the day comes (year 2029?) that a "progressive" Democrat occupies the White House, we can look with nostalgia on the good old days 2017ff when White House economists literally followed the textbook.

Surely the economists working for that new President will be no smarter than UC Berkeley's Emmanuel Saez.  In his primary defense of Medicare for All, Mr. Saez now writes that payments to private health insurance are "just like taxes."

Saez understands that those brainwashed by old school economics will be thinking "health insurance premiums [cannot be] a tax [because] people have some choice."  Their mistake, he says, is that unlike "spending on food and clothes," premiums for employer HI are "mandatory." (The equivalence of premium and tax is also a central premise of their new book, especially Chapter 5).

Mr. Saez is showing his ignorance about American law, and that he is too lazy to take even a cursory look at the data.

Regarding the law, no one is required to purchase health insurance.  Yes the Affordable Care Act requires either purchasing or paying a penalty, but the PENALTY IS ZERO and furthermore there are many loopholes built into the law.

As an empirical matter, more than half of American workers are NOT having health insurance taken out of their paycheck.  Even the Saez article admits that cash wages are higher compared to having HI taken taking out.  So those workers who pay health insurance through their paycheck have chosen not to have one of those tens of millions of jobs with higher cash pay but no health benefit.

Let's put this another way: Would Candidate Warren promise that American workers can have the same alternatives to paying payroll and income taxes that they currently have for having HI premiums taken out of their paychecks?  I didn't think so.

[There are many other problems with Saez' assertion, e.g., how a payroll tax as compared with HI premiums would vary with employment, income, hours, etc., but the above is enough to show how he is wrong on his own terms.]

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