“Medicare For All” is more appealing when you hide the enormous tax increase

According to the Washington Post, the “dam is breaking on Democrats’ embrace of single-payer” for healthcare as a fourth member of Congress co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for all” bill. But the Post makes no mention of the cost for this bill.

Why, you ask, would they only discuss the benefits to be received without mentioning the cost? Hmm…

Heading over to Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All website, one finds that the cost is estimated to be $1,380,000,000,000. That’s $1.38 trillion.

Bernie Sanders then lists seven ways to raise the required revenue–new taxes, tax increases, and closing loopholes. The largest source of revenue would be a “6.2 percent income-based health care premium paid by employers,” in other words a 6.2% tax on income to be paid by employers, as if employers will just eat the tax increase without passing it on to employees or customers. On top of this is a “2.2 percent income-based premium paid by households,” i.e., a 2.2% tax increase.

Given that all but one of these additional sources of revenue involves directly or indirectly a tax on income, lets just look at the tax increase in aggregate. This year, the federal government is expected to generate revenue of $3.46 trillion. A $1.38 trillion tax increase is the equivalent of all tax rates rising by 40% (40 percent, not 40 percentage points). In other words, social security taxes would have to rise from 6.2% to 8.7%. The lowest tax bracket would have to jump from 10% to 14%. The 25% tax bracket, in which most American probably reside, would need to leap to 35%. And the top tax bracket would have to go from 39.6% to 55.4%.

Bernie Sanders wants to pay for his Medicare For All by taxing the rich. He raises the top tax bracket from 39.6% to 52%, but only on those earning over $10 million. Other high-income people see smaller increases in their income taxes.

How do lower-income earners fare in his proposal? Probably even worse than their high-income counterparts. Although Bernie Sanders tries to hide it by calling one new tax a “6.2 percent income-based health care premium paid by employers” and another a “2.2 percent income-based premium paid by households,” these are, in effect, tax increases of 6.2% and 2.2%, the first to be paid by the employer, who will surely pass all or most of the cost along, and the second to be paid by the earner. If one looks at one’s income tax rate as the total of his income taxes plus social security taxes plus medicare taxes, the lowest tax bracket will go from a current 25.3% to 33.7%, a 33% increase. That may not be the portion paid by the individual, but it’s the amount the government takes and it is the amount paid by earner either directly through his taxes or indirectly through lower wages or highest consumer prices.

The Medicare For All website also claims that a typical family earning $50,000 would save $5,800 in healthcare spending. He does not mention that the new taxes of 2.2% and 6.2% total $4,200. So the saving as much smaller. But the website also points out people currently receive “tax breaks that subsidize health care” to the tune of $310 billion. These would be eliminated under the plan. The website does not say much does a typical family earning $50,000 receive in these “tax breaks.” I wonder why. Needless to say, that $5,800 in savings all but disappears when one accounts for the tax increases and the removal of tax breaks.

Now it’s clear why the Washington Post does not mention the cost of this “Medicare For All” bill. It’s also clear why the Medicare For All website gives a clear picture of how much a typical family saves but not how much it will cost them.

It’s much easier to give away goodies when people think they are free or someone else is paying for them rather than tell them how much it will cost them. If politicians were required to disclose the costs in addition to the benefits (much like a drug advertisement is required to reveal the side-effects), socialist proposals like Medicare For All would surely gather less support than when everything appears to be free.

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Michael E. Newton on “Discovering the Earliest Known Records of Alexander Hamilton” and “A “Jest” Gone Wrong: Nicholas Cruger’s “Supposed Duel” on St. Croix”

My talk today at Liberty Hall Museum about about Discovering the Earliest Known Records of Alexander Hamilton and A “Jest” Gone Wrong: Nicholas Cruger’s “Supposed Duel” on St. Croix.

If you have trouble watching the video here, please see the video on Liberty Hall Museum’s facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/libertyhallmuseum/videos/1803776389648810/

New Hamilton Discoveries to be Revealed on July 6

On Thursday, July 6, at 1:00 p.m. (to be repeated at 3:00 p.m.), I will share my recent discovery of the earliest known records of Alexander Hamilton and their implications to Hamilton’s biography. These records predate Hamilton’s letter to Edward “Ned” Stevens of November 1769 and the probate record of Hamilton’s mother from February 1768.

I’ll also be sharing a previously unknown story about Nicholas Cruger, Hamilton’s boss on St. Croix, and his “supposed duel,” which caused a “sensation” and much “disorder” on the island.

The event will take place at Liberty Hall Museum at 1003 Morris Avenue, Union, NJ 07083. A similar event last year sold out, so please reserve your seat at http://www.kean.edu/libertyhall/events/young-immigrant-hamilton-tour-july6.

If you can’t attend, the event will be live streamed on Liberty Hall’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/libertyhallmuseum/

Doctoring Newspapers for PBS’s “Hamilton’s America” Documentary

Like every other fan of Alexander Hamilton the man and Hamilton: An American Musical, I was eager to watch the PBS documentary about the making of the musical, titled Hamilton’s America, which aired on October 21, 2016. I knew that this documentary would be a mix of Alexander Hamilton history and behind-the-scenes footage of the development, production, and staging of the musical. And while I enjoyed most of the documentary, I was sorely disappointed in some of the historical inaccuracies.

Now, we all know that there are historical inaccuracies in the musical. Most of these are perfectly fine as Lin-Manuel Miranda used his poetic license to tell the story. Lafayette being in America and meeting Hamilton before the war even started is one such example. Everyone knows it didn’t happen that way, but it made sense from the musical’s perspective to present it that way. Other inaccuracies were mistakes to which Miranda has admitted, like when Angelica Schuyler said, “My father has no sons,” when he in fact had three sons. Others are errors that have come down through history and which the musical repeats, like the oft-repeated tale of Martha Washington’s tomcat named Hamilton.

As a piece of fiction, Hamilton: An American Musical is immensely enjoyable. Moreover, it gets most of the history right and certainly captures the spirit of Hamilton’s life and of the period. So even when this nit-picky historian points out inaccuracies in the musical, he does not intend to diminish the great work created by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the other producers and performers. It is only done to educate those who would like to learn more about Alexander Hamilton.

However, when PBS produces a documentary, I expect more accuracy and certainly don’t expect them to mislead the viewer. And yet, that is exactly what happens in at least one instance. Talking about Alexander Hamilton’s life on St. Croix in the Caribbean West Indies, the documentary of course discusses Hamilton’s account of the great hurricane of 1772, which was published in St. Croix’s The Royal Danish American Gazette. On screen, they present this image of the newspaper.

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Alexander Hamilton’s hurricane account, as published in The Royal Danish American Gazette, as shown in PBS’s Hamilton’s America

According to this image, Hamilton’s hurricane account was published in The Royal Danish American Gazette on Sunday, September 6, 1772. At the top of the newspaper’s first column appeared a preface introducing Hamilton’s account. Hamilton’s writing then appears on the top of columns two and three.

Unfortunately, none of this is true. This image is a complete fake. It was doctored for the purpose of presenting in this documentary.

Here’s what the newspaper featuring Hamilton’s hurricane account really looks like:

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First of all, you probably noticed that Hamilton’s hurricane account appears on the second page of the newspaper, not the first. Not only is that less dramatic than having it on the first page, it makes it more difficult to present quickly on the TV screen. And in order to make Hamilton’s hurricane account fit on the first three columns of the first page, they didn’t just copy and paste the original into their desired position, but they actually retyped it. Of course, they styled it to look like it was original to 1772 because they wouldn’t want the viewer to think it was fake.

Second, you might notice that while Hamilton’s newspaper account is dated September 6, 1772, it was not published until October 3, 1772. And yet, in PBS’s version, the newspaper with Hamilton’s account was published on September 6.

Third, there is one part of PBS’s image that is original: the beautiful masthead of The Royal Danish American Gazette. But even here, PBS erred. PBS copied the masthead with volume and issue numbers from Vol. 3, Issue No. 235. You’ll see in the real newspaper featuring Hamilton’s essay that that the issue of October 3 was No. 234. Issue No. 235 was published October 7, 1772.

Fourth, since PBS used the masthead from October 7 and no issue of the newspaper was published on September 6, PBS had no choice but to retype the date under masthead. What’s most amazing is that The Royal Danish American Gazette was published only on Saturdays and Wednesdays. But September 6, 1772, was a Sunday. So, in very large letters, PBS typed “SUNDAY.” Even to the casual eye, that “SUNDAY” stands out as inauthentic.

To summarize, PBS changed the layout of the newspaper, retyped the text of Hamilton’s hurricane account, retyped and changed the date of publication, and had the wrong issue number. The only original things about it were the words written by Hamilton and the masthead, which was taken from a different issue.

Perhaps it’s just the historian in me caring too much about historical accuracy, but I expected more from a PBS documentary.

Angelica Schuyler Church’s portrait of Thomas Jefferson by John Trumbull (with a Cruger twist)

In the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, amid much larger and more famous paintings, hangs a small portrait of Thomas Jefferson with a most interesting history for any fan of Alexander Hamilton or the Hamilton musical. In 1786 and 1787, John Trumbull visited Thomas Jefferson in Paris. With Jefferson’s “assistance,” Trumbull began painting The Declaration of Independence on a small 21-inch by 31-inch canvas. This small painting became the basis for the huge 12-foot by 18-foot painting of the same name that hangs in the U.S. Capitol.

John Trumbull also used the original The Declaration of Independence as the source for three small portraits of Thomas Jefferson. One of the portraits was given to Maria Cosway, a married woman whose amorous correspondence with Jefferson has historians debating whether their relationship went beyond words. Another was given to Thomas Jefferson’s daughter. The other portrait of Jefferson painted by Trumbull was given to another one of Jefferson’s close friends, with whom he also wrote numerous flirtatious letters, Mrs. Angelica Church, known to many as the eldest of the Schuyler sisters. Luckily for fans of both Alexander Hamilton and Angelica Church, this portrait hangs in Gallery 753 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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John Trumbull’s Thomas Jefferson [Metropolitan Museum of Art] (© Michael E. Newton)

Fans of the real Alexander Hamilton who know a thing or two about his biography (that’s not mentioned in the musical) will also enjoy the provenance of this painting. When Angelica Church died in 1814, this painting was inherited by her daughter, Catherine. Catherine was married to Bertram Peter Cruger, who happened to be the son of Nicholas Cruger, the man who befriended and employed Hamilton back on St. Croix in the 1760s and 70s. Trumbull’s painting of Jefferson stayed in the Cruger family for three generations until Cornelia Cruger bequeathed it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1923

Treasures Hidden in Plain Sight: Two Alexander Hamilton Clocks

Alexander Hamilton is everywhere! He’s in books. He’s on our currency. He’s even on Broadway. Of course, Hamilton can also be found in the numerous museums that display his portrait and curate exhibitions about him (for examples, see here, here, here, and here).

Perhaps you even saw some pieces of Hamiltonia in these museums without noticing them. For example, how many you saw the recent Battle of Brooklyn (Long Island) exhibition at the New-York Historical Society? Did you see the copy of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer from April 20, 1775? Here’s their description and a photo I took of the newspaper (sorry for the quality):

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Rivington’s New York Gazetteer, April 20, 1775 [New-York Historical Society] (© Michael E. Newton)

Did anyone notice this advertisement in the above newspaper?

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Rivington’s New-York Gazetter, April 20, 1775 [New-York Historical Society] (© Michael E. Newton)

Here we have A.W. Farmer (Samuel Seabury) replying to an essay entitled The Farmer Refuted. I’m sure you all know who penned that essay—the one and only Alexander Hamilton. With no mention of Hamilton in the description, few people probably paid any attention to this. (For those who are curious, Seabury’s Republican Dissected was never published.)

Much more interesting, in my opinion, are a pair of clocks directly connected to Alexander Hamilton on display at two different museums not far from each other.

In the lobby of the New-York Historical Society, not far from Hamilton’s writing desk, a portrait of Hamilton by John Trumbull, and exact replicas of the dueling pistols used by Hamilton and Burr in 1804, is a clock attributed to Robert Joyce:

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Robert Joyce, Tall Case Clock [New-York Historical Society] (© Michael E. Newton)

The NYHS explains, “According to tradition, Hamilton presented this clock to the Bank of New York in 1797 to commemorate the opening of its Wall Street headquarters… Founded by Hamilton in 1784, the Bank of New York was the center of the city’s financial life and helped the federal government establish a firm economic footing. After four years on its board of directors, Hamilton left to serve as the nation’s first secretary of treasury.” [Note: Hamilton was one of the founders of the bank, not the founder.]

A similar clock with a similar tale is also on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

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Robert Joyce, Clock [Metropolitan Museum of Art] (© Michael E. Newton)

If you didn’t see this clock the last time you visited the Met, I’m not surprised. It can found all by itself at the second-floor entrance to the American Wing in what can best be described as a hallway (technically it’s Gallery 703). I often watch dozens of people walk right by it without paying any attention. Some see me looking and taking pictures of the clock; only then do they take notice of this clock. Robert Joyce produced this clock “circa 1795” (according to the Met website) or “circa 1797” (according to the description next to the clock). According to the description, “This monumental tall clock by Robert Joyce, who trained and worked in London and Dublin before establishing himself in New York, was presented by Alexander Hamilton to the Philadelphia-based Bank of the United States around 1797.”

Thus, we have two beautiful clocks given by Alexander Hamilton in or about 1797 to the two leading banks in the country in two different museums less than a mile from each other. Please do visit these two clocks, enjoy their fine craftsmanship, and connect with everyone’s favorite Founding Father. And if you visit both clocks on the same day, be sure to stop at the statue of Alexander Hamilton as you walk from one museum to the other.

 

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Walking route between Metropolitan Museum of Art and New-York Historical Society with stop at the Alexander Hamilton statue (© Michael E. Newton)

 

Inspiration: Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire and Carle Vernet’s The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus

During my recent trip to New York City, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New-York Historical Society. I try to visit the Met every time I’m in New York to see the special exhibits and some of my favorites (Vermeer, Van Gogh, Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware). As the Met is so large, I never have time to see everything and am able to see different things each time.

When I’m in New York, I occasionally visit the New-York Historical Society depending on what special exhibits they have. With an exhibit on the Battle of Brooklyn (Battle of Long Island), the NYHS was on my long list of things to do during my brief visit to New York.

I visited the New-York Historical Society first. When I entered Dexter Hall, the main painting gallery of the museum on the second floor, I was pleasantly surprised to and see my favorite paintings: Thomas Cole’s five-painting-series The Course of Empire (1833-1836).

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Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire [New-York Historical Society] (© Michael E. Newton)

A brief intro for those who don’t know about these paintings. The Course of Empire shows the rise and fall of an empire. Thomas Cole clearly had ancient Rome as his inspiration but painted them as a warning to the United States to not follow the same course. Thomas Cole starts with The Savage State (1834) where the landscape is in its natural state with just a few nomads in view, moves on to The Arcadian or Pastoral State (1834) as farmers move in and start to develop agriculture, jumps to The Consummation of Empire (1836) with the great wealth and power of an imperial city on display, declines into Destruction (1836) as the empire falls and the city is destroyed by barbarians, and concludes with Desolation (1836) where all that remains are the ruins of a formerly great city.

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Thomas Cole’s The Savage State [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

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Thomas Cole’s The Arcadian or Pastoral State [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

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Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

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Thomas Cole’s Destruction [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

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Thomas Cole’s Desolation [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

I am not sure when Cole’s The Course of Empire returned to the museum but they had been in storage and away on loan for some time. The last few times I visited the NYHS, these paintings were not on display, but I did see them in July 2013 at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown in an exhibit on The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision (no photography was permitted). Prior to that, I saw them at the New-York Historical Society in June 2010 when the museum was closed for renovation but they granted me access to see them in storage because I had used two of the paintings for the cover of my first book, The Path to Tyranny, because that book, like the paintings, detailed the rise and fall of free societies.

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Michael E. Newton with copy of The Path to Tyranny in front of Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society] (© Jay  G. Newton)

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Michael E. Newton with copy of The Path to Tyranny in front of Thomas Cole’s Destruction [New-York Historical Society] (© Jay G. Newton)

After years of not seeing these paintings at NYHS, I had forgotten they were there and was pleasantly surprised to see them. As usual, I stood gazing at them for a few minutes as I soaked in their greatness. Unfortunately, I had other things to do that day and could not stay longer.

A few days later I made my customary trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was there mainly for their special exhibits on Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven and Valentin de Boulougne: Beyond Caravaggio, but wandered through my favorite parts of the museum. They recently rearranged some of the European art. One such room (Gallery 613) is now called “The Salon on the Eve of the Revolution.” Here, I happened across a painting I had either never seen before or just never noticed, Carle Vernet’s The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus (1789).

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Carle Vernet’s The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

 I was immediately struck by how similar the triumphal parade in this painting is to that in Cole’s The Consummation of Empire.

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Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

The similarities of which I speak are more evident after zooming in on the triumphs/parades taking place in the two paintings.

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Detail from Carle Vernet’s The Triump of Aemilius Paulus [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

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Detail from Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society]

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Detail from Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society]

Clearly, they are not identical, but Cole’s triumphal parade with its ostentatious display of wealth to show his imagined empire at its peak and an honored hero holding a scepter in one hand and a tree branch in another is reminiscent of the parade in Vernet’s painting. I have no idea if Thomas Cole saw Vernet’s The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus when he was in Paris in 1831–32 or if the paintings by Vernet and Cole were both inspired by an earlier work, but the two appear remarkably similar in my inexpert opinion. (In my searches, I have been unable to find anyone else comparing these two paintings.)

Art experts, feel free to comment on the similarities and differences between these two painting or to suggest common inspiration for both works.

N.B. Thank you to art historian Dianne Durante for your critique and advice.