So the Supreme Court ruled that the Obamacare mandate was not constitutional as a mandate, but it was constitutional as a tax. I find this very disappointing and also ironic, but I am surprised to see so many conservatives claiming this makes Obamacare the largest tax increase in American history.
Let’s get the obvious liberal hypocrisy out of the way. Obama had forcefully insisted that the penalty on the individual mandate was not a tax. Conservatives everywhere are quoting this clear interview with George Stephanopoulous:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Under this mandate, the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don’t. How is that not a tax?
OBAMA: Well, hold on a second, George. Here — here’s what’s happening…
STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be, but it’s still a tax increase.
OBAMA: No. That’s not true, George. The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase...
…George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase…
It would be funny if it wasn’t such a serious issue. And, of course, there is also Obama’s famous promise that he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year (not that breaking promises is anything new for the man). Clearly, the administration is guilty of saying the mandate penalty was not a tax to appeal to the public while claiming the penalty was a tax to appeal to the judges.
But none of this makes the mandate penalty “the largest tax increase in American history.” The penalty only applies to the small percentage of Americans who choose not to purchase insurance while not being considered poor enough to get it for free. So what are these conservatives talking about?
Rush Limbaugh seems to think it means that “insurance premiums have just been called a tax,” but of course that is ridiculous. The court determined that the penalty for not buying health insurance was a tax, not the health insurance itself. It would make sense if we actually had a truly socialist single-payer system, but we don’t. You either pay insurance premiums to an insurance company or a “tax” to the government. You might say that you’re being forced to pay something either way, so what’s the difference, but 90% of the country already had health insurance anyway. So even if you somehow construe the premiums as a tax, it’s a tax that most of us were already paying, and thus not a huge increase.
Others seem to think it has to do with the CBO’s analysis that Obamacare would cost $1.76 trillion over 10 years. But that is doubly misleading. Again, the penalty was ruled as a tax, not the entire law. And even if it was, the cost of the government to administer the bill is not a tax but the exact opposite of a tax – spending money instead of collecting it.
Others are just getting metaphorical and saying Obamacare “now stands as a highly regressive tax on middle- and lower-income families, a tax on jobs, a tax on youth, a tax on health, a tax on freedom of choice.” I more or less agree with that, but again, that doesn’t make it “the largest and most regressive tax in American history.”
Am I missing something here? If conservatives are going to accuse Obamacare of being the largest tax hike in history, they need to provide some specifics to back it up. Tell us how much money the penalty is projected to bring in – or how it adds to the other taxes already in the bill – and how that compares to other historical tax hikes. Tell us what is now the second-largest tax hike in history so we can see that Obamacare is now higher.
If you can’t do that, you should just stick to accusing Obama of being hypocritical about calling the penalty a tax. That was deceptive enough. We don’t need to add our own deceptive statistics into the mix.
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