Monday, September 21, 2009

A tax by any other name...

Former Clinton flack George Stephanopoulos did a good job yesterday, drawing out Obama's patented stammer and making him squirm a bit on the question of whether the provision in ObamaCare's individual mandate that allows the IRS to forcibly collect money from those who fail to purchase medical insurance constitutes a "tax". My favorite part is when Obama accuses Stephanopoulos of "stretching" when he recites the definition of a tax from Merriam's dictionary. Obama insists it's merely a "fine". Hot Air has the video, so you can go over there to see it.

To me, the punitive nature of the individual mandate might be the least defensible part of ObamaCare. If it's a tax, then Obama lied about not raising taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year. If it's a fine, then that puts the government in the constitutionally awkward position of forcing citizens to buy a service they may neither need nor want.

Allahpundit provides the perfect explanation of just how this does, in fact, constitute an additional tax:
All of which avoids the basic point: Of course that “fine” is a tax. Imagine if you were allowed to “opt out” of police protection, with your annual tax bill reduced proportionately by the cost of police services that you wouldn’t be using. Inevitably, some who opted out would have a huge (i.e. hugely expensive) police emergency and would call the cops anyway and the rest of us would be on the hook for paying for it. Solution: End the opt out and force people to cover their share of the cost of police services whether they want to or not, which is exactly what cities do. You can call that an “individual police-fee mandate” if your heart desires but most of us recognize it instantly for what it really is — namely, a tax.
Another way to look at this is that health insurance premiums become taxes paid to a third party, while those without health insurance pay the tax directly to the government. How is that not a government takeover of health care?

Corrected: Obama accused George S. of "stretching", not "reaching". If one fails to remember correctly, is that dismembering?

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