Sebastian Mallaby writes,

The same argument holds for tax incentives to buy health insurance. Just over a quarter of this subsidy is swallowed by households in the $100,000-plus bracket; far from promoting the wider dissemination of health insurance, it may even reduce it. Affluent Americans use the subsidy to buy all-inclusive health plans, which in turn causes them to throw money at health services; health inflation goes up, making insurance too expensive for poor families. The Treasury estimates that the ranks of the uninsured could be reduced by at least 1 million if the tax deduction for health insurance were capped at a reasonable level.

Read the whole thing. He makes the reasonable point that the labor-left agenda–trade protection, increased unionization, and raising the minimum wage–probably would do little to achieve the supposed goal of helping the poor at the expense of the rich.

On the other hand, if we stop using the tax system as the vehicle to subsidize housing, saving, and health insurance, that would promote equality. Hence, the argument for tax reform.

People on the left pose the friend of the poor. But they won’t get on board for means-testing of entitlements or tax reform. Instead, they heave insults at the Sebastian Mallabys of the world.

See also posts from Greg Mankiw on Mallaby, The Earned Income Tax Credit, measuring poverty, and Brad DeLong.