How’s This For a Happy Bill?

At first I didn’t get it either.

For one thing, it was well past my bedtime when I got the email from my friend alerting me to the proposed bill that would give up to $3500 in tax credit to people for veterinarian expenses. My friend was disgusted. “Around here we would put an animal to sleep before we spent that kind of money on it,” she fumed. Her email contained the forwarded comment of someone else outraged that for human beings, medical costs can only be deducted after they exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income and here they were going to give a flat out tax credit for the critter care. “Can we afford,” the writer queried, “to be paying our tax dollars so that people can take care of their pets? What about taking care of people living in poverty? What about taking care of the unborn, the elderly, those who cannot speak for themselves?”

At first it just seemed unbelievable and so with curiosity temporarily overcoming my sleepiness, I started looking it up. Sure enough the bill — the “Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years” or “HAPPY” Act — is real .

I began shaking my head along with my friend. Then suddenly, something clicked and I wrote to her, “We should support this.”

Here’s the deal, people. We have all been brain-washed. The reaction of the person who wrote to my friend was a prime example of this. She asked, “Can we afford to be paying our tax dollars” for this. But wait a minute. This is a tax credit .

We are so conditioned by our tax code and rhetoric of the political class that we fall right into their language trap and look at a tax credit and ask how we can afford it. Let me just channel Alan Keyes here for a minute. I’m paraphrasing from him but this is how he explains it:

In Washington, if they reduce taxes, they consider that they have spent something on you . In fact, in Washington, if they increase the budget for a particular federal program less than they previously increased it , they will call it a “cut.” That is how Democrats in congress could accuse the Republicans of cutting programs for the poor even while the actual dollar amounts designated in the budget were still going up every year!

Get this: Let’s say that I claimed the right to take some portion of your money away from you. And I also claimed the right to determine for myself how much of your money I would take. It might be 0% or it might be 90% or any other amount of money that I decide. Given that condition: In principle , how much of your money do I control? Answer: All of it.

All of it, folks. To the people in Washington — not every one, but a good number of them — what is yours is theirs. You need to understand that this is how they think. To them a tax credit is an expenditure. When you keep more of your money , they consider themselves to be spending some of their money on you, because they really think that all of the money in America belongs to them. They believe that they are wiser and more capable of making decisions about how that money should be spent than are the people who earned it.

Now the original correspondent of my friend had asked how we can care for the unborn and the elderly if we allowed a tax credit for the care of pets. The answer is that $3,500 tax credit for the veterinary care of pets is hardly enough of a reduction in the tax burden when the average worker in the United States had to work until well into April just to pay his taxes for this year. For one thing, yearly veterinary bills of the vast majority of Americans are nowhere near that high. Still every dollar of that tax credit is one more dollar that stays in the hands of the people and increases their ability to care for their families — including their unborn and their elderly.

We get stuck when we allow the nanny state to treat us like children who are going shopping with an adult and have to ask for whatever they want. The children can be told, “No, sorry; we can’t afford that.” The children have no decision–making power because they are dependent and don’t have their own money. Adults who earn their own money can decide for themselves what they can afford.

Folks, if we don’t get back in this country the understanding of the link between taxes and liberty, we are done for. Some demons, the Lord said, can only be gotten out by prayer and fasting, but a tax-greedy state takes prayer, fasting, and starvation: It has to be starved of money. It is not a question of what the government “can’t afford.” We can’t afford this bloated tic that endlessly sucks from the arse of the body politic.

Until we can get our liberty back by reforming the tax code, we should never oppose any tax credit that reduces the tax burden of ordinary working people, like this one does. But this one has the additional virtue of being like flypaper for “progressives.” Once I caught onto this, I had to see who had proposed this bill.

It is Michigan Republican Representative Thad McCotter , a Catholic. Intrigued, I figured I would do a bit of looking into his record. Turns out he gets a grade of 0% from Naral, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU and a grade of 100% from Eagle Forum, National Right to Life, and Gun Owners of America. So, I’m liking this guy.

This bill represents the kind of creative thinking needed to hoist the “progressives” with their own petard. It’s for the animals! How can they resist? They can’t. This dog lover is totally sold.

What we need from Republicans are proposals of even more of these family-friendly “tax credits” that the constituents on the other side will gobble up hook, line, and sinker. Put the Democrats in the position of having to vote against some great green idea OR vote for a tax reduction. Let as many of them as possible dangle on the horns of that happy dilemma.

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  • SeanReynoldsNZ

    Politics comes from two words: “Poly” meaning “many”; and “tics” meaning “blood-sucking parasites”.

    Incidentally, they are now talking about the possibility of using leeches in healthcare for certain procedures. In Washington, they seem to want to take over the whole system. Somewhat holds true in Canberra too.

  • Joe DeVet

    You were right in the first instance. This tax credit is indeed an expenditure of taxes collected from the majority of people.

    Yes, it’s a credit for those who get it. However, for the rest of us, it represents taxes which would have been collected from the pet owners and were not because of the HAPPY bill, and therefore taxes which must be made up by collections from us. No, perhaps they don’t change the tax code to do this. What does change is that the deficit goes up. The rest of us pay in either higher taxes later, or more inflation, or usually both.

    None of this is to deny the point of the article. The folks in Washington often treat it as an act of supreme generosity when they steal LESS of our money than they otherwise would have stolen.

  • Ann

    Hi, Mary,

    Thaddeus McCotter is one of my representatives, and am I glad! Based on his life issues record, I have no issues voting for him, unlike many if not most of the other MI candidates. I am a bit perplexed as to why he sponsored this particular bill…looks like I have some research to do :)

    Praying you all have a blesseed day.

  • Mary Kochan

    Joe, I disagree. A tax credit is a reduction in your taxes if you are a tax payer. It is wrong for that tax to be collected to begin with seeing as how our entire tax system is wrong based on what I already pointed out. But a reduction is not wrong. I reject the premise that the taxes have to be made up by “the rest of us.” It only comes from another tax payer in those cases where a credit is give to people who didn’t pay income taxes (wealth redistribution). If I thought that this credit was going for the most part to people who don’t pay much income taxes, it would different. But the beauty of this particular attack on the system is that it will benefit those who pay, as very low earners are unlikely to be spending very much in vet bills.

  • jiminycricket

    Reading the bill via the link in the article seems to indicate that it is a “deduction” and not a “credit”.

  • http://catholichawk.com PrairieHawk

    “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). I have a hard time getting worked up about taxes. But, full disclosure: I’m poor as a churchmouse and don’t pay much in taxes. And I’m not struggling to raise a family in today’s impossible environment. But I think Our Lord has some words for us here; we have to let the world be the world, while we are salt and light, concerned with our neighbor and how to please God. I have found great peace in that path; maybe it’s not for everyone, but I can’t help but think that if more people tried it, the world would be a better place.

  • patti

    I am the friend that emailed Mary the Happy Pet bill info. I have pets, but $3,500 is out of our pet-care budget. It seemed ludicrous to me at first glance. I still think the creators of the bill live a different reality than I do, but given Mary’s analysis, I realize she has a point. All it means is that the government takes away less of our income. We ARE conditioned to feel they have a right to it. And they ARE taking more and more of it and spending it in ways we certainly don’t always approve.

    Someone expressed the fear that if a person gets a large pet-care deduction then others have to make up for this and pay more. The “given” here is that the government WILL get its money from one person or the next in one way or another. So naturally, such a scenario builds resentment if Mrs. Foo-foo deducts a $3k knee replacement surgery on Duchess. The feeling is that now we have to pay more taxes to make up for the money that keeps Duchess limber.

    The problem is, that everyone is right. Mary is right that the government assumes ownership of our money and takes more and more. She is right that “letting” us keep some of our money is presented as doing us a favor and in the same ball park of the government giving us something–in this case letting us keep a little more of our own money. But it is also right that tax credits and deductions are not ultimately ways of cutting back and doing with less. The government’s insatiable appetite for our personal income, does not consider dieting from taxes. Thus, less taxes for one guy really does end up as being more for the next. But attempts at keeping our money is not the problem, the problem is that the government won’t cut back and ultimately–as Mary points out–feels that our money is their money. And they get to decided how much of our/their money we get to keep.

    Happy Labor Day to all those who Labor. Take rest in the Lord.

  • goral

    More precious than liberty is the love that owners get from their fury, four legged, friends.
    Before we hastily oppose and dismiss this credit let’s consider the possibilities. Cash for critters could be the next successful gov’t hand out.
    This is a sizable voting block of “moms and dads” who would benefit.
    They would in turn fuel the economy by giving the pet stores more business.
    These stores are at every mall. A full aisle at a super market or dept. store is just not enough.

    We used to see moms on walks peeking into their friend’s baby carriages, not so lately. Now they stop on nature trails discussing the sniffing habits of their playful family members.
    My wife house sat for Maggie for a whole week. Maggie’s a real dog.

    Another possibility is open if Obama care extends into critter care.
    Here’s an opportunity for a pet owner to take advantage of a vet visit for their own ailments. Vets do know medical stuff and could be used to broaden the base of care.

    Indulge me while I’m just being silly, or am I?

  • Mary Kochan

    I didn’t mention this in the article because I didn’t want to get sidetracked, but one thing I thought about was how useful this tax credit or deduction would be to people who are trying to live a more self-sufficient life or who are responding to the downturn in the economy by creatively meeting their own needs. The keeping of livestock in urban and suburban setting is experiencing a great resurgence. People are keeping goats and miniature cattle, building chicken coops, raising fish in swimming pools, etc. A lot of times these moves entail veterinary expenses, but because they aren’t businesses, those expenses would not normally be deductible. So don’t just think pets here.

  • Joe DeVet

    Mary, let’s try again. My premises are these: a certain level of government is just, and just or not, a certain level of government is inevitable. Thus, a certain level of taxation of the whole group of citizens will be a fact of life.

    A thought experiment may help. Let’s imagine a polis with 10 families. It has a government with minimal and appropriate duties, costing $50k per year. The families are then taxed five thousand per year each.

    If one family has a pet whose veterinary bills exceed $3500 this year, that family gets a tax credit of $3500. The remaining 9 families have to pony up almost $400 each in excess of what they otherwise would have paid, to make up the difference.

    Thus, a tax credit for the one becomes a tax increase for the others.

    You might argue that the solution is to run a government deficit; or to reduce government expenditures. But if there’s a deficit that simply means the government will collect in a different time or form. The missing revenues will be made up in the form of future tax increases or inflation. Either way, the 9 families without the pet exclusion will pay for the one with the exclusion.

    If the solution is less government expenditures, then one of two situations will be true. Either the essential services of the government will be cut, and the cut in services will cost the 9 families at least the $400 of extra taxes they would have paid, or the government did not need to spend $50k per year in the first place. If the latter, then the solution is not a pet tax credit for the one, but a general tax cut for all 10 families. In this latter case, the fact that the one family got a tax credit will mean that the tax cut due all families will be harder or impossible to work out thru the political system.

    In all cases, a tax credit for a particular family or group results in a NET tax increase (either an actual increase or the forgoing of the possibility of a cut) for the rest. I, who have the sense not to own a pet* (and if I did, not to spend extravagantly on veterinary fees), must pay for the tax credit for my less-prudent neighbors.

    The math works the same way for our “polis” of about 150 million families as in this simplified example. The pet owners’ tax credit is a tax burden, in some form, for the rest of us. This is true independent of whether the basic tax burden is just or not, excessive or not, wasteful or not.

    *For the record, I say this with tongue in cheek. Pets are good. For some.

  • Mary Kochan

    Joe, I understand, but we are so far from a system that makes any sense according to what you wrote where there is fairness, accountability, and consent of the governed.

    Suppose we took your ten families and three of them decided not to work and have the others pay for all the services, while a fourth family made their living by taking from the other six double what the non-working families needed and skimming half off the top for the service of redistributing the wealth of the other six, thereby accumulating the most wealth and power of all of them, and using members of the three non-working families as enforcement thugs. Don’t you think the other six might get together and figure out out how to deprive the other three of them of some of what they were stealing? That’s a lot more like what we have going on.

  • Joe DeVet

    Mary, touche!! Your polis is much more realistic than mine! I hope the six of us can figure something out before it’s too late. Unfortunately, 3 of the six were fast asleep last November and helped vote in a much worsened situation! Some of those who were fast asleep were fellow Catholics, I am very sorry to say.

    Now, add to your polis a HAPPY bill that results in one of the 6 productive families receiving a $3500 tax break for pet vet costs. The result is still an extra tax burden for the other five productive families, of $700 on the average.

  • Mary Kochan

    No, Joe. All my families have dogs. Better yet, two raise chickens, one keeps goats, two have cows, and one is farming fish in a swimming pool.

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