“For us to say that you’ve got to take responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” President Barack Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in September 2009, when a divided Congress was wrestling over the controversial measure.
The reason was obvious: Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress didn’t want to get tagged with the pro-tax label. Calling it a “penalty” was more palatable to lawmakers who had to stand before their constituents.
But last Thursday, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court said the individual mandate provision in Obamacare — the linchpin that holds it together — was constitutional under the federal government’s taxing powers.
In other words, Obamacare does constitute a tax.
As a wise man once asked, “Were you lying then, or are you lying now?”
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion Thursday, essentially put the “tax” label on Obamacare. At the same time, he put this sign on the Democratic Party: “The party of taxes.” ... Here’s how that tax will be phased in during the first three years of Obamacare for individuals who don’t have health insurance. It will be due when they file their federal income taxes for each year:
* 2014: A $94 tax, or a tax that equals 1 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater.
* 2015: A $325 tax, or a tax that equals 2 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater.
* 2016: A $695 tax, or a tax that equals 2.5 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater.
By year three, that’s a stiff hit to a lot of wallets. No wonder the president and his allies preferred the word “penalty.”
Americans need better access to health care and more affordable coverage. If the president supports new taxes to pay for his plan, that’s his choice. But Mr. Obama and the Democrats can’t have it both ways. They can’t claim that Obamacare is good for the nation and argue that it’s not an additional tax.
Hence, “The party of taxes” label, courtesy of the Supreme Court. It fits. The president and other Democrats will be wearing it in November.