Obamacare needs Aspen

by Jeremy Madden, Aspen Daily News Columnist
Following the troubled roll out of Obamacare, support for the Affordable Care Act has been hard to come by. It seems almost every day there’s another snag or unforeseen consequence upsetting someone. Little by little we are learning more and more about the intricacies and ins and outs our president’s signature piece of legislation.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Affordable Care Act is the role Aspen will play in its implementation. One might even go so far as to say that Aspen plays an integral part of the plan for keeping Obamacare alive. Obamacare is depending on Aspen for its survival. Obamacare needs Aspen.

Written somewhere within the thousands of pages that make up the Affordable Care Act is a section that says Obamacare needs Aspen. It’s part of the law. Written within the law is a little talked about tax that targets towns like Aspen.

According to the law one of the significant sources for funding Obamacare comes from an additional 3.8 percent tax on real estate sales of pricey properties made by high earners. The tax is levied along the lines of existing taxes on capital gains. Loosely speaking, couples who make more than $250,000 and sell a property that makes a profit of more than $500,000 are taxed an additional 3.8 percent on every dollar over the $500,000 threshold. The money from the tax goes back into the system to support the Affordable Care Act. As a community, Aspen is concentrated with people and properties that will be affected by this clause. Every time a multimillion-dollar property in Aspen is sold for a sizable profit a big chunk of change will go toward health care.

Some may say this sounds a bit like socialism. Maybe it is. But it shouldn’t bother anyone in Aspen. The city has been using the sales of property to redistribute wealth for years. By taxing buyers of property in the city, Aspen’s real estate transfer tax, or RETT, supports the Wheeler Opera House and affordable housing. So why not affordable care?

With all the taxes, buying and selling properties in Aspen is practically philanthropy and real estate agents should be seen for the fine folks they are. Too often, in places like Aspen, they bear the brunt of the blame and the abuse associated with gentrification. Unflattering terms like “Dirt Pimp” are often bandied about to describe them. But such harsh words are unfair and maybe they should become a thing of the past. Perhaps one day people will realize that all their hard work and hustle helps with housing and health care.

It’s also a little ironic that Obamacare depends so much on Aspen. Since he’s been president Barack has never even popped in for a round of golf at one of the valley’s many fine courses. Aspen is a Democratic stronghold with strong Chicago connections and it’s surprising he’s never come by. The first lady has stopped in on multiple occasions, but no Barack. Is it too much of a Clinton town?

Nonetheless, Aspen will do its part even if it means selling millions and millions of dollars of real estate. Aspen has always been a giving place and that’s not about to change anytime soon. Real estate sales may have slowed for a bit during the Great Recession but they’re poised to pick up, especially when people learn the proceeds of their sale are going to a good cause.

The Affordable Care Act will only be affordable because of places like Aspen. Without Aspen Obamacare could fail. Obamacare needs Aspen.

Contact at jerandmad@gmail.com.