Politicians have wised up during the past several decades. They have found new and improved ways to empty our pockets without us even realizing we've been had.
Occasionally, thoughtful people wake up to what's going on and protest. It happened this month at West Virginia University. More on that in a moment.
The key to staying in power in government is convincing a large number of people they're getting something for nothing. Think Obamacare for the millions of people who are getting health insurance at far below the cost of providing it.
Someone has to pay for all of this, of course. Here in the United States, we make extensive use of deficit spending to do that. Federal officials hope Americans will not understand the $17 trillion-plus national debt carries with it costs, such as inflation, to most of us. And, of course, there's the interest we have to pay to borrow that much money. It's about $225 billion a year. That amounts to about $725.80 annually for every man, woman and child in the country.
But there are more stealthy ways to tax us, as the politicians have learned.
Earlier this month, WVU officials complained that university employees with health insurance through the Public Employees Insurance Agency are being ripped off. Someone did the math and found that WVU employees pay about $54 million a year in PEIA premiums - but get only about $30 million in benefits.
And you thought insurance premiums were based on risk. Not when the PEIA is involved. State officials decided a few years ago to calculate premiums based on government employees' incomes. Higher income PEIA clients pay higher premiums. That allows the politicians to provide lower-income workers insurance at less than the actual cost of coverage. The hope, of course, is that they'll remember that at election time.
The PEIA scheme isn't even chicken feed, compared to Obamacare, of course. Millions of new clients have been added to the Medicaid program. They get free health insurance. Millions more have some of their premiums subsidized by the government.
It would take more space than we have in today's paper to explain all the concealed taxes used to take money out of many Americans' pockets to cover government health care benefits for lower-income people.
One way is to charge inflated premiums for insurance. If the government decides you can afford it, you pay full price. Some of your money can be used to subsidize those the bureaucrats decide can't pay the true cost.
In the Medicaid program, health care providers are told they can bill the government only for specified amounts for certain procedures - regardless of the actual cost. Many Medicaid providers react by increasing charges to those who can pay cash or have conventional insurance, in order to cover the loss on Medicaid.
To look at another concealed tax, let's go for a ride:?Before leaving, we'll fill our car's gasoline tank - but 10 percent of what we pump into it will be corn-based ethanol rather than petroleum-based gasoline. It has been claimed that reduces fuel prices.
It does not. Ethanol-blended gasoline is more expensive for several reasons, including the fact your car would get better mileage with pure petroleum-based fuel. But ethanol blending is a federal mandate, so we all pay more.
Your electric bill is higher because of federal emissions controls. Your phone bill is padded by taxes to provide services someone in Washington likes. Sugar costs more because of government protection for that domestic industry. Your new car costs more because the government has decided how safe you should be in a crash.
But here's the thing: Politicians have gotten so good at convincing us money grows on trees that we don't do anything about concealed taxes. We pretend they don't affect us.
Consider this: Folks at WVU are upset they're paying more for PEIA health insurance to subsidize coverage for other people. But Obamacare is the same thing. Haven't heard any complaints about it from the WVU crowd, have you?
Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org