Health benefits should be taxed as incomeOne fact not...

the Forum

December 16, 1993

Health benefits should be taxed as income

One fact not often mentioned about President Clinton's proposed health care plan is that employer-paid health benefits are a form of tax-free income to employees.

The employer considers these tax-free benefits as business costs. Thus if small businesses are required to pay health benefits, many will be forced out of business because their customers will not pay the increased prices.

According to the 1990 census figures, the U.S. population is 248 million. Of these approximately 70 percent, or 175 million people, are over the age of 20, and of those 7 percent, or about 12 million people, are unemployed.

This leaves 163 million tax-paying, voting citizens. It is not unreasonable to assume that 25 percent, or 40 million people, work for companies which provide medical plans as a benefit.

The administration estimates that company-paid benefits amount to approximately $1,800 annually per person. This means that the value of company paid benefits for these 40 million people amounts to some $72 billion given away tax-free to employees.

If these "perks" were counted as additional income they would be taxed. Using the minimum tax rate of 15 percent, the uncollected federal income tax on $72 billion would be about $10 billion. This could go toward balancing the budget and paying for some of the health costs.

Let us return to the use of personal responsibility for health care.

Margaret J. White


Unfit to serve

Now we have the surgeon general of the U.S. advocating the legalization of drugs.

While she is entitled to her own opinions, her views constitute an extreme minority in the country. I have to agree with her critics that she is not the right person for the job.

Dr. Joycelyn Elders uses prohibition as an example of what happens when something is banned. She overlooks, perhaps conveniently, the costly damage that has resulted from alcoholism and the many deaths caused by drunk driving.

Over a decade ago, governments suggested lotteries as a method of bypassing the criminal element involved in the numbers rackets. When the states got into the lottery program, people who never gambled before started.

When one looks at the lines of those purchasing tickets, one can see people spending money which would otherwise be applied to the necessities of family life and savings for the future.

Legalizing drugs would only expand the use, not curtail it.

A far better approach would be to begin going after the purchasers of drugs, holding them for a period in some medical facility to dry out, just as is sometimes done to drunks on the street.

Of course, this will mean medical confinement for some high-level professions, sports figures, entertainment stars, etc., who do not go to Macy's to buy this stuff but get it from the criminal element.

The Sun reported last month that cars from Columbia and other affluent areas are coming to Baltimore to make purchases. Maybe it is time we start picking up the drivers. After all, it is the market that is creating the crime.

Richard L. Lelonek


Just good friends

Your article "Lesbians changed course of history, biographer claims" (Nov. 30), cites "self-described political gay journalist" Dell Richards' recent book claiming that several well known women of earlier eras were lesbians.

Ms. Richards admits that she does not know this for a fact but only "looked at the evidence and came up with my own conclusions."

In the case of Miss Edith Hamilton, however, the evidence is flimsy indeed: Miss Hamilton lived and traveled with another woman!

I attended Bryn Mawr School (where Miss Hamilton had been a much-respected headmistress) for 12 years, and I taught there for more than 20 years. During that time I knew a number of unmarried female teachers who shared living quarters with a colleague or some other woman for the sake of balancing the budget. Does this mean that they were lesbians?

In the case of Miss Hamilton, who did not have to worry about the budget, I am sure she was delighted to turn over the running of the household to her younger friend, giving Miss Hamilton the freedom to pursue her writing.

Many women travel with other women, be they unmarried (of all ages), widows or married women whose husbands prefer to remain home.

Just because a woman enjoys the friendship of another woman, or of women in general rather than men, does not prove that she is a lesbian.

Ms. Richards obviously does not know it, but some women -- and I am sure Miss Hamilton was one of them -- are far more interested in intellectual companionship than in sexual pursuits.

Mary W. Griepenkerl


Liberal bias?

In her column "The myth of liberal medial bias" (Other Voices, Nov. 23), Janet Kersten disproves her own thesis by revealing her own liberal bias.

She conducts her own survey and finds only three of 73 pundits in the media to be "liberal."

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