Monday, November 12, 2012

The Free Lunch Society

Americans love to get something for nothing. We doctors are acutely aware of this attitude. People go to the emergency room hoping and expecting to get medical care for free. Patients refuse to pay their insurance copays. A physician's medical bill somehow gets placed at the end of the line for payment, behind other life necessities like cable TV, cell phones, and Netflix.

Here in California, the election last week fully exposed how society has become accustomed to receiving freebies. There were two propositions on the ballot: Proposition 30 and Proposition 38. Millions of dollars were spent trying to get both propositions passed, or failed, during the election. The funny thing was that both were ostensibly written for the exact same purpose--increasing funding to the schools. The main difference was that Prop 30 would increase the state income tax by 1-3% for the millionaires and billionaires of California ie/ anyone with incomes greater than $250,000. It also increased the state sales tax by a nominal 0.25%. However, though Gov. Jerry Brown claimed otherwise, nothing in the proposition specifically says all the tax money had to go to the schools. It could be directed by the state legislature to any government project it judged worthy.

Prop. 38, on the other hand, increased the state income tax on everybody, anywhere from 0.4% to 2.2%. But it was written so that the money would be specifically directed towards school funding.

Well guess which one passed? Proposition 30 sailed through by 54% to 45%. Meanwhile, Proposition 38 failed 72% to 28%. So all those voters, particularly the young people who came out en masse for Obama, decided that they want more money for schools. They just don't want to pay for it themselves. California now has the highest state income tax level in the entire country. The Hollywood and Silicon Valley liberal elites, big proponents of Prop 30, will barely blink an eye over paying an extra 3%. The majority of the electorate won't be affected. But somebody has to pay for more money for the teachers' pension funds. Everybody wants to enjoy the good life, as long as it's not coming out of their own pockets.

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