Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Legislative Cycle--Payment Limitation III (Wives)

In my previous post I left off at defining a "person".

Assume that I'm one of Garrison Keillor's Norwegian bachelor farmers. My operation is big enough that I could get $1,000,000 worth of farm payments a crop year. By "operation" I mean I own the land and equipment, provide the operating capital, do all the managing, hire enough day labor to do the work, and take 100 percent of the risk of growing crops. That is, I'm the farmer everyone thinks of when you say "farmer" (except that I may have a bigger operation than one expects). There's no question I'm a "person"--so once Bush's proposal is enacted I can earn $250K, but that's it.

What does that mean? It means that $750K that I can't receive is "left on the table" as we say. It means that any sharp lawyer or experienced bureaucrat who can figure out the rules can earn easy money. (If a lawyer figures out how I can get another $250K a year, surely he could ask for a third. And yes, if lawyers chase ambulances, gin up class action lawsuits, and create tax shelters, they also get into payment limitations.)

So I go to Sharpie Sam for advice. He tells me that Ole Olesen died a year ago, leaving his 10 acre farm to his wife. It's a small operation, but if I marry her I can probably claim that she's a "person" too, thus getting another $250 K.

Note: my description is based on my memory of the rules as of the mid-90's, though there hasn't been much change since. Over the last 35 years the rule on wives has changed, from considering husband and wife as one person, to allowing them to be 2 persons if both had separate operations before marriage.

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