Democrats & Liberals Archives

Business Entitlement

Businesspeople call Social Security, Medicare and proposed national healthcare systems entitlement programs. They do this in order to stamp them out or to prevent them from sprouting. Yet, they spend a lot of money and purchase a lot of lobbyists to make sure that they are well esconced in business entitlements. For business, entitlement is OK.

An excellent example of this phenomenon is happening now in California. California has tried an experiment with taxes in a program called ReadyReturn. The government completed tax forms for poor and elderly citizens that volunteered for it. Those involved - 96% - thought the program was great and should be adopted.

So a Ready Return bill was written. You would think that everybody would be in favor. You would be confident that both Republicans and Democrats would be for it. You would feel sure that it would pass overwhelmingly. Of course it would, since it is in the public interest.

But you'd be wrong. Intuit, the outfit that produces TurboTax, the software that helps you prepare your taxes, did not like such a law one bit. Julie Miller, a spokeswoman for Intuit, said that ReadyReturn is:

"a fundamental conflict of interest for the state's tax collector and enforcer to also become people's tax preparer.

"The debate over this issue is not - and should not be - about politics. It should be about what is the best public policy for every California taxpayer."

Get that? Intuit is in favor of the "best public policy." In other words, Intuit is pushing for the public interest and government helping citizens is not. Following this type of logic, simplifying tax forms is against the public interest, and making tax forms more complicated is in the public interest.

Why? Because we must protect business. We can't allow businesses like Intuit to fail. It supplies a valuable service. Government has no right to make its services obsolete. Intuit is entitled, just as all businesses are entitled to help - not hindrance - from government.

Intuit is not relying on argument. It has hired Lang Hansen, a lobbying firm, to make sure the bill does not pass. And it appears that the prospect of the bill passing has been considerably reduced. You know why? Politicians are worried, not so much about Intuit, which is not that big, but about the fact that Lang Hansen also represents Phillip Morris, Eli Lilly and Sempra Energy, all of whom contribute loads of money to political campaigns.

Bruce Cain, a political science professor at UC Berkeley, explains it:

"Lobbyists who have their finger on money have a lot more influence. Even if Intuit doesn't donate that much, they are using a lobbyist who has a lot of big clients. The sum total that those clients give is what opens doors."

We have lobbyists in California that do the same damage to our system of government that lobbyists in Washington do. They make sure that business entitlements not only remain but grow.

Do we need business entitlements? Do we need lobbyists?

Posted by Paul Siegel at May 5, 2006 5:22 PM
Comments
Comment #145740

The evil axis of terror groups are cleverly disguised as corporations and businesses…

We’re fighting the wrong war…

Companies and businesses have no rights…
Who do they think they are?
We don’t care what the laws say…

Besides, they should all feel guilty and therefore they are guilty…

Posted by: Cliff at May 5, 2006 5:44 PM
Comment #145744

C’mon, now. Just because Intuit is protecting it’s own business interests does not necessarily mean they are wrong. In my opinion, having the state tax collector be your tax preparer is akin to having your public defender work in the DA’s office.

Simplification of tax forms and availablilty of tax specialists for the underpriviledged is a good idea, but it needs to be done responsibly.

Posted by: Dave S at May 5, 2006 5:58 PM
Comment #145777

But Dave, why is this service so much different from the taxpayer assistance that the IRS offers by phone? I have used it and found the IRS workers to be informed and trust-worthy.

Each tax agency should surely have the expertise to design the software, and I find it hard to believe that any attempts to short-change the taxpayers could survive the level of oversight that would inevitably be tied to such an endeavor.

Got Intuit stock by any chance?

Posted by: Andy at May 5, 2006 8:40 PM
Comment #145785

Displeasing lobbyists or corporations who represent a vocal minority on an issue should be the last thing on politicians mind. They should be worried about us. It is precisely because they haven’t worried about us that discontent is so high with politicians nowadays.

It is our fault in a way, though. We let them do this, and buy their semantic arguments. The truth is, it is California’s job to make compliance with its laws workable within reason. Helping folks prepare their taxes is not a conflict of interest because that is in our interest. In America today, it isn’t the rate that so confounds people, it is the complexity of the law.

As it is now, tax law has become the Republican substitute for subsidies, a semantic fusion of subsidy with tax relief that allows the manipulation of prices and markets to pass muster. Without such sleight of hand, true conservatives would see this for what it is: corporate welfare, market manipulation that goes against their principles.

In this, as in other places, much of Republican rhetoric is devoted to telling people to ignore the man behind the curtain, to ignore the hypocrisy of them betraying their principles precisely in the way they accuse their rivals of doing. The irony is that liberals are now more conservative than many conservatives.

Maybe the liberalism to be loathed is one of excess and decadence, not that of free thought, and the conservatism to be appreciated is that which maintains its integrity, even when it costs politicians in the political short-term.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 5, 2006 9:10 PM
Comment #145805

No, definitely not an Intuit stock holder, or any other stock, for that matter. That would require money to invest.

All I’m saying is that, for me, I would much rather have my taxes prepared by a third party that only makes money on me if I keep coming back.

It is beyond argument that public services fall short of the mark set by private services. Those who are left at the mercy of government programs are in worse shape than those who can afford private counsel, whether it be legal, financial, educational or otherwise. There are so many reasons this is the case, from the massive beauracracy that oversees government agencies to the inability of the government to compete with the private sector when recruiting talent.

One of the main advantages Republicans have over Democrats is the horrible waste and incompetent management that is rampant in government agencies. Until we Democrats realize that having the programs is not enough, but that they need to be managed and managed effectively, we will continue to struggle to implement the change we know is necessary. This is a problem that can be solved, but it will cost more money initially. If you want the best, you need to recruit the best and pay them what they’re worth. Then you need to give them the freedom to make the decisions they know will be effective.

Posted by: Dave S at May 5, 2006 11:05 PM
Comment #145817

The problem with entitlement programs is not the concept of entitlements, but, the qualification standards that entitle people to the benefits.

What roils conservatives is the notion that anyone feels entitled to anything they don’t themselves provide. What is causing entitlement programs today to threaten our future is (in large part) Democrats having set qualifications too low, or high as the case may be.

The fact that Bill Gates will be “entitled” to Social Security benefits is ludicrous on its face. The fact that poor people must actually become so ill that they have to enter emergency rooms (where treatement is manifestly more expensive) before they are “entitled” to public sponsored health care is just as ludicrous and self destructive to the entitlement program.

Too much free enterprise capitalism which will move wages to poverty level if possible, maximizing profitability, is no answer. Conversely, confiscating so much wealth that wealth leaves the nation or is hordes instead of invested in capital markets to spur economic activity and innovation is also no answer.

WHEN Americans acknowledge that their is an optimal blend of these which is better than either extreme for the long term future of the nation and her people, the sooner we can dispense with the ideology wars and seek to maintain that optimal blend of capitalism and free enterprise and social programs which maintain and optimal work force and quality of life for the greatest number of citizens.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 6, 2006 12:11 AM
Comment #145820

Andy

But Dave, why is this service so much different from the taxpayer assistance that the IRS offers by phone? I have used it and found the IRS workers to be informed and trust-worthy.

Letting the IRS prepare your return is akin to letting a bank robber gsurd the bank. Neither can be trusted as far as you can throw them.
The job of the IRS or State Tax Office is to collect as much money as possible from the taxpayers. If you think they have your best intrest at heart I have ocean front property in Arizona I’ll sell you. Cheap.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 6, 2006 12:31 AM
Comment #145829

I think both need to be fixed. Lobbyism is thinly veiled corruption, but Social Security and Medicare are just plain faulty.

Posted by: Zeek at May 6, 2006 12:57 AM
Comment #145884

Zeek
Social Security is broke because our elected idiots couldn’t leave all that money in a trust account and going unspent until the folks that paid into it started drawing it. They had to raid the fund every chance they got. Now the money aint there and more and more folks are applying for their pensions.
Medicare has never worked because they never allowed for your money to be put into a trust for you.
The folks working now are paying the pensions of the retired folks. And as more baby boomers retire there will be fewer folks paying into Social Security. And fewer paying into Medicare.
I’m afraid that both are beyond repair.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 6, 2006 12:12 PM
Comment #145894

3 years ago I sent in a tax return from to the state of Oregon. Guess what I made a mistake on my form. I was not audited, I was not prosicuted, the state of Oregon corrected my return and adjusted my refund accordingly. They sent me the info they used to make this adjustment and I could dispute it with them if I so desired. Guess what the state, local and federal government already do your taxes for you they just check to see if they match. If not the try to find out why. What is the difference of them doing it, mailing it to you. You verify the info, if correct do nothing on apr. 15 you get a check in the mail or you mail your check. If it is wrong, inaccurate, ect. you edit it, take it to a 3rd party preparer, ect. and sign and mailit in with Tax required/ the state et al mail your refund to you right away.

Posted by: timesend at May 6, 2006 1:22 PM
Comment #145906

Ron Brown, I have to differ with your comments above about the trust fund.

First, it mattered little whether the government put the SS surpluses in an interest bearing lock box, or simply wrote IOU’s on the principal and interest owed (which is what they have done). It matters little as long as the surplus (real or owed) is ponied up when needed by SS recipients.

What DOES matter entirely is whether the government renigs on its obligations to pony up the money when needed by recipients. Democrats will, Republicans don’t want to. That matters.

In addtion, Soc. Sec. can still be adjusted to survive through to the other side of the baby boom without severe economic consequences, if Congress will take those steps soon.

Medicare on the other hand is unsustainable not because the money failed to go into a trust. Medicare is unsustainable due to demographics and medical technology prolonging life AND health care inflation dramatically outpacing real wages growth creating an underfunding situation and unsustainable demand for tax increases.

There is only one way to attack the Medicare debacle, and that is to address spiralling health care costs and come to some resolution on the private vs public health insurance debate.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 6, 2006 3:01 PM
Comment #145910

Ron Brown, the system was and always had been reliant on an increasing population as a means to keep it supported. What it boils down to is shifting the problem to future generations. If this were to stop, it would basically just be forced savings; the only difference would be that it’s more inefficient than just putting money under a pillow.

Posted by: Zeek at May 6, 2006 3:21 PM
Comment #146088

David
I’m not betting on Congress to do anything about Social Security until it’s to late. My personal opinion is that the Government will renig on their promise. I sure hope I’m wrong though.


Zeek
Social Security has never been more than forced savings. The problem is that politicians can’t stand to see money that they can’t spend. So they’ve raided the fund until now it’s bankrupt and they’re propping it up with the current workers.
I don’t believe that with fewer and fewer workers that the system will last much longer. But like I told David, I sure as hell hope I’m wrong.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 7, 2006 11:51 PM
Comment #146234

Paul,

Once again…why aren’t SS, Medicare and national healthcare NOT entitlement programs? You are not giving us much to go on. You told us what business says but that isn’t enough. Intuit is just one example of what?

Do we need lobbyists? What do you mean? Do you mean “should” we have lobbyists? Or do you really mean, should conservatives have lobbyists?

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