Obama and the Democratic Party establishment argued during legislative passage that the individual mandate in the “Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010(the final reconciliation version of the House’s “Affordable Health Care for America Act” and the Senate’s “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”) was not a “tax.” A laughable argument. The language in the final bill calls it a tax, specifically an “excise tax.”
Beginning in 2014, individuals who do not maintain certain minimal health insurance coverage for themselves and their dependents will be subject to an additional annual excise tax. The excise tax will be the greater of (i) $695 per failure, or (ii) 2.5% of household income in excess of the threshold amount of income required for income tax filing.
The legislative language is clear as day. It was the talking points that attempted to obfuscate the obvious.
Obama, in the Democratic primary, argued against the individual mandate. It was one of the key distinctions between himself and Clinton(It should be recalled that Obama, in the primary, ran “Harry and Louise” ads against the Clinton Health Care plan) . After he was elected, he immediately delegated the crafting of Health Care legislation to the congress, which immediately began fashioning something that resembled the Clinton plan, with mandates and all. When Obama was propagandizing the merits of the Health Care Reform Bill to the press, he bristled at suggestions that the mandate was a “tax.” For example, the famous exchange with George Stephanopoulos.
“For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase”
Now that the individual mandate is being challenged in federal court by the attorney generals of various States, the Obama Admin has dispensed with the propaganda. As this New York Times article highlights, the Obama admin is very much arguing the constitutionality of the law based on the grounds that is indeed, a tax. From the New York Times:
In a brief defending the law, the Justice Department says the requirement for people to carry insurance or pay the penalty is “a valid exercise” of Congress’s power to impose taxes.
The law was passed exclusively by the Democrats and the final reconciliation bill was crafted by Democrats. Thus the language of the bill was specifically crafted to withstand a constitutional challenge; thus everything that could be construed as a mandate is cast as an excise tax or a fee.
Obama is often portrayed as a socialist, and apparently, based on polls, a plurality of Americans now share this opinion. But Obama is not arguing the case in court by making appeals to The Communist Manifesto or Das Kapital; rather he is merely relying on past American constitutional precedent. Quoting the Yale law professor in the article who supports the mandate:
Mr. Obama “has not been honest with the American people about the nature of this bill,” Mr. Balkin said last month at a meeting of the American Constitution Society, a progressive legal organization. “This bill is a tax. Because it’s a tax, it’s completely constitutional.”
Libertarians are often fond of the saying, “taxation is theft.” Well, there is a reason for that. Taxation lies at the root of class conflict. Yes you can force someone to buy a good from a politically connected monopoly. Just call it an excise tax.
Quoting from the New York Times article again:
The administration and its allies say that a person who goes without insurance is simply choosing to pay for health care out of pocket at a later date. In the aggregate, they say, these decisions have a substantial effect on the interstate market for health care and health insurance.
The Obama administration argues that the excise tax is an economic tax to ensure “the regularity” of the health insurance market. It then further invokes a New Deal era case, Wickard v. Filburn, in which the Supreme Court upheld penalties for farmers who exceeded their supply quotas, even if the agricultural product was for personal use.
I have to laugh because I think “Wickard v. Filburn” is a particularly appropriate metaphor for ObamaCare. And it’s as American as apple pie and excise taxes…