An odd thing to say during tax week: "No one I’ve met is looking for a handout" JWF reminds us of some of Obama's supporters, who very much were looking for a handout.

Yet what struck me about the line was something different: why would a tax refund be a "handout" in any case? I'll be getting a tax refund this year, partially because I paid withholding at a higher rate than proved to be necessary, and partially because we bought a house and were eligible for the tax credit associated with that.

In the first case, it's not a "handout," because the government is simply returning money of mine that they've held onto for a year or so, collecting the interest (which they will be keeping).

In the second case, it's not a handout, because the government is still returning my money. It's just decided, for policy reasons, that they might like to have me spend my money directly to help stabilize the housing market, rather than spending my money for me. All that money was paid by me into the fund, though, and they held onto it. If they send it back, it was mine to start with.

It's important to understand how this works, because this 'health care' business is going to work the same way. The government decided to make itself a party to my transaction, in order to make housing purchases more attractive. We bought the house back in the fall. The government will, they say, return the tax credit to me soon. So essentially I fronted the money twice: once to the government (in taxes), and once to the bank (for the house). The government held onto "their" portion of that money for another six months (collecting the interest!). Now presumably they'll consent to keep their part of the bargain by refunding "their part" of my money to me.

This was Dennis the Peasant's explanation of how your forced health insurance purchases will work. If you are in the income range to be eligible for government "assistance," it comes as a refundable tax credit. So, this is the deal:

1) You front the money, both by paying taxes and paying for the insurance.

2) Maybe we'll pay you back the tax part.

3) We keep the interest.

4) We kindly imply, on tax week, that we don't think you're "looking for a handout" by collecting your refund.

What a deal!

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