Memo to President Barack Obama: It's a tax.
Obama insisted on national television during the weekend that requiring people to carry health insurance and fining them if they don't isn't the same thing as a tax increase. But the language of Democratic bills to revamp the nation's healthcare system doesn't quibble. Both the House bill and the Senate Finance Committee proposal clearly state that the fines would be a tax.
And the reason the fines are in the legislation is to enforce the coverage requirement.
"If you put something in the Internal Revenue Code, and you tell the IRS to collect it, I think that's a tax," said Clint Stretch, head of the tax policy group for Deloitte, a major accounting firm. "If you don't pay, the person who's going to come and get it is going to be from the IRS."
Democrats aren't the first to propose that individuals be required to carry health insurance and fined if they refuse. The conservative Heritage Foundation called for such a mandate in the healthcare debate during the 1990s, although its proposal differed from the ones pending in Congress. Heritage has since dropped the idea and now favors using tax credits to encourage people to buy coverage carrots and not sticks.
During the 2008 political campaign, Obama opposed making coverage mandatory because of the costs. His position has shifted now that it's becoming clear that such a requirement will be part of any legislation Congress sends him. Conservative activists are calling it a violation of his pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class.
"This is exactly what George Bush Sr. did when he said he wouldn't raise taxes, and it cost him the next election," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "Obama is doing the same thing, but he's insulting people by telling them that if you don't call it a big purple banana, somehow it wouldn't be a tax."
Some liberals acknowledge that Obama might be vulnerable on the insurance requirement. But they contend that most people will understand as long as the legislation provides enough of a subsidy to make the coverage affordable. That's a central issue this week as the Senate Finance Committee starts voting on legislation.
"I think it's a metaphysical question as to whether it's a tax or not," said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future. "The real question that will determine whether people are upset is whether the insurance is affordable."
During an interview that aired on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Obama insisted that the insurance requirement is not a tax.
"For us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase," the president said. "What it's saying is . . . that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore.
"Right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance," Obama said. "Nobody considers that a tax increase.
"You just can't make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase," he said. But a Democratic staff description of Sen. Max Baucus' bill calls the proposed fines an "excise tax." Penalties of up to $950 for individuals and $3,800 for families would be imposed on those who don't get coverage.
The House bill uses a complex formula to calculate the penalties, calling them a "tax on individuals without acceptable healthcare coverage."
Did you get that? You're going to be fined if you don't have acceptable healthcare. Thats a federal mandate. Thats a tax. You MUST purchase coverage or you will be fined. Where in the Constitution does it give Congress the authority to do that? and don't give me the "promote the general welfare" BS. Thats in the Preamble.
I know all you obamabots just hate it when conservatives have a reasoned arguement against government healthcare/insurance reform/whatever the hell ya'll are calling it today, so when I found this little tidbit, I couldn't wait to post it.
Its the best response to the "the government requires you to have to have automobile insurance, whats the difference?" argument the obamabots are so fond of using. I can expand on this simply by explaining that liability insurance is not for your direct protection, it protects against potential property damage and personal injury that you MIGHT cause, if you have an accident. You are required to have it, but if you don't, you must pay an uninsured motorist fee to the DMV, and you will still be liable for any damages and medical expenses you cause.
Collision and comprehensive are not required unless you finance your vehicle. The bank requires you to have it to protect THEIR interests. Once the vehicle is paid for, you can discontinue coverage with no penalties.
From an article in the American Spectator, via my heart-throb, Michelle Malkin:
Obama argues at another part of the interview that, "right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase." But there are many reasons why this is a flawed analogy. Most importantly, car insurance mandates, which apply at the state level, only apply to people who drive a car on public roads. If I don't drive, I don't have to purchase car insurance. By contrast, the health insurance mandate would apply, with few exceptions, to everybody in the United States. Also, people aren't forced to report car insurance in their federal tax returns, and fines are not assessed through the federal tax code. And if car insurance mandates are the model, then they certainly aren't effective, with an estimated 13.8 percent of drivers going without coverage in 2007, according to the Insurance Research Council.