(I’m up at 1:30 AM on election night scribbling this down so I can get some sleep. I promise this will be my last political post in at least a month. Sorry for the ranting. I hope I don’t regret this in the morning.)
My Elusive Quest for Wealth in America: How Obama Has Already Decreased Your Access to Healthcare
I am about to commit a big social faux pas and publically disclose my personal finances. I apologize for this in advance. It embarrasses me. But I think it is necessary in order for me illustrate how Barrack Obama’s proposed tax and “wealth sharing” program will affect not only me, but all of us.
Barrack Obama promised that if elected he would raise taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 a year. He says he plans on cutting taxes for a majority of Americans - those making less than $200,000. That sounds pretty good, right? Most of us should have more money in our pockets while the rich snobs on the hill get the fleecing they deserve. (Of course, this is all misleading, since Obama has also promised to allow almost all of Bush’s tax cuts lapse, so we are due to see to the biggest tax hike in U.S. history for everyone making over $25,000 in 2011. But that’s another story. Sorry suckers!)
Here’s where I’ll have to give specifics about my income (gulp, blush). I am a family practice physician (the proletariat of medicine) and I have been in practice for about 7 years. I went to 5 years of undergraduate college, followed by 4 years of medical school and 3 years of residency. I spent those 12 years poor, stressed out and sleep deprived and finished them over $200,000 in debt. As with most new physicians, my practice started slowly. The first day at my clinic I had exactly zero patients scheduled. But through the years my practice has grown and I usually see between 32 and 38 patients a day now. Last year my taxable income was $241,546, of which $64,769 went to taxes and over $50,000 to student loans (not tax deductible if you make more than 60K). This year I’m projected to make just over $260,000.
As you can see, I have crossed into what Obama considers the “ultra rich” category. A few weeks ago I was talking to an accountant friend about this (shout out to Aaron G. Evens). I asked his advice on how I could keep more of my money should Obama win the election. His answer was surprisingly simple - “Just work less.” So now, instead of trying to find ways to work more, be more efficient, see more patients and provide more healthcare, I am trying to find ways to work less in order to keep more. I am considering taking an extra half day off a week or just taking more vacations. This will mean my medical assistant, who is trying to support her family on about $27,000 a year, will also have fewer hours to work and will make less money. It will also mean my clinic will make less money. When my clinic makes less money we hire less support staff or sometimes we have to do lay offs.
More importantly, this will mean my patients will have a harder time getting in to see me. Currently patients can get in to see me within a week or two. That wait time for appointments will increase, probably to about a month. (My partners who see fewer patients a day are booked out 2-3 months.) I know my small practice is only a drop in the bucket of healthcare in the U.S., but I’m sure thousands of your primary care physicians are making the same calculations that I am.
There might be other ways to keep myself out of Obama’s higher tax bracket. I could give more money to my church or to other charities for the deductions. But, believe it or not, forced altruism is not as motivating to me as working for my favorite charity - myself and my family. Joe Biden has characterized people like me as “selfish” and “unpatriotic” for not wanting to pay more taxes. Evidently Ann Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness is not required reading for U.S. senators. I had to read it in my high school English class when I was 17. I guess the last century has not taught us that government disincentives to work are very real and very poisonous to economies and cultures.
One of Obama’s campaign slogans was “Hope.” My hopes may be a bit different from his. I hope that he does not keep his idiotic pledge to raise taxes in the middle of a recession. I hope that if he does, that for the first time in recorded history he succeeds in taxing a nation into prosperity. Also, I hope that for the first time in history a government taking control of the healthcare system actually improves the quality of healthcare instead of giving citizens equally crappy care and waiting lists. I hope I’m wrong about all of this. Since America has made a clear choice for socialism, hope is all we have left.