Sunday, July 11, 2010

Linda Bergthold: Your Health Insurance Will NOT Be Taxed Next Year

Linda Bergthold: Your Health Insurance Will NOT Be Taxed Next Year: "

There is another email making the rounds that claims that the new health reform law requires that you pay taxes on your employer-sponsored health insurance. It's not true. Politifact rates this email 'pants on fire' and Snopes also rates this 'false.'

The email says the following:

Starting in 2011--next year--the W-2 tax form sent by your employer will be increased to show the value of whatever health insurance you are provided. It doesn't matter if you're retired. Your gross income WILL go up by the amount of insurance your employer paid for. So you'll be required to pay taxes on a larger sum of money that you actually received. Take the tax form you just finished for 2009 and see what $15,000.00 or $20,000.00 additional gross income does to your tax debt. That's what you'll pay next year. For many it puts you into a much higher bracket. This is how the government is going to buy insurance for fifteen (15) percent that don't have insurance and it's only part of the tax increases, but it's not really a 'tax increase' as such, it a redefinition of your taxable income.

Politifact explains why this is not true about as well as anything I could write, including the following explanation (although Politifact does acknowledge that there is one piece of the email that is accurate):

The chain e-mail is correct that employers will be required to start listing the cost of insurance. The requirement starts for the tax year 2011, so employees will see it on the W-2s they receive in 2012.

But that amount will not be taxed. Current law excludes health insurance from taxable income, and there's nothing in the health care law that changes that.

Why is this provision in the law? It is there to assist the IRS in determining who has health insurance and who does not, because when health reform is fully implemented, there will be penalties for people who do not have health insurance and increased taxes starting in 2018 for the so-called 'cadillac' plans -- plans that have a value above $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for family policies

Requiring employers to report the value of the health insurance they provide employees is not a bad idea, by the way. Most people have little idea how much their employer contributes, because they pay only a portion of the premium -- usually around 20 to 30%. The W2 will make it clear just what the value of that insurance is to the employee.

If you want an excellent summary of the provisions of the new law, go to the Kaiser Family Foundation (no relation to Kaiser health plans) website and look at the section on 'new taxes.' As mentioned above, employer provided health insurance is NOT taxable and the law does NOT change that provision.

There are no fewer than 4,250 'hits' on Google related to the key words 'HR3590 and 2011 W 2 forms'. Most of these sites repeat the misrepresentation of this provision in exactly the same words as the original email. Few sites question the accuracy of the information and most are fairly hysterical about it. In fact, I was only able to make it through 8 pages of the Google search before I gave up on websites such as well regulated American militias, swamp bubbles, duck south, and divorce forum. So if you receive this email or hear about it -- pass along the accurate information!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Weekly Address: Help for Vets with PTSD

Weekly Address: Help for Vets with PTSD: "

President Obama announces that the Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Shinseki, will begin making it easier for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to receive the benefits and treatment they need.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Michael Winship: This Fourth of July, Celebrate 1776 -- The Movie

Michael Winship: This Fourth of July, Celebrate 1776 -- The Movie: "

As we commemorate the Fourth of July, one of the joys -- and there are many -- of life in these United States is that you never know what the hell we, the people, will say next.

There's the delightful teenage girl in Montclair, New Jersey, who when informed this week that the nice married couple nearby had been arrested as Russian intelligence agents, joked to The New York Times, 'They couldn't have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas.'
On the other end of the comedy spectrum there's House minority leader John Boehner, who scoffingly told the conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that financial reform was akin to 'killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.' Yep, the bank-fueled economic meltdown that created those 8 million U.S. job losses and $17 trillion in lost retirement savings and net worth was one heck of an anthill. Good one, John.
But one remark that really floored me occurred last week when I was interviewing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski before an audience at the Silverdocs documentary film festival just outside Washington, DC. At the end of the conversation, which covered everything from net neutrality and broadband access to the fate of investigative journalism in cyberspace, we took questions from the audience. One gentleman had several brief policy questions and then, of all things, asked Genachowski to name his favorite movie.
'1776,' the chairman instantly replied, with Fiddler on the Roof a close second.

Yes, 1776, the film version of the Broadway musical comedy by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone that turned the signing of the Declaration of Independence into a song-filled romp through eighteenth century Philadelphia. Ben Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson even dance down a staircase in Independence Hall.

You could have knocked me over with a quill when Genachowski said it. But truth be told, 1776 is a favorite of mine as well. I wouldn't rank it anywhere near such greats as Casablanca or Chinatown or The Godfather or Some Like It Hot and The Thin Man (to name but a few), but I saw the movie when it first came out in 1972, still tune it in when it pops up on cable and have even seen a couple of staged revivals of the original play, one at a dinner theater in Maryland where between scenes the actors playing delegates of the Continental Congress served up prime rib and strawberry shortcake.
Yes, it's corny; many of the jokes are groaners and some of the lyrics edge toward crossing that Spinal Tap fine line between stupid and clever. But there's something deeply stirring about seeing the Founding Fathers as human beings, their foibles broadly drawn, their desire for freedom duking it out against prejudice, self-interest and resistance to change.

'What's so terrible about being called an Englishman?' Continental Congress delegate John Dickinson asks Benjamin Franklin. ''The English don't seem to mind.'
'Nor would I,' Franklin replies, 'were I given the full rights of an Englishman. But to call me one without those rights is like calling an ox a bull. He's thankful for the honor, but he'd much rather have restored what's rightfully his.'

In some ways, this sparkly paean to patriotism is a subversive little hand grenade, its liberal politics woven into the plot at a time when Richard Nixon was still in the White House. In an exchange that stings even more now than it did then, John Hancock tells John Dickinson, 'Fortunately there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy,' and Dickinson replies, 'Perhaps not. But don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor.'

When the movie version was released its producer, Jack Warner -- allegedly at the behest of Nixon -- removed a song, 'Cool, Cool Considerate Men,' sung by loyalist, conservative delegates who smugly shout, 'We have land, cash in hand, self-command, future planned!' According to 1776 writer Peter Stone, 'The opponents of independence were very much involved in commerce and profits, so they were very much allied to modern conservatives. Nixon didn't want Americans to be reminded of this as he faced re-election in 1972, and the country was preparing to celebrate it's bicentennial. I think that's why he hated the song, and why Jack Warner took it out.'

Luckily, the missing footage was found and has been restored to the version we see today on TV and DVD.

1776 is a reminder that the embrace of the status quo in the face of revolutionary ideas is nothing new. Nor is bloody legislative compromise or our ongoing frustration over a Congress mired in petty squabbling, unable to take action.

At the beginning of the story, John Adams sings, 'A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere, or a cataclysmic earthquake, I'd accept with some despair. But no, You sent us Congress! Good God, Sir, was that fair?' Later he laments, 'I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress!'

But the Tea Partiers and Glenn Becks of America who scorn government and who have tried turning the Founding Fathers into libertarian deities will find little comfort in 1776. As Franklin says in the film, 'We're men, no more no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed.' Rather than fall hopelessly into endless name-calling and mudslinging like today, ultimately these men engaged in forthright debate and overcame ideological differences that threatened to stop their revolution before it began. They managed to produce a nation, an experiment outlined in a Declaration of Independence that is, as the movie version's John Adams says, 'a masterful expression of the American mind.'

And they did so realizing, as a character in the film says -- quoting the words of conservative icon Edmund Burke, member of the British Parliament -- that a representative owes the people not only his industry, but his judgment, and he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion.

So watch the movie and see what you think (Turner Classic Movies is playing it on the Fourth of July). I'd match 1776 against The Last Airbender or that Karate Kid remake any day.

Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television in New York City.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Caption Contest – Wookiees Are Great Mechanics – Winners

Caption Contest – Wookiees Are Great Mechanics – Winners: "

What a great contest this week! There were so many lulz to choose from, It made it really tough to pick my favorites!

funny car photos - midoban

Caption By: midoban

funny car photos - phelan

Caption By: phelan

More After The Jump…

funny car photos - gullenalcott

Since I got more than ten of these, I chose the first one I received that correctly quoted from the script.

Caption By: gullenalcott

funny car photos - adam lunn

Caption By: adam lunn

funny car photos - tarcas

Caption By: tarcas

funny car photos - bikemanjoey

Caption By: bikemanjoey

Seriously, there were too many good ones to pick from. Thanks for participating! See you next week for another contest!