July 20, 2010

NYT: WH Defending Statist Health Insurance Penalties As ‘Taxes’ In Court, Something Obama Vehemently Denied Last Year

health-care-investment-tax-medicareThe truth comes out. Okay, it was always out there. It’s just that the Barack Obama and the folks in his administration were denying it.

The issue in question is whether the individual mandate and penalties for not purchasing health insurance in the statist health care legislation commonly known as ObamaCare should rightly be considered taxes, or if they are something else.

In a report dated Friday that appeared in the paper’s print edition at Page A14 on Sunday, Robert Pear at the New York Times noted that in legal proceedings, in response to litigation brought by state attorneys general, the administration is now characterizing the mandate and penalties as taxes. Note the subtle water-down that occurred between the web page’s title bar and the published article’s headline:

NYTheadlinesOnOCareTaxAdmission0710

When Congress required most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, Democrats denied that they were creating a new tax. But in court, the Obama administration and its allies now defend the requirement as an exercise of the government’s “power to lay and collect taxes.”

And that power, they say, is even more sweeping than the federal power to regulate interstate commerce.

Administration officials say the tax argument is a linchpin of their legal case in defense of the health care overhaul and its individual mandate, now being challenged in court by more than 20 states and several private organizations.

Under the legislation signed by President Obama in March, most Americans will have to maintain “minimum essential coverage” starting in 2014. Many people will be eligible for federal subsidies to help them pay premiums.

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.

Congress can use its taxing power “even for purposes that would exceed its powers under other provisions” of the Constitution, the department said. For more than a century, it added, the Supreme Court has held that Congress can tax activities that it could not reach by using its power to regulate commerce.

While Congress was working on the health care legislation, Mr. Obama refused to accept the argument that a mandate to buy insurance, enforced by financial penalties, was equivalent to 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 last September, in a spirited exchange with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program “This Week.”

When Mr. Stephanopoulos said the penalty appeared to fit the dictionary definition of a tax, Mr. Obama replied, “I absolutely reject that notion.”

Now that the legislation has passed, Team Obama has clearly changed its tune. What a surprise (not).

As a refresher, what follows is the excerpt from the Obama-Stephanopoulos “spirited exchange” to which Pear referred that I posted last year (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog). In his annual exercise in legitimate journalism (the one that preceded it was when he moderated an April 2008 Democratic presidential debate and gave then-candidate Obama grief about his relationship with Jeremiah Wright), Stephanopoulos maneuvers an arrogant President into a de facto assertion that Barack Obama’s take on a word’s meaning is more important than the one found in the dictionary:

STEPHANOPOULOS: …during the campaign. 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. That’s not true, George. The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase.

People say to themselves, that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I’m not covering all the costs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it may be fair, it may be good public policy…

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

…. 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. I mean what…

…. STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to check for myself. But your critics say it is a tax increase.

OBAMA: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I’m taking over every sector of the economy. You know that.

Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we’re going to have an individual mandate or not, but…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you reject that it’s a tax increase?

OBAMA: I absolutely reject that notion.

At time, I reacted by writing: “If you don’t think we have a problem of Orwellian proportions with Barack Obama, I’d suggest you re-read the excerpt. He thinks he’s above the dictionary, that words mean only what he says they mean.”

It turns out that I understated the extent of the Orwellian problem. Not only does Team Obama want words only to mean what they say they mean, they want to be able to change the meaning of words at will to suit their purposes.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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6 Comments

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mikepfs, Tom_Blumer. Tom_Blumer said: Bizzy: NYT: WH Defending Statist Health Insurance Penalties As ‘Taxes’ In Court, Something Obama Vehemently Denied… http://bit.ly/9r9cUJ [...]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention BizzyBlog -- Topsy.com — July 20, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

  2. Quick question: Who is Mark Meckler and is he really some paid GOP operative?

    I’ve found lefties claiming this and that this proves the Tea Party isn’t “grass roots.” (Like one person who is not grass roots makes that ture and from the beginning we all warned that GOP types would try to hijack the movement anyway.)

    (Still can’t e-mail, and since there is only one comment here, thought it was best place to ask.)

    Comment by zf — July 24, 2010 @ 12:34 am

  3. Also, if you want you can e-mail a response instead of commentating here. I can still receive e-mail.

    (I really need to find that registration key!)

    Comment by zf — July 24, 2010 @ 12:40 am

  4. This item I found seems relevant:

    http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/a-clockwork-orange/mark-meckler-tea-party-gop/

    If this is the most convincing evidence they have that a virtually spontaneous uprising across the land was orchestrated by creepy behind the scenes, they’ve got nothing, because there is nothing. Meckler doesn’t even seem like a major player in anything (Oh, I forgot, he’s the publicly visible puppet — Zheesh).

    Comment by TBlumer — July 24, 2010 @ 1:35 am

  5. Most of the stuff came I saw seemed to come from TPM, which is of course one of the most vehement anti-tea party smear sites out there.

    I have seen his name come up once in a while in articles as a tea party ‘spokesman’ “linked” to the Sacramento Tea Party but that was all. TPM claimed he was a paid operative for a “GOP business group” whatever that means. I’m not sure why the GOP would want to support the TPs anyway, since it’s obvious most of them are NOT simpatico with the TPs ideals.

    Comment by zf — July 24, 2010 @ 1:50 am

  6. Besides, just because one is affiliated with certain groups or firms or whatever, does not necessarily mean one is not sincere in their involvement with the movement.

    Comment by zf — July 24, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

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