Green Room

Obama: Healthcare mandate is not a tax BECAUSE I SAID SO

posted at 8:40 am on September 21, 2009 by

During his Magical Mystery Tour of the Sunday chat shows, Pres. Obama took ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on a trip Through the Looking Glass on the question of whether the health insurance mandate is a tax:

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: No, but — but, George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase…


STEPHANOPOULOS: I — I don’t think I’m making it up. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary: Tax — “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

OBAMA: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition.

Stephanopoulos went to the dictionary because — having been in a similar position during the Clinton era — he knew Obama would try to deny that the individual mandate is a tax. Yet Pres. Audacity rejected the notion that a dictionary should be considered as to the definition of a word. Lewis Carroll would be proud:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

Thw Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen may groove on that sort of newspeak, but not even the left-leaning Moderate Voice’s Jazz Shaw was buying it. During the George H.W. Bush administration there was a “duck test” for taxes and the individual mandate waddles and quacks like a tax. Indeed, if you don’t pay the mandate, you also pay a tax.

Nor are these the only taxes mandated by the various flavors of ObamaCare. The Baucus bill would impose a new sales tax on drugs and medical devices and a new federal excise tax on insurance plans that exceed $8,000 for an individual and $21,000 for a family. Sen. Jay Rockefeller — not a member of the VRWC — calls the latter “a big, big tax” on the middle class.

It is not surprising that Obama would deny the mandate is a tax; the mandate is already unpopular, and — if fully debated — likely will fail to attract even Democrats. But people understand that ObamaCare means tax hikes — and they know Obama knows it. Blatant dishonesty only damages the president’s credibility, assuming he has any left on the issue. At some point, all the president’s men won’t be able to put Humpty together again.

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Obama seems to have no trouble saying that he “signed the stimulus bill without a single earmark” and no one calls him out on it. So, I’m thinking he will take the line from HR3200 : “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax” and people will fall for it.

mdgwiz on September 21, 2009 at 11:56 AM

I had no idea George Stephanopoulos was so racist.

DrAllecon on September 21, 2009 at 2:24 PM

If Jazz Shaw ain’t even buying it, why does Obama even get up in the morning?

Evrviglnt on September 22, 2009 at 12:03 AM

Indeed, if you don’t pay the mandate, you also pay a tax.

Right…and who administrates the penalty if you don’t pay the mandate? … The IRS … and what’s the mechanism … your 1040… but it’s not a tax.


NickelAndDime on September 22, 2009 at 8:42 AM