By Tamzin Rosenwasser, M.D., of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).
The IRS reportedly has belatedly awakened to the horror that employees of Google, Twitter and Facebook, in defiance of Milton Friedman's dictum that "There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch," have been given free lunches by their employers. The IRS has decided that Friedman must have been right and that the "free" lunches are costing the government money. Who'd a thunk it – the IRS on the same side as Milton Friedman, who has been termed the economist "most closely associated with" free-market capitalism?
Defenders of the free lunches argue that the meals benefit the companies more than their employees, thereby becoming a deductible expense. Arguing these things with the IRS resembles theological arguments that can never be settled, such as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The IRS is man-made, but it assumes godlike powers, and its pronouncements are as cryptic as those of the Oracle at Delphi. Its jungle of arcane rationalizing, full of snares and pitfalls for the citizen, has spawned a mirror-image jungle of lawyerly verbiage. The arguments could easily be carried on like the Hundred Years' War.
Advertisement - story continues below
The most recent arena for convoluted, tortuous IRS dictates is the fraudulently named "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," which provides that anyone who has not bought federal government-approved medical insurance by 2015 will be fined up to a maximum of $2,448, or for a family of five, up to $12,240. So, Americans are to be forced to purchase a product, which has skyrocketed in price due to the mandates, and fined large sums if they do not do so. It's a wonderful way to "help" the poor and to ensure "fairness." This is all a part of making medical care "affordable" by inserting a gigantic bureaucracy between people and their physicians – and giving free lunches called premium subsidies to those who qualify based on complex IRS calculations.
The IRS wants to ignore the plain wording of the statute. The District of Columbia Circuit Court ruled last week that the tax traps in Obamacare are not applicable in the 34 states in which the states themselves refused to set up Obamacare exchanges.
The federal government jumped into those states and set up federal exchanges. Jonathan Gruber, who brags that he wrote part of the bill and knows more about it than any other economist, had told the audience at the Noblis Innovation and Collaboration Center in January, 2012: "If you're a state and you don't set up an exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits." He characterizes the subsidies as "credits," not as free lunches. And by the way, if any workers claim a subsidy, it triggers huge fines for their employers. He admitted that that provision was a coercive measure aimed at the states, but the majority of them resisted it nevertheless, no doubt to his chagrin. He had set up a lucrative business advising states on how to set up state exchanges, after being paid $400,000 for working on the bill itself. The free lunch of the subsidies was attached to a tax on employers whose workers took advantage of it. Now he is trying to deny that he said that and assert the opposite, that "federal" means the same thing as "state" in this case.
To some free lunches, the IRS turns a blind eye, such as the ones the very wealthy senators and representatives get, and the deluxe meals and vacations the Obamas take. When is the IRS going to start fretting about those free lunches?
Advertisement - story continues below
Finally, what about the get-out-of-jail-free card the government is giving to former IRS official Lois Lerner, her cronies and whoever ordered her to do the sordid bullying of American citizens?
Dr. Tamzin Rosenwasser earned her M.D. from Washington University in St Louis. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine and has practiced Emergency Medicine, as well as Dermatology. She is a member (and former president) of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).