James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

On healthcare reform and black holes

Apr 1, 2010 17:49 UTC

Ed Yardeni makes the comparison:

What a big relief! I’m not referring to the great stock market rally over the past year, but rather to Tuesday’s “Big Bang.” Particle physicists used the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva to simulate the event that might have occurred at the beginning of the universe. A few Doomsayers warned that the experiment could create a black hole that would suck us all into oblivion. Fortunately, they were wrong. However, even if a doomsday scenario is a small risk, shouldn’t all of us on the Planet Earth get to vote on whether the experiments should proceed? A spokesperson for the physicists said, “We are not doing anything that nature has not done before.” That’s not very reassuring. (Where did all the dinosaurs go?)

It all reminds me of ObamaCare. The legislation was passed despite lots of dire warnings that it will blow up both the healthcare system and the federal budget. Nothing terrible has happened so far, though the predictions are that it will be a slow-acting black hole. There has already been a collision between Congressional Democrats and a few CEOs over the adverse impact of the law on corporate earnings and retiree drug benefits. This spat along with the passage of ObamaCare haven’t unnerved stock investors so far. Maybe that’s because they are relieved.


I’d compare it to the Manhattan Project instead. At the time, a few people feared the first large fission test would cause a chain reaction destroying the whole planet. It didn’t.

But it did introduce a weapon that could destroy us all in the future.

The other government mandate

Apr 1, 2010 17:49 UTC

Forget about being forced to buy health insurance. Aren’ t Americans pretty much forced  by our complex tax code to buy tax prep software or see an accountant? That is a mandate, too, notes Howard Gleckman of TaxVox:

The government does not specifically require us to hire paid tax preparers or buy commercial software, of course. But it has, in effect, left millions of taxpayers with no real choice. Congress has created a tax code that makes it nearly impossible for many Americans to file returns without paid help. And even those who could … are so intimidated by the whole process that they pay people to help them anyway.

Thus, in 2005, 89 percent of individual taxpayers either used commercial software or hired paid preparers to help them do their civic duty. Just 11 percent, according to my colleague Eric Toder, filed returns on their own.

Yet, we just shrug and pay our $59 for commercial software or pony up between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars to paid preparers. No constitutional challenges. No state attorneys general at the barricades. Many of us, in fact, are likely to spend more money hiring a human being to do our taxes than we’ll pay in penalties for refusing to buy insurance ($95 in 2014 increasing to $695 by 2016). Indeed, I’m willing to bet that more of us will pay somebody to prepare a tax return than will purchase medical coverage, despite the insurance mandate.


People pay $95+ for tax software? The program I use is $30, and I only use it because my dad buys it.

Unless you’re itemizing, the form isn’t that difficult. The biggest operation it asks is addition and subtraction.