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Romney: Healthcare Mandate Is a Tax

In what was an otherwise slow 4th of July news day, Mitt Romney’s declaration that the core element of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act—the individual mandate—is in fact a tax did provide some political fireworks. Romney’s comments came just two days after his chief campaign spokesman said the governor believed the mandate should be called a penalty rather than a tax.

While the process was messy, Romney seems to have come to the right place. If the Supreme Court says it’s a tax, and it would be unconstitutional if it wasn’t a tax, then it must be a tax. The administration and the congress may have chosen to call it something else for political purposes, but that’s not the point. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says politicians have to be truthful, but the Court has to look at the actual meaning of the laws as they are passed to define what they do (as opposed to what they say they do) and then decide whether the law is consistent with the government’s constitutional powers.

That the administration and congress lied (or, more charitably, were clueless) about the most important law in the last generation will likely fuel the fires on the right. And that’s especially true because it seems certain to me at least that if this thing had been called a tax increase, it would never have passed.

An unpopular bill passed by sleight of hand is a bad thing to defend; if Governor Romney and the Republicans can present the issue from that angle, the health care law may prove an albatross around the neck of the Democratic Party through November.

To make that work, Governor Romney will have to scrape the Massachusetts health care law off his shoes one way or another; to do that, his campaign needs to start presenting a consistent and clear position on the health care law from here on out.


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  • thibaud

    “his campaign needs to start presenting a consistent and clear position on the health care law from here on out”

    Yes, indeed, they need to. But they can’t. Because ObamneyCare is Robamacare, and both rely on a tax that’s not a tax, that’s a “mandate.”

    Which mandate, we were told by none other than Governor Romney, and the right-wing Heritage Foundation and the GOP establishment – for YEARS – was a good and necessary part of health insurance reform.

    Which is why Gov. Romney placed it at the heart of his own health insurance reform plan, and actually IMPLEMENTED it.

    It may be amusing to watch Gov. FlipFlop turn cartwheels ‘cross the floor on this issue, but it’s sad to see Mr Mead distort the truth.

    Mead knows better than to pretend that one side only has been disingenuous on this issue.

  • Thrasymachus

    When the health care bill was passed, literally nobody (including Roberts himself) were anticipating that the individual mandate would be upheld on the basis of Justice Roberts’ finding that it was not a “regulatory penalty” but a “tax.” It is therefore an embarrassing stretch for you or others to claim that the Billy’s supporters “lied” about this issue to secure its passage. At worst, they were incorrect; and I think that reasonable minds can differ with the Court’s holding even now without being guilty of “lying.”

    This kind of overheated rhetoric is of no help in sorting out the real issues at stake in this election, and to the extent that blogs like this one stoop to using it, they will cease to be useful as well.

  • WigWag

    If the penalty on Americans who don’t purchase private health insurance is a tax delivered via the good graces of President Obama, what is the penalty for Massachusetts residents who don’t purchase health insurance in Massachusetts called? Isn’t that a tax delivered by the good graces of Governor Romney?

    There was a reason why the Romney Campaign was initially reluctant to label the penalty a tax; he created the exact same mandate through tax policy in Massachusetts.

    It should be highly entertaining watching Romney bob, weave and dissemble his way out of this one.

    I’m laughing already.

  • thibaud

    I would laugh, too, if the stakes weren’t so high.

    While our craven political class twists itself into pretzels in order to deny the obvious – healthcare overall DOES NOT TURN A PROFIT; its deficits cannot be funded without TAXATION – the rest of us have to deal with the casually cruel, incoherent, extraordinarily wasteful system that they’re trying desperately to preserve.

    For the benefit, above all, of for-profit health insurance leeches’ profit streams.

    In hopes of moving forward, those readers wishing to understand how it is that other advanced nations deliver excellent healthcare at half the per-capita US cost can educate themselves with TR Reid’s excellent global survey, “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.”

  • thibaud

    Laugh at these outtakes of Romney defending the mandate, year after year, on national public TV, in private emails, on the stump.

    Laugh, or maybe wince. Check these out:

    Brett Baer, FOX News: “So Governor, you did say on camera and in other places, [the Massachusetts model] would be a ‘model’ for the entire nation…”

    Gov. Romney: “First of all, it’s not worth getting angry about. This’s an unusual innerview…. Ha ha ha ha ha”


    Actually, it’s worth getting VERY angry about.

    We should all be angry, and should start demanding an end to the blatant hypocrisy and lying by a political class that is deep in the pocket of an insurance industry that in any other advanced industrial nation would be far smaller, far less profitable (if even allowed to pocket profits – in many countries, private insurance is non-profit only).

  • thibaud

    Writing’s on the wall. Poor Romney.

    Voter support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul has increased following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding it, although majorities still oppose it, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday showed.

    Among all registered voters, support for the law rose to 48 percent in the online survey conducted after Thursday’s ruling, up from 43 percent before the court decision. Opposition slipped to 52 percent from 57 percent.

    The survey showed increased backing from Republicans and, crucially, the political independents whose support will be essential to winning the November 6 presidential election.

    Thirty-eight percent of independents supported the healthcare overhaul. That was up from 27 percent from a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken days before the justices’ ruling. Opposition among independents was 62 percent, versus 73 percent earlier.

    “This is a win for Obama. This is his bill. There’s not really any doubt in people’s minds, that it belongs to him,” said Julia Clark, vice president at Ipsos Public Affairs. “It’s his baby. It’s literally been labeled ‘Obamacare’ … which maybe it works in his favor now that there’s a little bit of a victory dance going on.”

  • thibaud

    Of course, the “majorities [that] still oppose” the ACA include a fair number of people who think it doesn’t go far enough – about 20-25% of those who oppose it, if past polling experience is still accurate.

    In other words, huge majorities oppose Romney’s foolish and callous defense of the insurer-mafia’s abuse of the “pre-existing condition” copout as well as anything that doesn’t sever the link between employment and insurance, ie anything lacking a public option.

    Thank goodness for Chief Justice Roberts. Team Obama certainly thanks him. Some champagne will need to be sent down Pennsylvania Ave in November.

  • The Reticulator

    “An unpopular bill passed by sleight of hand is a bad thing to defend; if Governor Romney and the Republicans can present the issue from that angle…”

    I agree. But a lot of people, even those on the right who are totally opposed to ObamaCare (as I am) don’t seem to be coming at it from this angle, at least not so far. We’ll see.

  • Jim.


    The only thing that matters here is that there is only one candidate in the race whose election could result in overturning this whole ghastly mess — and it isn’t Barack Obama.

    As far as the right being “disingenuous” here… please be aware that since 2010 (2008, really) the GOP is experiencing a change of management. The idea that government can mandate individuals to buy a product or service for the sake of social engineering is anathema to the new, grassroots, “tea-infused” GOP, whatever the old left-for-dead “George W” GOP (and its swiftly-recalibrating presidential candidate) might have once thought.

    Change, guys. Isn’t it a good thing?

  • juliuscancer

    Nobody ‘lied’ about the mandate being a tax. It may seem innocuous to say so, but it’s a cheap and fleeting political point that perpetuates a trivial, divisive culture, and cheapens the significance of such a charge when it is needed. The fact is, many people, republicans in congress (prior to Obama, naturally), Romney, Hilary, democrats, and the Obama administration all argued that the mandate was a penalty. It became a ‘tax’ only after the court ruling (analogous to a man and woman becoming husband and wife after the pronounces it), and if the court rule otherwise it wouldn’t be so. The administration made many arguments, on this particular one they (and Romney et. al) were over ruled. If this is what constitutes a lie in the Obama administration, we might all consider how far we have come from his predecessors.

  • MarkE

    Romney could start by saying he made a huge mistake in Massachusetts and has learned from his experience, unlike his opponent who is still worshipping at the shrine of failed policy. Nobody likes the policy in Massachusetts. Doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies hate it. Patients can’t get in to see a doctor.
    Besides if somebody really loves the idea of socialized medicine they can move to Taxachusetts and try it out. The states are laboratories for policies.

  • Jim.


    Obama specifically avoided referring to this as a tax because he and other Dems had pledged not to raise taxes.

    Roberts showed that they were opportunistic liars, plain and simple.

  • thibaud

    “Romney could start by saying he made a huge mistake in Massachusetts and has learned from his experience, unlike his opponent who is still worshipping at the shrine of failed policy. ”

    Romney could, and no doubt at some point will try this, just as Maxwell Smart used to roll through one “Would you believe…” gambit after another.

    But it’s a bald-faced lie. Romney and various other members of the GOP establishment were actively PUSHING FOR THE MANDATE in 2008 and 2009.

    The GOP owns the mandate. It’s a Republican invention that a timid and callow Dem president adopted in order to avoid moving toward the logical solution to our health insurance mess.

    Obama didn’t and doesn’t have either the rhetorical/persuasive chops or the subject matter expertise to lead the nation toward the public option. So he copped out, and gave us Romneycare.

    This running farce is about as good a depiction of everything phony and dysfunctional about our current political class as you’ll find.

  • thibaud

    RedState’s Eric Erickson in March of this year on Romney’s blatant lies and hypocrisy re. the national individual mandate:

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