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Vail Valley Voices: Obama’s new math

If you’re old enough you may recall “new math,” the brief, dramatic change in the way mathematics was taught in American grade schools during the 1960s.

The name is commonly given to a set of teaching practices introduced in the U.S. shortly after the Sputnik crisis to boost science education and mathematical skill in the population so that the intellectual threat of Soviet engineers and reputedly highly skilled mathematicians, could be met.

New math emphasized mathematical structure through abstract concepts like set theory and number bases other than 10. Beginning in the early 1960s the new educational doctrine was installed including modular arithmetic, algebraic inequalities, matrices, symbolic logic, Boolean algebra and abstract algebra.



Up until recently, it was generally accepted that most of these topics had been greatly de-emphasized or eliminated. But vis-à-vis Obamacare, perhaps new math is alive and well and we’ve just been unaware of it.

According to news reports from ABC, NBC and CNN, the Internal Revenue Service will need to recruit, hire and train between 16,000 and 17,000 additional agents to enforce the Obamacare mandate.



If you’re not familiar with the mandate, it’s a pretty simple concept: The law states that by 2014 all Americans will be required to buy health insurance, and the IRS will be the arm of the government that enforces and collects from recalcitrant Americans. (The really heavy fines of 2.5 percent of income don’t go into effect until 2016.)

So what is the cost of enforcing Obamacare? Let’s be conservative in our estimates and assume the government hires only 15,000 new agents. Let’s also assume these agents are paid an average annual salary of $50,000 each, for a total of $750,000,000.

But these new agents will need internal support, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that the IRS will also recruit, hire and train three support personnel (secretaries, word processors, human resource people, receptionists, IT employees, etc) for each agent. Let’s again be conservative and assume these support personnel will be paid an annual average salary of $30,000.



Fifteen-thousand new agents with a salary of $50,000 each equal $750,000,000, while 45,000 support personnel earning an average of $30,000 each equal $1,350,000,000, giving us an additional salary expense of $ 2,100,000,000 annually.

But what about benefits, you ask? Well again let’s assume frugality on the part of government and estimate that benefits will cost 20 percent of salaries or $420,000,000, bringing us to an annual salary and benefits expense of $2,520,000,000.

But there are expenses to consider, too. We must allow for travel and other direct expenses for these new agents, so let’s assume each new agent has either a government vehicle or a mileage allowance. Add to that maintenance on the vehicles, meals while traveling as well as meeting expense, etc. which at $5,000 per agent per year, totals another $75,000,000. Now when we add the $2,520,000,000 in salaries and benefits to the $75,000,000 figure we arrive at $2,595,000,000 in annual salary, benefits and employee direct expenses.

But clerical-office environments incur operating expenses such as rent, utilities, equipment leases, permits, supplies, legal and accounting, repairs, maintenance, etc., which on balance usually equal about the same costs as salary, benefits and employee direct expenses. So we need to add an additional $2,595,000,000 for operating expenses, giving us a grand total of $5,190,000,000 in new annual expense to enforce Obamacare.

Projected over 10 years, this adds almost $52 billion to the cost of this bill, which was never taken into account by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Since the Congressional Budget Office can only calculate a score predicated upon what Congress sends it, it’s patently obvious that costing this enforcement expense was left out (an oversight I’m sure) when the bill was sent to the Congressional Budget Office .

The Congressional Budget Office scored the bill as reducing the deficit by $150 billion, an estimate we now know was at least $52 billion high. And since IRS oversight and enforcement language comprises just four pages of this new 2,700 page law, doesn’t it make one wonder what other hidden costs might be lurking in the other 2,696 pages?

While the new math of the ’60s failed miserably, perhaps a new Obamamath should be taught in our schools. At least then our kids and grandkids will be able to understand liberal accounting during the off-election years.

Quote of the day: “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” — Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)

Butch Mazzuca is an Edwards resident.


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