In the 1938 film version of "The Adventures of Robin Hood", Prince John asks if there were "any objections to the new tax?" The reaction among the Saxons was to embrace Robin Hood as he and his Merry Men went about stealing from the rich to give to the poor.
As for that proposed tax on national health care, could this possibly be construed as a 2009 version of Robin Hood? Will the rich really be soaked to pay for a health care plan that disproportionately helps the poor?
Well, it may depend on what the definition of rich, is. What about $350,000?
The current House bill would tax families making $350,000 and up – and that has more than a few people very upset. Congressmen have gotten so much heat from some of their wealthier constituents that a large group of the legislators, all freshmen, made a beeline to the White House last Friday to express their concerns. Many of them were upset about the effect that the proposed tax would have on small businesses. Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., who led the group, happens to represent a congressional district that boasts some the wealthiest people in America.
Even Nancy Pelosi, who didn't become speaker of the House by championing the cause OF the rich, seems to have gotten the message. Her office told CNN and Politico.com that she's considering changing the House's health care surcharge so it no longer affects the rich – only the really, REALLY rich. That would include families that make $1 million or more.
The speaker told Politico.com, "...you hear '$500,000 a year,' you think, 'My God, that's not me...'"
All of which leads to the question, does any of this really matter? Will taxing the rich, whatever your definition, provide enough to pay for expanded health care?
It turns out it might not matter, says University of Maryland business professor Peter Morici. He says there's not enough tax money to pay for all the president's proposals. "We simply can't reform health care," he says, "and do all the other domestic initiatives he wants to undertake by simply taxing the top 5% of the population." And restricting a health care tax to people who make $500,000 a year, which is less than 1% of all taxpayers, won't even come close to paying for the program.
President Obama sees it differently. He's looking at costs as well as revenues. On Monday the president said once again that huge savings can be made by streamlining health care and cutting unnecessary expenses. "The bill I sign must reflect my commitment and the commitment of Congress to slow the growth of health care costs over the long run… Let's fight our way through the politics of the moment. Let's pass reform by the end of this year."
What do you think? Tax the rich to pay for health care? How do you define "rich" in the U.S.?