Tax Breaks for Pets?
In our continuing focus on economic populism in Michigan politics, the following story borderlines on the ridiculous. US Representative Thad McCotter (R-Livonia) has recently proposed House Resolution 3501, the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years, or HAPPY Act, which would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow an individual to deduct up to $3,500 for “qualified pet care expenses.” How could anyone be against the “happy act?” That’s almost as bad as being against the “Patriot Act,” right?
Sarcasm aside, the great irony about all this, as bloggers on the left have pointed out, is that the GOP’s current proposed deductions for human health care only offer individual tax credits of $2,500, compared to the $3500 amount for pets. Of course, the left has used this point of irony as a battle cry for even more government health insurance, even though Medicare is one of the most expensive programs of an overall insolvent federal government.
And by acting “democrat-light,” by pandering to popular sentiment regarding the “needs of everyday American families”, McCotter has opened himself up to this type of criticism. It seems as though the Congressman is throwing out everything and the kitchen sink in order to win re-election before the critical US Census forces re-districting after 2010. But these efforts have come at the expense of his own advice to fellow caucus members regarding why the party lost its way.
Owning a pet is not a necessity, and these tax deductions are nothing more than a lifestyle subsidy for which someone else indirectly pays for in the end. In these touch economic times, we must re-evaluate what necessities truly are. Proponents of the bill have argued that is will 1) make “it more affordable for people to provide the care their pets need,” and 2) make “it less likely that pet owners who are suffering during the recession will abandon their pets.” This in turn is supposed to save local governments money over the long-term since ”many local communities and counties are overwhelmed by animal control costs, and those costs are exacerbated by people who do not spay and neuter their animals.”
But should people be encouraged to continue owning things that they cannot afford and pass some of these costs onto the rest of society in the form of tax deductions? Why not expect more personal responsibility on the part of each individual instead of creating government schemes that attempt to encourage or discourage personal behavior? Countless government programs that attempt to help those in need simply end up enabling the same negative aspects that the program sought to eradicate. Has LBJ’s war on poverty eliminated the problem after all of the billions that have been spent?
A founding first principle of this country is the rule of law, which requires that the laws of the land be written to apply to everyone equally and that these laws are simple enough for everyday citizens to understand. The Internal Revenue Code is the antithesis of this founding principle. Adding to its complexity with another yet another deduction does nothing to solve the underlying problem with how we collect taxes in this country in the first place.