American Morning

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July 21st, 2009
06:25 AM ET

Tax the rich to pay for health care?

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference on the health care reform bill July 17, 2009 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference on the health care reform bill July 17, 2009 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
From CNN's Carol Costello and Bob Ruff

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.?


Filed under: Health • Politics
soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. Darthfern

    ignorant people

    capitalism ruins everything

    don't deny it, or at least our heartless capitalist society does

    the rich, why want to be rich, people should want to help society
    not themselves, because if we're all selfish what happens? society
    does not move on, it is never improved, it just lags and becomes stagnant.

    But people wont see this until they see it through their own eyes, and as long as people don't see it, they'll only appreciate what society values, which is capitalism and its ends, to get rich.

    take a sociology class, if u all go to college some day

    July 29, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  2. Sid Wynder

    I haven't had a health care program since before Bush came into office when I was making $18.50 per hour (year 2002). IT seems like the Bush adminstration killed the middle class! I'm now almost exactly 8 years later looking at a 8 to 10 dollar an hour job with no health insurance. I'm telling you that the Busch Cheney adminstration have totally ruined the United States!!! They should be held accountable for their crimes against america and the world!! We need to send a message to the rest of greedy corporate america that this is what can happento you too by prosecuting Bush and Cheney! Tax the crap out of the rich that have ruined america to fix all these problem they created by greed!!!! What did we do before we had all these degreed eggheads making decisions for us? HUMMM, maybe we had some common sense and compasion for our fellow man? Notice how "DEGREED" has the word "GREED" in it. Isn't that why people go to school to make more money. Greed !! What are we teaching our young people anyway? GREED GREED GREED!!!! Screw each other over for money!! EXACTLY! God help us all!!!!

    July 22, 2009 at 10:19 am |
  3. Mary S

    Taxing the rich or anyone else for that matter is not the intelligent solution, sorry President Obama, but you really haven't looked at the issues. I'll outline them for you here:
    1. the insurance companies are in business to make money. ultimately, they do not want to reimburse anyone.
    2. most insurance companies do not want to reimburse preventative or alternative medical practices which may actually delay or eradicate chronic conditions like backache or diseases like high blood pressure. These two are the top trouble makers for most people and are rather costly if treated in conventional or surgical modes. I've actually heard people say that they're willing to get back surgery because they will get reimbursed, rather than go for Rolfing or structural integration, because these are not reimbursed. (rolfing or structural integration has 99% success with chronic back issues and cost 150USD per session of which you need only ten sessions. what is the cost of a back operation...30,000USD including hospital stay and more with rehabilitation....maybe more, right?)
    3. because insurance companies do not want to reimburse anyone, their rates of reimbursement are so low that it causes a domino effect with costs for prescriptions, doctors, hospital, et al going higher in order to get something back for their services. In turn, the medical insurance fees get higher to cover the rate of reimbursement....a vicious costly cycle. So now the cost of healthcare gets higher and higher.
    4. coupled with that, a few landmark medical malpractice cases back in the 70s and 80s have tipped these scales as well. we're all still paying.

    The end result of all of these issues (and I could list more), has caused the cost of medical insurance to go through the roof, when I, a single household, has paid up to $750 per month, for what? so that I can get a free medical exam? Medical insurance needs to be flexible and bankable. It needs to recognize the efficiencies of preventative medicine and should reward for good health. Not sure if we will ever be able to change the political machine of lobbyists and special interest groups enough to actually make medical insurance and healthcare affordable to all people in this great nation of ours, but we can try. Don't go for the easy fix of taxing the rich.

    July 22, 2009 at 9:43 am |
  4. Sid Wynder

    I have been unemployed for 3 out of the last 5 years. The callapse of every great society is when there is to big of a gap between the rich and the poor. That is what we're expiencing right now. Wages have been at poverty levels for too long and inflation is killing our economy.
    What happens to the rich when the poor can't afford to buy the goods that make the rich people wealthy? Your seeing it now, big supply and small demand. SOO, the rich are going to have to reinvest in America or let China and India take over as the main economic powers!!! How about REGULATE TRADE!!!! Give something back "record oil company profits", big business , banks and insurance companies That raped America!!! Freak'in greed is rappid in america. Thank's President Bush, I was doing great until that Bastard got into office. Time for corporate America and the people who are profitting from this ecomony to give back to this disaster they caused!!!!
    They definitely didn't earn it!!!

    July 22, 2009 at 9:33 am |
  5. Megan

    I don't understand all these posts about how the "rich" don't pay enough taxes or how we all have "offshore" accounts or take tons of "deductions." That's BS. Maybe these people are talking about millionaire WallStreet-types. But for the rest of us who work hard and make a good living, we pay more than 1/3 of our income in taxes. Maybe we need to redefine "rich" because a couple making $500,000 a year pays more than $150,000 in taxes. Many still consider $500,000 to be middle class, and after mortgage payments, student loans and other debt, there really isn't much money yet. I'm so tired of people saying that the "rich" get off lightly and that's just not true. My husband and I work really hard, put ourselves through undergrad and graduate school. Why should we be punished because we've created a nice life for ourselves. I don't mind paying taxes, but I think it's wrong to tax people on what they EARN – let's tax people on what they SPEND!

    July 22, 2009 at 9:11 am |
  6. CBR

    I am suprised by the amount of people in the US that have this attitude, "I've got mine, now you get yours!" That fine and good, however, the unforturnate truth is, in our present economy there are people that, got up, got a jobs, took care of their families, saved for a rainy day, AND some of them LOST IT ALL because of TRUST in the CROOKS ON WALL STREET & GREED!!!!! Heath care reform is for people without healthcare, the uncontrolled increasing rate, hospital that are closing, yet the negative ads suggest that healthcare reform is about a government ran healthcare, STOP IT!!!!!

    I can honestly say, at 48 y.o.a. you never know what life has in store for you, however, what I know for sure is if you GIVE WHEN YOU CAN AND WHEN THERE IS A NEED, you will surely GET when YOU NEED, it is the law of the universe, bible, and all the other holy books....and I've experienced this first hand. I've have no problem helping someone less forturnate than myself, afterall how many cars can I drive at one time and how many home can I live in, and I don't sleep well knowing that there are homeless people in the world, yet I have 12 homes!!!!!

    July 22, 2009 at 6:50 am |
  7. George

    I am very surprised by the amount of people in he blog advocating raising taxes on the rich, especially for health care. We should not raise those taxes so much, especially due to govt inefficiency.

    I also this that we are going about this the wrong way. How about we start helping people become healthier in the US, which would also save lots (billions) of money. I like the idea of having tax incentives to live healthier, and i dont like the idea of encouraging people to be content to stay where they are in terms of income – that bum on the street wont have any reason to succeed with the govt funding all of his needs.

    July 21, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  8. Deborgio

    So basically the successful people in our world will be punished, and forced to pay for the health care for the obese people eating trans fats every day

    July 21, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  9. Elyse

    Let me begin by seeing, on principle I believe in universal healthcare for the United States population.

    It is important to recognize that achieving healthcare reform is not as simple as using taxpaying dollars to provide insurance for the uninsured. Currently, we have a healthcare system that is fundamentally unsustainable – It can be imaged as an "exploding jar". Our healthcare system as it exists, is struggling to remain sustainable for those within in it. Simply adding millions more into that "exploding jar" will cause the quality of healthcare coverage to deteriorate.

    Before, our government thrusts more people into our already unsustainable healthcare system, it is essential that the system itself is restructured to support a larger population – This means "expanding the jar". The problems of limited coverage and high cost of coverage are truly the result of a "limited supply" and "high demand". Today, we have a limited supply of healthcare (non-universal) and an extremely high demand for healthcare from those within the current system, as well as from those of remain on its exterior. A possible solution: Increase the supply. Placing more people in the current fractured system does not solve an of the issues that make it fundamentally unsustainable as it exists. It will not change the high cost of healthcare (even with great coverage medications, etc. are still expensive). It will not provide quality healthcare for all – the aren't enough doctors to provide such care.

    I believe that before placing more people into our healthcare system, legislation must be passed that addresses a long term solution to healthcare. Perhaps an economic model such as providing large tax incentives to doctors to be come primary care physicians will allow us to "expand" our healthcare system. The money spent on such initiative would be significantly less that amount of tax dollars already going to the uninsured and it would allow more people to enter the system. When supply of a good is increased, its price decreases.

    In theory, I believe in universal healthcare; however, I do not believe in the manner in which government aims to achieve such goal.
    The current government plan is sloppy, it fails to consider the adverse effects of such implementation, and most importantly it makes our current system even less sustainable

    July 21, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  10. eliz wolfgang

    I don’t give a ratsA$$$ how much you make. Instead of hiding your monies away into some bank in the “Islands”, do something for someone else, other than yourselves. A lot of people are in trouble; some are dying. . I know that it is your money and you have earned it, (at what cost) but you have earned it on the backs of the poor and the middle class is paying for it. How is this fair? All you have to do is pick up a phone and you get to see your doctor without any questions. Money talks, BS walks. How do you people sleep at night?

    President Obama is just trying to do his job for the people and for this Country and the GOP/DEM are talking about cost. How much does it cost for a child/woman/man to die for you to act? This isn’t a Bipartisan agenda, this is an American agenda. It is time for everyone to step up to the plate.

    July 21, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  11. S. Hallock

    Taxing any group to pay for health care is total Socialism. The Robin Hood approach is flawed. I do believe that we do need health care, but I also believe that everyone should pay for it. It should be prorated to fit their income, not paid for by an government program. The government is not a good business partner. Just look at the USPS, FEMA, Freddie Mac, Fanny Mae, Student loan program, etc. We don't want the 545 people that reside in the Ivory tower of Washington running the nation's health care.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:25 am |
  12. Charlotte

    We define "poverty" in our legal system every day, so why is defining "rich" so hard for our government? I think "rich" should be defined as "disposable income"...that is, what you make after necessities like moderate housing, food, clothing, insurance, etc. are paid for.

    Perhaps, in some high-end markets, $250,000 might be a median income, while in other, less costly markets, it might be considered rich. I know it's 5 times the income I've ever made, so it sounds rich to me.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:00 am |
  13. Mark

    Does anybody remmember PAT TILLMAN? To me he is the hero, he gave up his lucrative NFL career to fight for the country he loves and ultimately lost his life (to friendly fire), and how quickly the media forgot his story, while they go on and on about the death of an entertainer ( MJ), how did we get to a point where all a man does is hit a small white ball, ( TIGER WOODS), who makes tens of millions from each endorsment become the hero? Ridiculous, he is no hero, he hits a small white ball well, so what? I see so many such examples of hero worship for all the wrong reasons. If the top 250,000 wealthy people in the country helped one homeless veteran have a home to live in, perhaps I would be more sympathetic to their higher tax plight, oh those poor poor rich people, they cry like little girls, but they are not little girls. Its time to take this country back, anybody remmember FOR THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE? That phrase contains no refference to lobbyists and and politicians in the pockets of the rich, just remmember when the rich speak, its for their self interest and when the GOP speaks it is also for the self interest of the rich.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:35 am |
  14. Sara Brixius-Rimer

    People, how do we define rich in this country? Come on now, we're the richest country in the world. We all pay taxes. Should the rich pay more? Yes. Maybe someone out there can define more. I don't think 1 dollar out of my 100 is going to hurt my pocket, but it just might make someone else's life alittle fuller. Decent healthcare is a basic human right in a decent country. Have we lost our sense of decency? Why is the Healthcare Industry an industry? Because it's a corporate money maker, plain and simple. Please Democrats and Republicans, let's find a solution and move forward.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:28 am |
  15. Dennis Houde

    We really need some kind of health care, not just for people who can aford it ,but for everyone. I think everyone should pay. Make it automatic, right from their pay check. a percentage. Say like 2% 0r 3%, that way everyone would particapate. Tax even the illeagels, even if they do not want to receive it. Even the people on ss, and Thats me,and I would gladley pay. We live in a great country and we all should support it.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:23 am |
  16. Don Cooper

    In the discussion of health care reform, I notice that CNN's reporters and anchors focus on the estimated $1 trillion cost of the plan. Often this is not put into proper perspective - roughly $100 billion annually. By focusing on the 10-year cost - frequently without mentioning that it is for 10 years - the impression is given that President Obama is calling for spending $1 trillion annually. This gives a false impression about the president's plan and enables the opponents, both Republicans and conservative Democrats, to use scare tactics with the people about the cost. It also is interesting that these same opponents never hestitate to call for spending hundreds of billions of dollars on unnecessary weapons systems.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:13 am |
  17. Colleen

    To Diane, "Do your research" ! Don't just listen to the special interest commercials being aired.

    This is not a government health care takeover.

    This is simply intended to be an affordable option plan. The government would NOT be making any decisions for us. This is NOT Canadian type insurance. Why do some compare this to Canadian insurance? In Canada they have no choice.

    Those opposing it, (read special interest groups and Republicans) are misrepresenting the facts.

    Simply put, this would be an additional insurance plan option, such as BCBS, Mutual Of Omaha, and so forth. It would be a lower cost plan intended as an affordable option which would provide much needed competition to existing plans.

    We should eliminate all group ratings for ALL insurance plans. The country as a whole should be considered one group. Talk about leveling the playing field.

    Employers should continue to contribute towards their employees insurance and receive a tax break for doing so. Employees should not be taxed for this benefit. The difference should be that instead of employers choosing the insurance carrier, the employee themselves could choose which carrier/plan they want to use the employer contribution towards, including a national health carrier plan.

    It is doable, it is affordable. If they let some of us "average" citizens weed through their spending, I'll bet anything we could eliminate enough unnessecary spending to finance this.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:12 am |
  18. cheryl

    the party of no just wants everything to fail. It's all about the next election not doing what is right. WallSt has swindled, defrauded, speculated and benefitted from their hands in this financial mess. And they, not all, are the rich. We are not playing with the same rules of doing the right thing. They look at us as if there will be a casualty....well I feel the same in reverse when it comes to taxing them.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:10 am |
  19. EugeneWiese

    Anyone with an income of more than $500,000 is certainly rich with money . How many million does a family or an individual need to enjoy life,liberty,and the pursuit of happiness? I say tax the rich,take away their Bush tax cuts,get out of Iraq and Afgahnistan,anyone with an income of $250,000 after retirement should not get social security.I think my fix would take care of all the social benefits for ordinary people. Gene

    July 21, 2009 at 9:09 am |
  20. Jenny

    Absolutely! The middle class has been carrying the burden for so many things for too long. I also cant believe how many republicans want to stop everything and anything President Obama does, when he is just trying to help us, the regular american people. Shame on the Republican Party. The republicans need to focus on REFORMING their own party for so many reasons.

    I appreciate your line of questioning today. 🙂 Also, the Republicans still dont answer what they would do to pay for health care reform...yet they critisize our President.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:08 am |
  21. lbrignac

    Someone needs to look into Louisiana's high risk health insurance plan. Since Bobby Jindal became Gov. my co-pays have become uneffordable. Before he was Gov. my co-pay for medications was approx. 700 every 3 months now they are 800 a month this change happened in January. If he is making health care worse in his own state, believe me you don't want him trying to persuade the country.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  22. D Simmons

    We should be taxed a percentage of whatever our income is. So yes, the rich will pay more but everyone will contribute.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  23. Thomas

    Hello all,
    before I start I would ask these questions; WHO PAID FOR IRAQ WAR? WHO PAID FOR BUSH TAX CUTS? if the answer comes as easy, then the same courtesy should apply to health care. I regret that just about everyone on the Hill and on the networks media who are talking about this issue dont know the consequence first hand and no one is making the effort to go where the story is.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:02 am |
  24. cheryl

    If I have to pay for the wars I opposed, I should expect to have health care at the very least.

    July 21, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  25. Debra Evans

    I am a college graduate who chose to go into a field that though it is spiritually rewarding, it is not financially rewarding. Non-profit social service is truly that. Non-profit. I have a difficult time feeling pity for folks making 10 times what I make ($350,000.00 to my $35,000.00) who must pay 1% of their income to support health care reform. The NO TAX mantra of the conservatives is such a selfish message. What would they do if all of us actually chose to leave the human service field to compete in the big business world. We in human services are able to shield them from the state of the less fortunate. The conservative message is "why should I help those less fortunate than me". "those" people are in that boat of their own accord. We need health care today and with a public option.

    July 21, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  26. Mark

    HOMELESS VETERANS WHO FOUGHT FOR THESE SAME RICH PEOPLE, YOU SHOULD ALL BE ASHAMED. I DIDNT NEED PROTECTION FROM SADDAM HUSSEIN,HOW MUCH MONEY DID WE SPEND IN IRAQ IN THE LAST 6 YEARS? WHERE WERE ALL THESE MOUTHPIECES BEFORE THE WASTEFULL WAR? NOW SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN AND LET EVERYBODY HAVE A CHANCE TO SEE A DOCTOR IF THEY NEED IT, INSTEAD OF GIVING RUSH LIMBAUGH THE CHOICE TO DOCTOR SHOP FOR HIS LEGAL HIGH.

    July 21, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  27. Marie J.

    Why not? France taxes the rich. In return every French citizen get health care, dental, eye care and prescription drug coverage. French citizen also get paid maternity leaves, college education for their children, a tax credit for every child in the form of a monthly check and 5 weeks paid vacation a year. No wonder they live longer than Americans. But then again the French did not blow 400 billions + on a never ending war.

    July 21, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  28. cheryl

    well for those "conservative states" who benefit from my federal tax dollars....we have been taking from the rich states to support the poorer states sinces the beginning of the federal tax. I have been giving my Tax $ to less wealthy states all of my working life...this includes Alaska who geets more than they give. So what is so different about taxing the rich? Difference is....their income has risen 3000% to my 100%. I don't feel bad. The arguement that we have become Robin Hood falls short from a historical standpoint....it has been happening all along and no one has complained.

    July 21, 2009 at 8:57 am |
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