A recent Facebook post by some friends caught my eye today, and though I was initially skeptical, I went ahead and checked it out. It was a link to a video by Dave Ramsey, a financial advice radio host, breaking down Obamacare using math.
Initially, I was pleased to see that he began the segment stating that math is important, and that it doesn’t change whether you’re a conservative, liberal, Republican, or Democrat. And then, I waited for the math…
I’m still waiting. In fact, the only time Dave actually mentions numbers, they’re either hypothetical, or outright lies. For example, he states that 46% of Americans don’t pay any taxes, right before he states that we all pay 15% of our salaries to Social Security. Are you fucking kidding me—this guy’s a financial guru of some kind?
So, let’s talk actual facts:
1) The tax rate on Social Security is 6.2% for employees, 6.2% for employers, and 12.4% if you’re self employed. So, I guess if you’re self employed, it’s close enough to 15% that I’ll give the guy a pass, but for the vast majority of us, it’s nowhere close to that (and don’t be a dummy and suggest that the employer would pass on all 6.2% if they didn’t have to pay the tax; they’d keep all or most of it).
2) Every single person who’s employed pays payroll taxes, i.e. the Social Security tax. So unless 46% of all Americans are unemployed (which they’re not), claiming that almost half of our population doesn’t pay taxes is not only wrong, but deeply misleading and insulting; I can’t think of anything worse than having to pay taxes only to have the Republican Party look at you as a freeloader.
But Dave Ramsey’s not a Republican, you say? What a lark—what an absolute laugh! The man begins by using liberal and socialist as synonyms, and ends by complaining that the Affordable Care Act amounts to communism. But that’s fine, I won’t kill the guy for his political stripes—it’s just frustrating that he puts on this façade of neutrality when it’s clear to which camp he really belongs.
OK, so let’s get to his “math”, which is really just a bunch of vague hypothetical’s that show this man does not possess one shred of the “intellectual honesty” he begs of his listeners. His primary issue with Obamacare is that sick people cannot be turned away by insurance companies, and therefore, he says, everyone’s premiums are going to rise, because the insurance companies will be paying out more money in claims. And if it stopped there, I’d have no disagreements with him.
But it doesn’t. See, if sick people don’t have insurance, it doesn’t stop them from being sick. Those people will still go to the hospital, only, instead of being on an insurance plan that can mitigate costs, those costs (usually emergency room care—by far the most expensive) get passed onto the system. In other words, someone has to pay, and in the end, insurance premiums rise to cover much of those costs. This is one of the main reasons that health insurance premiums, prior to the passage of Obamacare, were exploding upwards, having risen almost 200% since 1999; since 2010, however, the rise of health care costs has slowed significantly.
Dave also forgot to mention the fact that the reason there’s an individual mandate for EVERYONE to buy insurance is precisely to deal with the problem he identified. By forcing healthy people to enroll in health insurance (and at a much lower cost than would have been possible before Obamacare), those companies get to add tens of thousands of new, low-risk customers to their revenue stream, which will keep premiums down. Finally, the new health care exchanges, where consumers can shop for insurance, will increase market competition, and as any capitalist knows, competition is good for the consumer.
Look, in the end, I don’t know to what degree Obamacare will be successful—my guess is that it will probably be better than what we had before, but how much better, who knows? However, what I do know, is that if you leave massive variables out of a math equation, you’re going to get a fucked up solution, which is what Dave Ramsey gave his listeners.
The great irony is that he gave an entirely partisan viewpoint to people that are already inclined to agree with him, many who share his political philosophy, and even though his eight minute rant is littered with falsehoods, exaggerations, omissions, and outright lies, it worked! My friend’s comments were something like: “can’t argue with math,” and “it’s just math.”
Once again, it just shows that people who listen to conservative media are SO MISINFORMED that it’s almost impossible for them to make rational decisions about politics. Their pundits, be it Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, or Dave Ramsey, leave so much information out of the dialogue, get so many facts wrong, and lie on such a regular basis, that their listeners might as well be living on another planet. It’s really sad—and at some point, you’d think they would have enough self-respect to stop listening to people that lie to them all the time.
I don’t doubt that this fucking guy can help people save money by telling people to save money, but that’s about it. Beyond that, I would certainly be careful about taking his financial advice to heart… I mean, he can’t even do math.