I see his O ness was doing his best James Brown imitation today as he said "please, please, please" to dumbocratic members of congress while asking them to vote for this historic health care reform bill. Now, I must admit, I am no wonk when it comes to these things. I hate reading voluminous documents, -I am a trial lawyer, not a corporate one- and I sure as hell hate the byzantine way in which folks in Washington legislate. What I do know is that I want this health care reform bill to pass, because I have a fundamental belief in every citizen having the right to have affordable health care. And I really do believe that insurance companies care more about profit margins than they do people. And, unlike what conservatives and their minions would have you believe, I believe that more government is actually a good thing. I elected them, they use my money to do things, and they provide services that I would rather not do without.
Now, having said all of that, someone sent me an e-mail today that has me a little troubled. I am blogging about it because I am hoping that some of you folks -who might have actually read all of the bill- who are smart enough to have the goods on how things really work in Washington, can help me to understand the following:
"Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.
In response to the JCT letter, Camp said: “This is the ultimate example of the Democrats’ command-and-control style of governing – buy what we tell you or go to jail. It is outrageous and it should be stopped immediately.”
Key excerpts from the JCT letter appear below:
“H.R. 3962 provides that an individual (or a husband and wife in the case of a joint return) who does not, at any time during the taxable year, maintain acceptable health insurance coverage for himself or herself and each of his or her qualifying children is subject to an additional tax.” [page 1] - - - - - - - - - -
“If the government determines that the taxpayer’s unpaid tax liability results from willful behavior, the following penalties could apply…” [page 2] - - - - - - - - - -
“Criminal penalties Prosecution is authorized under the Code for a variety of offenses. Depending on the level of the noncompliance, the following penalties could apply to an individual: • Section 7203 – misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.
• Section 7201 – felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.” [page 3]
When confronted with this same issue during its consideration of a similar individual mandate tax, the Senate Finance Committee worked on a bipartisan basis to include language in its bill that shielded Americans from civil and criminal penalties. The Pelosi bill, however, contains no similar language protecting American citizens from civil and criminal tax penalties that could include a $250,000 fine and five years in jail.
“The Senate Finance Committee had the good sense to eliminate the extreme penalty of incarceration. Speaker Pelosi’s decision to leave in the jail time provision is a threat to every family who cannot afford the $15,000 premium her plan creates"
Now I know that the rethugs are getting desperate, and that they are going to spin this thing in a way most unfavorable to Pelosi and company. But if it is a fact that this provision is in Pelosi's bill, and this portion of the bill is not amended in the Senate, it would be very troubling for the kid. "$250,000 in fines and five years in prison is a bit much. I love the government except when they are being draconian on everyday people. Fines? Maybe. Prison? No.
Get at me folks and let me know what you think of this.
I know what I think, but then again I am not as smart as some of you when it comes to this stuff.
*h/t Hugh O.