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02 May, 2013

A Clear Need for Levies

Though some thoughtless critics may lament the number of logical fallacies* within the arguments provided by the Government and its supporters when they defend proposals to fund a National Disability Insurance Scheme by the imposition of a new tax—which we must call a “levy”—, it cannot be denied that we need “levies” because our current taxes are proving sadly insufficient to fund the various progressive but imprudent proposals, projects and promises of our benevolent but spendthrift Government.
Stella Young, in an emotional and persuasive article, “Why fund NDIS? Because one day you might need it” supports the Government’s plan:
For people with disabilities, myself included, discussions about the money are simply beside the point. We don’t think about the NDIS in terms of dollars; we think about it in terms of showers per week, mobility aids that meet our needs and general access to our communities.  […]
The Productivity Commission recommended the NDIS be funded from general revenue. That’d be great wouldn’t it? Imagine if support for people with disabilities were considered core business in a wealthy country like Australia.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case and in the past few days, the Government has raised the prospect of a levy.
The levy would be an addition to the Medicare levy currently paid by Australians – an increase from 1.5 to 2 per cent.  That amounts to an extra $300 per year for the average person.  The Opposition has refused to rule out a levy as a means of funding the scheme, so that’s looking like a pretty likely scenario.  […]
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is an investment in all Australians.  It’s not about people like me who currently live with disabilities, it’s about all of those who might in the future.
With the time to talk about funding comes the time to talk about what kind of country we want to be.  Are we a country who will pay 80 cents a day to ensure that all of us can participate?  Or are we a country who'll bury our collective heads in the sand so we don’t have to talk about it?
On Twitter, some charitable supporters explain that they’d not begrudge a relatively small outlay. For example, one bloke explains that, by paying a barely noticeable new tax, we’d be helping our friends or family:

Clearly, with such support, a new NDIS tax is essential and reasonable; but why stop with the NDIS levy?  Are not many other services required—to help someone you know, perhaps—which ordinary revenues, sadly, cannot fund?  It is surely evident that we need many more imposts.
For instance, you or someone you know may one day require medical attention, and only the most unsympathetic, hard-hearted misers would oppose more funding for hospitals and other health-services, so we need (inter alia): 
an adult incontinence levy;
a cosmetic surgery levy;
a dementia levy; 
a dental levy;

a doctors and nurses levy;
a fighting resistant strains of bacteria levy; and
a provision of wheelchairs and other aids not covered by the NDIS levy.
All sorts of unexpected disasters which could affect any one of us need to be funded, so we need (inter alia):
an affordable insurance levy;
a bushfire levy; 
a drought levy;
an emergency services levy;
a fire-service levy [see update v, below];
a flood levy;
an investigating why predictions of global warming were so wrong levy;
a throwing much more money to prophets of global warming anyway levy;
an unexpected global cooling levy; and
an unexpected and otherwise unconsidered event levy.
Governments can’t be expected to cover the costs of financial crises, so we need (inter alia):
a financial crash levy; and
a supervision of banks levy.
Only heartless citizens would oppose the provision of services to the less fortunate in the community, so we need (inter alia):
an affordable energy levy; 
an affordable food levy; 
an affordable housing levy; and 
an affordable public transportation levy.
Only mean, racist citizens would oppose the provision of services to “asylum-seekers” and refugees, so we need (inter alia)
an asylum-seekers levy;
an encouragement of religious and ethnic diversity levy;

a patrolling our borders in order to rescue boat-people levy; and
a refugees levy.
Only haters of children and uneducated boors would oppose more funding to schools, so we need (inter alia):
a further education levy; 
a literacy and numeracy levy; 
a provision of books levy;
a provision of computers levy; and
a teaching of semi-literate teachers levy.
Only bigoted misophilomophylists would oppose funding same-sex marriages, so we need (inter alia):
an encouragement of sexual diversity levy; and
a same-sex marriage levy.
Only criminals would oppose providing more funds for law and order and an improved justice system, so we need (inter alia):
a justice levy;
a locating and fining people who mock new taxes levy;
a police levy.
No reasonable person would deny that we need countless other levies, of course, such as:
an organic food levy
a plain packaging for junk-food levy;
a protecting forests from rapacious capitalists levy; and
a subsidising former forest-workers unable to find alternative employment levy.

With so many necessary levies, none of us would want the money raised to be frittered away on advertising or administrative costs, so we need (inter alia):
an administration of levies levy; and
an advertising new levies levy.
Each of these levies would cost but a dollar or so a day, which would be an almost negligible impost!  Some carpers may ask “what about all the other taxes we pay; aren’t they supposed to cover the costs of services?” Ha!—any money which remains after funding the administration of our Government must go to our politicians, fools. You don’t want the people who selflessly govern us for a small pittance to starve, do you?

*  including the fallacy of the single cause (wrongly assuming that there is but one cause of a problem), the fallacy of the false choice (whereby a possible solution is wrongly presented as being exclusive), the fallacy of the false dilemma (whereby two contrasting alternative solutions are wrongly presented as the only options), and the argumentum ad misericordiam (whereby feelings of pity or guilt are exploited).

UPDATE Isee “NDIS Scam A Shocking Betrayal” by Will Dallas Brooks:
My research, delivered to the NSW Department of Health […] showed that of every $1.00 spent by the State, 56 cents was inefficient expenditure.  Of that, 30 cents in every dollar was total waste [… but] if we were to eliminate health system inefficiency in public healthcare, we could fund a full National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) four times over. Every. Single. Year.
What the Government is proposing is a brand new bureaucratic nightmare to run alongside the public health system, and I dare say its waste levels would be as high, if not higher, than the current universal health model.
We have only to cut inefficiencies by a quarter to deliver a fully funded NDIS, commencing next year.  No new taxes (as proposed), no new bureaucracy, no new borrowings—a fully funded, working, integrated healthcare system.
The kind of system proposed by Kevin Rudd in 2007, which he could not deliver.  Nor his successor, Julia Gillard.
Because to eliminate that waste you have to make some tough choices, and that would make some very strong unions in the sector very unhappy.
Personally, I’d rather save lives than keep some union hacks happy, but hey, it appears as though I’m in the minority.
UPDATE IIsee “Julia, How Could You” by Larry Pickering:
In a breathtaking performance, and near to hyperventilation, [Julia Gillard] challenged Abbott to support her “half a percent” rise in the Medicare levy.  […]
Anyway, this morning the front bench is off and away suggesting Abbott is preparing to forsake the disabled.  […]
It was Abbott who initially suggested a bipartisan committee to find the best way to assist these poor people. Gillard told him to piss off.  It was her political football and she was the only one allowed to play with it.
Now she is challenging Abbott to agree to the Medicare impost or she will chuck wheelchairs at him in the final stages of an election.  Mmmm.
The jaw-dropping situation is that she doesn’t need Abbott to get the legislation through either House anyway.
So, why is Gillard attempting to publicly drag Abbott into this debacle when it has nothing to do with him?  […]
It’s her legislation.  It’s her Medicare rise!  She has the numbers to pass it!
But she wants Abbott to verbally disagree with the funding arrangements so she can make it appear that he objects to the disabled legislation... legislation he originally promoted!
Why would any person who cares about the disabled hatch such an evil plan?
She intends to use the disabled to disable Abbott.
UPDATE IIIsee “Lazy and lacking: NDIS levy will starve the scheme” by Terry Barnes: 
Last week the Grattan Institute estimated that, over the next decade, government health outlays will consume an extra 2 per cent or Australia’s GDP.  This is not because of an ageing population but due mostly to utilisation of costly tests, pharmaceuticals and procedures, the true cost of which consumers largely are ignorant about, thanks to Medicare subsidies.  By obscuring the real extent of the financial burden, mistaken public assumptions that the Medicare levy is all-inclusive make it harder to contain government healthcare costs, rein in excessive servicing and allocate scarce resources.  An NDIS levy would have exactly the same problem.  If set at 0.5 per cent it would pay only a quarter of projected government disability services costs, but the common belief still would be that it covers everything.
How would those concentric circles of public concern respond?
The inner circle—NDIS-eligible people with disabilities, their carers and families and the disability lobby fronted by former state politician John Della Bosca—are delighted at the prospect of a levy.
The middle circle, people not personally affected but knowing people who are, will grumble but accept the extra impost on their incomes.
But the majority in the outer circle, those to whom living with a disability has no personal relevance, will hate paying what is, after all, a tax increase.
They will lash out at the politicians who impose it but, sadly, too often, also at those with severe disabilities who struggle to exist and to whom an NDIS will be so vital and liberating. That would be a social tragedy and Australia's shame.
An NDIS levy is not only a lazy way of raising money by a government that wants credit for introducing the scheme but not to pay sufficiently for it.  There is also a real risk that if the Australian public assumes a levy covers the full NDIS cost, politicians of both sides will be oversensitive to that perception and starve the scheme of necessary financial resources above the levy revenue.
UPDATE IVsee also “NDIS levy: a general tax hike by stealth” by Julia Novak.

UPDATE V (3 May):  so, you thought I was joking?  You reckoned that governments are not considering imposing a new tax here, and a new tax there, for all sorts of essential services which ought to be covered by existing taxes, under the nom de guerre of “levy”?  See “Households to pay $300 for fire levy”, by Sean Nicholls:
Millions of property owners in NSW face a new levy to fund fire and emergency services, after an overhaul of how land is valued to determine land tax and council rates.  […]
The charge, first signalled in last year’s budget, means every property owner would face an annual charge of about $300 to fund fire and emergency services.
The person who next requires the aid of the fire and emergency services could be somebody you know, sad taxpayer of NSW, so, as Rob Coco wrote, “don’t start complaining about an extra $300 dollars [sic]”!

UPDATE VI (3 May)Wayne Swan helpfully provides an example of the “it’s barely noticeable—for fairness!” argument:

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