Taxing my patience

So Slate has this article about how the Republicans are trying to kill something called the Mortgage Interest Deduction. Other sources are piling on to this interpretation, spurred on my my least favorite economist, Lawrence Yun. For those not familiar with the tax code, that’s the bit that allows people who are paying on a mortgage to deduct the portion of the mortgage payment that is interest on the loan — not the whole payment. Technically, you’re also allowed to deduct certain other fees and property taxes.

Here’s the problem: it’s not at all true. The actual proposal is to almost double the standard deduction to $24,000. If you actually have more than $24,000 in deductions, you’ll still be able to claim the Mortgage Interest Deduction. However, for most people this standard deduction is high enough that they won’t need to itemize. Even Slate admits that some experts say this will benefit roughly 38,000,000 taxpayers!

The first benefit is that most people will have simpler taxes. No more complicated deductions to figure out. No more keeping track of documents from the mortgage company and all those little slips of paper you got from donating to charity. Congrats, your taxes may well be reduced to one document and an hour with TurboTax.

The second benefit is a little trickier. The 2016 poverty line is $24,300 for a family of four. This higher standard deduction means that families near the poverty line will not be taxed into poverty. It means that they can spend more of their income on goods and services rather than taxes. That benefits the family and the economy. A win-win situation. Don’t tell me poor people don’t pay income tax, because that’s a lie.

Hmm, where have I heard this idea before?

On Drugs

Today I received multiple emails urging me to voice my opposition to the “21st Century Cures bill.” Specifically opposed by Elizabeth Warren, it was passed by the House yesterday and is now headed for the Senate. Here’s one of the more level headed things written about it today.

So, here’s something that might concern you. This bill would specifically allow something called “off-label use” of drugs. More specifically, it allows drug manufacturers to mention these off label uses, rather than leave it to word of mouth among doctors. Critics call that “Fraud”, adding “If this bill passes, Big Pharma could market drugs as cures for all sorts of symptoms, not for the uses that were approved by the FDA. That sort of fraud puts people at risk.”

That’s simply not how it works.

Let me start with a common example that you or somebody you know might be familiar with. There’s a drug called Gabapentin, name brand Neurontin. It’s approved as an anti-seizure medication. The truth is, there are many better drugs for seizures, but Gabapentin is really good at controlling nerve pain (“neuropathy”). Many diabetics use this drug to control diabetic neuropathy (it’s cheaper than that stuff you see advertised on the TV, and has a longer track record for safety simply because it’s been around for years). So this bill would say that the makers of Gabapentin could run an ad saying doctors use this stuff all the time for neuropathy.

People like Elizabeth Warren who are calling this “fraud” think somebody should pay for a bunch of new research studies to prove what doctors and patients have known for years: this stuff works pretty well for something other than it’s original purpose.

The fact is that one out of five prescriptions written today is for an off label use — what critics are now calling “fraud” — and there are perfectly valid reasons for your doctor to write that prescription. In fact, if I can only get you to read one thing about this issue, let it be this peer reviewed article on the practice. Notice there’s an entire table of common off label uses, some of which are common sense (gee, morphine can treat severe pain in children, gotta do some studies on that one).

Of course heaven forbid we should address the fact that the United States is one of only two countries that allow drug manufacturers to market their products directly to consumers who — let me point this out — cannot purchase them without a prescription. Not complaining, it helps  my clients remember what some of those new meds do.

In Closing: bras; Greenwald pointing out reality again; 5 pre-screened articles by conservatives; a Home Depot employee in Alabama has virtual control of the underground economy in Venezuelaplease stick a fork in identity liberalism (it’s dead); and it’s been a long time since I’ve linked to anything in HuffPo, but it is still the economy, stupid.