Ever since the latest GDP report said the economy grew at a 5% rate in the latest quarter I have been thinking of the theme song for the Jeffersons, Movin’ On Up. Surely With 5% growth everyone should be feeling a little wealthier like the Jeffersons. Here are some of the lyrics from that song.
Well we’re movin on up,
To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up,
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.
The irony is that despite 5% growth I do not feel wealthier in 2014 and am pretty sure my wealth in 2015 will diminish even more. So I started exploring the GDP contributions and found that most of the gain in Real Personal Consumption Expenditures(PCE) is attributable to health care(23.8%).This is not too surprising since health care has growing faster than every other PCE category since I started working in 1976. As long as our politicians were unwilling to slow down health care cost increases, it was just a matter of time before it would be number one. What was surprising was that the next three largest contributors were Financial services and insurance(16.3%), Recreational goods and vehicles(14.1%), and Motor vehicles and parts(12.8%). Missing in action were those durable and non-durable stalwarts of clothing, furnishings, food, gasoline, and housing. Obviously this health care economy is a much different economy than the Jeffersons were enjoying in the 1970s. The “Jeffersons” in this economy are definitely not moving on up. That is when I started thinking about my number one financial problem for 2015, health insurance.
In a previous post I mentioned that my grandfathered insurance premium for January 2015 will be $479. This is up 18% from my 2014 insurance premium of $407 and up 54% from my 2011 premium of $311. The lowest cost bronze plan in 2015 would cost me $923. As a person whose last insurance claim was made in the 1990s I think the fair market value for my health insurance is probably around $311 and everything charged above that amount is the equivalent to a wealth redistribution tax. From the perspective of my employer I got a raise since they paid more for my services. Unfortunately for me my raise did not buy clothing, furnishings, or bolster my retirement savings. Instead it went to pay other people’s medical expenses and insurance.
Unfortunately for the Affordable Care Act supporters it is an easy argument to show that income inequality increases when the health care economy is based primarily on redistributing wealth between different parts of the middle class. It did not have to be that way. Reforming health care costs was an essential part of health care reform and an integral part in supporting a growing the economy and creating good paying jobs. Instead we see a health care system that is dominating the economy and is literally sucking the growth out of other sectors of the economy. It looks like we are in a race to the bottom. Milton Friedman would probably have this to say.
A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.