This weekend, my son got his first prescription for glasses.
My wife saw his face as the optometrist handed him a sentence in 12 point print to read unassisted, and then with the proper prescription in front of his eyes. Everything became sooooo much easier and clearer.
We will be getting him two pairs; a good pair for day to day use and a cheap back-up pair as he is seven and prone to lose and break things.
He’ll be able to see well on a regular basis some time next week.
Our vision insurance is paying for most of the costs. We have about $200 in copays and deductibles that we are responsible for. My wife put the charges on the debit card and handed me the receipts. I took them into work this morning, scanned everything in, sacrificed a small hoofed animal to the IT gods, and filed for a Health Reimbursement Account repayment.
So some time next week, my son will have glasses, and our society, in the form of a tax deduction, will be paying for about $40 of those glasses.
However this is absurd.
My wife and I are doing well. Yet, given how we, as a society, funnel help through the tax code in the form of deductions and exemptions, we get more help in our 2020 scenario than in our 2011 scenario where we were earning no more than half as much as we are on track to make for 2020.
If we are making a societal wide decision that people should get some help to pay for glasses for their kids, there is no coherent reason why my 2020 self should get more help than my 2012 self. There are very straightforward arguments that my 2012 self should get more help (declining marginal utility of the dollar means that my 2012 self valued that dollar a whole lot more than my 2020 self) and some slightly more complex arguments as well. But I can’t think of a strong policy argument in favor of my 2020 self getting more help than my 2012 self.