Health Care: Turns Out To Be A Tax After All

If you recall, one of the most steadfast public positions of the Democrats and the Obama White House during the health care debate was that the legislation did not constitute a tax. President Barach Obama expressly denied that the legislation was a tax in pushing for its approval. Now, however, his administration is seeking to defend the law on the basis that it is . . . you guessed it . . . a tax.

The Obama Administration has been repeatedly criticized for saying things to the public and then saying different things in court. Civil libertarians have denounced the Administration for not only fighting to preserve Bush-era doctrines but actually expanding on those doctrines in court in the areas of surveillance, torture, and terrorism.

The Administration is defending the new law as part of the government’s “power to lay and collect taxes.” It is the strongest possible basis for defending the law (and was used to justify the social security law), but it happens to contradict what both Democratic leaders, including President Obama, told the public.

Just last September, George Stephanopoulos specifically challenged the President on his denial that the legislation was a tax on ABC News program “This Week.” Stephanopoulos observed that the legislation seemed to be clearly a tax by any definition. Obama replied strongly “I absolutely reject that notion.”

Here is the exchange:

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: Well, no, but…

OBAMA: …what you’re saying is…

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.

I remain a bit unclear why the President believes that looking up a term in a dictionary must mean “you’re stretching a little bit right now.” Now, of course, you can simply look it up in the Administration’s brief.

While once defined as a “penalty,” the cost of being uninsured is now embraced as a tax that is expected to raise $4 billion a year by 2017, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

I previously wrote this prior column on the serious federalism concerns raised by the new legislation.

Source: NY Times

181 thoughts on “Health Care: Turns Out To Be A Tax After All”

  1. I do not even understand how I finished up right here, but I assumed this publish was once good. I do not understand who you might be but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger should you are not already. Cheers!

  2. Tootie,

    The government collecting money (from its citizens) to spend to promote the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of its citizens is not stealing – it is the legitimate function of our government. Economically, what I want to spend the money on (social safety net, infrastructure, sustainable technology) all have a tangible benefit to society what you seem to want government to do (impose the narrow-minded, intolerant bigoted values of the Christian version of the Taliban onto the rest of us – and fight lots of wars, too…) only serve to tear down our liberties and restrict our rights and make us less productive and secure as a nation.

  3. Slart: Helping people in the way you insist–with other peoples’ money taken at gunpoint–is not helping people. It is called stealing.

  4. Tootie posted:

    Slart: It doesn’t matter what you say or believe; if I say you hate me it has to be true according to your own standard.

    Here is that standard in your own words:

    “…given the number of egregious assumptions you’ve made about the thinking of the ‘intellectuals’ you so despise (and me in particular)…”

    You have made the assertion that I despise intellectuals. But cannot prove it. And I’m surprised you would make a statement you cannot prove. I have never said I despised intellectuals and anyone one who knows me would never come to that conclusion. I most certainly do not despise you. I would LOVE to be considered among the ranks of this world’s intellects.

    I was referring to comments in which you have explicitly (and incorrectly) described what you imagined my thinking to be. You can attempt to refute any ideas or attitudes that I have ascribed to you, if you are able but you don’t get to tell me what I’m thinking without me getting to tell you that you are full of shit. I inferred that you despised intellectuals because of your oft-repeated anti-scientific bias (among many things you’ve said here) and some of your comments that have referred to me personally. If you truly don’t despise me (or intellectuals in general) then you really shouldn’t act like it (whether or not you want to be one of them…).

    So, I still assert you hate me. Not only that, I assert you despise and loathe me. And furthermore, I assert you have horrible horrible feelings about me.

    You can assert it to your heart’s content, but that wont make it true. I don’t care about you nearly enough to hate you (much less despise or loathe you). I’m frequently annoyed when I see one of your posts as it generally means I have to waste time refuting it, if that helps any. 😉

    Apparently, it doesn’t matter what the truth is according to the standard you have now set in which each of us (I assume) can invent any feelings we want the other to have.

    No dear, we can only convince other readers that the feelings that we are ascribing to each other are correct by appealing to the only available evidence: what each of us has written here – I choose to make rational arguments about what I believe you mean based on your words – I don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

    All that matters is what we assert them.

    All that really matters in a dialogue like this is how it affects the opinions of the people reading it.

    Safety Net:

    You talk about a safety net as if it was something that grew naturally out of the ground and was usable for human comfort when needed. But is other peoples money acquired at gunpoint. That makes it a more serious matter than strong rope woven to form a net. I simply don’t understand the mindset of people who think others owe them these kinds of things.

    The safety net is something that has been created through the hard work of generations of progressives which has been very successful (we have far, far fewer of the elderly starving to death or in poverty than we did before Social Security, for instance). I think that a society with a safety net is more healthy, efficient, and productive than one without a safety net. It enables more entrepreneurial risk taking if people don’t have to worry about providing for their family in the event of a worst case failure, it improves the public health (remember, healthier workers are better workers), and it reduces the stress of the populace as a whole (which also improves health). From a strictly economic point of view, a safety net is a bargain. When you also consider that a government protecting its citizens (which, after all, is what a safety net is for) is also the moral thing to do (or is your capitalist Jesus amoral?) I fail to find any good argument against it. And governments collect money from the people in order to redistribute it – that’s what they do. I would much rather that money be used for the good of the people rather than to fund wars we get dragged into because our unengaged, spoiled brat of a president wants to show he’s got a bigger dick than his old man.

    You say the rich owe taxes. I never said they didn’t. We mostly disagree about what they owe and for what purpose. Our government was meant to function from the proceeds of tariffs. I’m not so sure that would work these days merely because presidents abuse their powers. Lincoln used the tariffs as a pretext to murdering Americans.

    I think that the rich should bear a larger share of the tax burden as they are receiving more benefit from society than the poor. Like it or not our government is not going to run on tariffs and if you want to disband the military and fire all the government employees so that you can make all the tax cuts you want and still balance the budget then you are going to cause a new depression. We can’t go back to how things were in the past – but we do have a choice between productive and destructive change (unless we listen to people like you who think things can never be better than the idealized past. A question: aren’t people like you big believers in American exceptionalism?)

    I think a national sales tax is a more fair means of funding the federal government. Rich people would pay more by virtue of their more expensive purchases. And the middle-class could be very tight-fisted and pay low taxes.

    A national sales tax is an extremely regressive tax – the poorer someone is, the higher proportion of their income they need to spend on basic necessities and the more of their income they pay in taxes. Like most of what you write, you’re totally backwards with your reasoning here. Again, I favor a progressive tax code. Why shouldn’t there be a 45% marginal tax rate on yearly incomes above one million dollars? Don’t people earning over a million dollars a year have a vested interest in keeping the status quo of the system that allows them to earn so much money? If so, shouldn’t they do their part to help pay for it?

    I understand (from Stephen Moore) that the top 5 percent pay about 50 percent of the income taxes. This is truly amazing.

    And how much of the income do the top 5% of wage earners make? (Also keep in mind we’re only talking income here, not capital gains.) What’s truly amazing is the disparity between executive salaries and the average worker’s wages. In the seventies the average CEO earned about 20 times the average worker’s salary, now its in the neighborhood of 400. Don’t you think that fact alone speaks to serious imbalances in the system? Don’t you understand how wealth is being concentrated in this country? Do you think the shrinkage of the middle class is a good thing?

    I think the problem is not that the rich are not paying enough, but the politicians are spending too much. If they are spending too much then it only looks like they are not taking enough in.

    Who did the spending and what did they spend all of the money on? I seem to recall a surplus not too long ago – if you ever want to see a surplus again, you’d better keep the Democrats in power. I wish all of the children on the right would just be quiet and let the adults try to fix the mess that they made.

    Also they are spending too much on things the Constitution doesn’t even allow. It doesn’t allow unemployment handouts, or welfare handouts, or medical care handouts, or education handouts, or thousands of other robberies.

    The SCOTUS would seem to disagree with you… As I said above, the social safety net is a benefit rather than a drag on society – at least it should be (unless you let the system be controlled by corporate greed…).

    The least Democrats could do is change the Constitution so their plans, schemes, and heists were legal in theory (though reprehensible in reality). But that is too late now. No one can be trusted to open up the Constitution for revision now. Not with Marxist subversives running things.

    Yeah, all those evil whatever-ists that go around making this country a better place and helping people. What is reprehensible in narrow-minded, ignorant bigots like yourself trying to return to the policies that nearly destroyed our economy.

    I’m not good with numbers, but the links below seem to indicate the rich are paying a very good share of things.

    One of your links said that the top 1% earns 19% of the income and pays 37% of the income taxes. If we got rid of loopholes and counted all earnings (capital gains, etc.) as income then I think this would be about right (top earners paying about twice as much as their share of income).

    Good luck job hunting. Best wishes.

    Thank you – I’m trying to do freelance consulting, so I’m hunting for clients, not a job, but the thought is appreciated.

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  6. Byron–

    “the Pilgrims went there and did that and failed miserably, in fact it almost killed them.”

    Approximately half of the residents living at Plimoth Plantation died during their first, harsh winter there.

    Mike is right about it being akin to a corporate venture. To pay for their passage across the Atlantic on the Mayflower, the residents of Plimoth were required to work for seven years to pay off their debt. They were, in effect, indentured servants. At least, that’s how I remember it.

  7. Slart: It doesn’t matter what you say or believe; if I say you hate me it has to be true according to your own standard.

    Here is that standard in your own words:

    “…given the number of egregious assumptions you’ve made about the thinking of the ‘intellectuals’ you so despise (and me in particular)…”

    You have made the assertion that I despise intellectuals. But cannot prove it. And I’m surprised you would make a statement you cannot prove. I have never said I despised intellectuals and anyone one who knows me would never come to that conclusion. I most certainly do not despise you.

    I would LOVE to be considered among the ranks of this world’s intellects.

    So, I still assert you hate me. Not only that, I assert you despise and loathe me. And furthermore, I assert you have horrible horrible feelings about me.

    Apparently, it doesn’t matter what the truth is according to the standard you have now set in which each of us (I assume) can invent any feelings we want the other to have.

    All that matters is what we assert them.

    Safety Net:

    You talk about a safety net as if it was something that grew naturally out of the ground and was usable for human comfort when needed. But is other peoples money acquired at gunpoint. That makes it a more serious matter than strong rope woven to form a net. I simply don’t understand the mindset of people who think others owe them these kinds of things.

    You say the rich owe taxes. I never said they didn’t. We mostly disagree about what they owe and for what purpose. Our government was meant to function from the proceeds of tariffs. I’m not so sure that would work these days merely because presidents abuse their powers. Lincoln used the tariffs as a pretext to murdering Americans.

    I think a national sales tax is a more fair means of funding the federal government. Rich people would pay more by virtue of their more expensive purchases. And the middle-class could be very tight-fisted and pay low taxes.

    I understand (from Stephen Moore) that the top 5 percent pay about 50 percent of the income taxes. This is truly amazing.

    I think the problem is not that the rich are not paying enough, but the politicians are spending too much. If they are spending too much then it only looks like they are not taking enough in.

    Also they are spending too much on things the Constitution doesn’t even allow. It doesn’t allow unemployment handouts, or welfare handouts, or medical care handouts, or education handouts, or thousands of other robberies.

    The least Democrats could do is change the Constitution so their plans, schemes, and heists were legal in theory (though reprehensible in reality). But that is too late now. No one can be trusted to open up the Constitution for revision now. Not with Marxist subversives running things.

    I’m not good with numbers, but the links below seem to indicate the rich are paying a very good share of things.

    http://www.american.com/archive/2007/november-december-magazine-contents/guess-who-really-pays-the-taxes

    http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2008/04/the_rich_and_their_taxes.html

    Good luck job hunting. Best wishes.

  8. Byron, I get your point, but the Pilgrim experience is not a particularly good analogy. It was more akin to an early corporate venture, privately funded, with everyone owning a share (and likely not equal shares). It was also one of the early corporate failures. But the bottom line is that the bottom line is what counted in that experiment, and it was severely undercapitalized.

    A truly communist community lacks a profit motive in the sense that the rewards of one’s labor is the sustenance of the group without regard to one’s position within the group hierarchy. But a hierarchy is necessary. Thus the vow of obedience in monastic communities serves both as a symbol of humility and a recognition that someone has to have the final word on decisions affecting the community as a whole.

    Finally, there must be within such communities the right to leave at any time. They are not for everyone. Most people are unable to sustain that level of idealism. But that is not a criticism of the theory; it’s only a recognition that it’s implementation is not feasible on a large scale.

  9. Slart, Buddha, Mike, et al.

    I also forgot my usual disclaimer that if anyone like Jesus existed, the Biblical representation probably isn’t all that accurate.

  10. Buddha, I agree with you and Slarti that his teachings were decidedly left of center. That is precisely why various religious communities have been formed over the years based upon concepts like communal ownership and “to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability.” That is why there are serious Christian socialists and Christian Marxists. That is why the social justice movement among the parish level clergy in South America during the ’70s and ’80s had a solid basis in theology (that’s also why that movement was crushed). That also explains why people like Glenn Beck and other advocates of revisionist history become pale and begin to perspire at the mention of the phrase “social justice.”

    During my brief seminary experience, I came to understand that a vow of poverty is actually a liberating experience within a community of shared values. However, I also came to understand that such communities are impossible on a large scale. At the risk of incurring the wrath of bunches of people, it remains my belief that Marx’ exposition of the vices of capitalism were right on. His solutions suck.

  11. Mike A:

    “That is not to say that his views would not be relevant to discussions on the formation of Christian communities; I merely mean to point out that they are not helpful in debates over institutional forms of government.”

    the Pilgrims went there and did that and failed miserably, in fact it almost killed them. It would seem the Kingdom of God doesn’t work so well on earth, at least from a economic perspective.

  12. Oops.

    Thanks for the reminder of my bad, Gyges.

    Good show, Mr. Appleton. With all that natty logic! However, while I agree Christ’s teachings in themselves are apolitical, he himself was a political creature as evidenced by his crucification. I’m pretty sure that the Romans weren’t upset enough to nail him down because he was a monotheist but rather that he was challenging their very Earthly authority. Like Slarti, I think his teachings show a left of center leaning even if his “official” stance was “render unto Caesar”.

  13. Slart,

    Actually, any one like Jesus would probably have been walking a VERY fine line between being the Jewish Messiah (at the time thought to be a Political\religious leader) and not stepping on the Roman toes.

    Reminds me of a great passage in “St. Lebowitz and the Wild Horse Woman.”

  14. Besides . . . according to these guys, sheep go to Heaven and goats go to Hell.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0mx5ERj1eI&hl=en_US&fs=1]

    Let them both eat Cake.

  15. Mike A,

    Aww, you don’t let us have any fun. 🙁 I don’t know what you’re thinking jumping back into the discussion with your reasonable comments and logical arguments… In any case, I would argue that Jesus was very political for his time and that his espoused views seem very left of center to me.

    Buddha,

    I appreciate you not wanting to put words in my mouth, but you were pretty much spot on – I don’t hate Tootie (if anything I pity her for choosing to go through life as a narrow-minded bigot). I don’t even hate her ideas, I just feel the need to shine light on the illogical, bigoted and frequently unscientific crap she continues to dump here…

    Tootie,

    About your ‘eye of the needle’ link – interesting, I’ll have to ask my cousin about it when I see him in a couple of weeks (he’s got a PhD in biblical studies and I believe he knows all of the relevant languages here). It still doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the pursuit of worldly goods to me…

    Tootie said:

    Slart: I’m so sorry you hate people like me, but it is no surprise. The godless have no reason to love their enemy.

    As I said above, I don’t hate you – I pity you. I have also said that I agree with the teachings of Jesus (including the parts about loving your enemy) and ‘the godless’, as you put it, have much more logical and rational reasons to love their enemy than you do. Your assumption that all morality flows from religion (particularly YOUR religion) is offensive, ignorant, bigoted, and just plain wrong.

    You got it partly right about the rich, as I said you would. You presume that the rich do not get through the eye of the needle because they are particularly evil, say, more evil than you.

    You continually presume to know what I’m thinking. You don’t. Your straw man representations of my arguments do nothing more than reveal your bigotry and ignorance. I don’t believe people are good or evil, I believe actions run the spectrum from good to evil (and the morality of the effect is not always the same as the morality of the intent). I don’t believe that the pursuit of wealth is inherently evil, I just think that the primacy of greed in our culture is a dangerous imbalance.

    But that is not what the Bible says. The “good” unbeliever ends up in hell with the “bad” believer if both reject Christ. So the poor good person goes to hell with Hitler.

    It will apparently surprise you to learn that since I don’t believe in heaven or hell, I don’t base any of my notions of morality on who goes to heaven vs. who goes to hell.

    You are silly to take the meaning of the eye of the needle phrase literally. When the bible says to remove the beam from your eye before you remove the speck from your friend’s eye, do you really believe that there is somewhat of a 2 by 4 in the eye?
    http://bible.cc/matthew/7-5.htm

    I’m sure that Jesus didn’t mean to imply that it was any harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a poor man to get into heaven, he was just giving them some practical advice about getting through the city gates…

    You are funny indeed.

    Thank you. And you are ridiculous.

    What happens to all the rich Israelites before the time of Christ? Do they get your permission to go to heaven?

    No one gets my permission to go to heaven because I don’t waste time considering who gets to go to an imaginary place. What you do in your own personal fantasy world is no care of mine.

    In truth, you don’t know what the bible means. You were the one quoting scripture as if you did then asked me to explain.

    You said

    “but for those of us who don’t believe in such things the only justice is that which we make in this life.”

    That’s a very cheap moral code you have there. Tell me how you or anyone else made any sort of justice for the people Hitler murdered?

    We can’t get any more justice for Hitler’s victims, we can only give their sacrifice meaning by never letting it happen again. My moral code isn’t cheap, I just don’t need the fantasy of an eventual ‘Judgement day’ in order to cope with the fact that the universe isn’t a fair place.

    All the children starving to death as we speak, how will your fine godless moral code make it right?

    Nothing can make that right – it isn’t right by any moral code that I would consider worthwhile. Personally, I try to do my part by having as much of a positive impact on the world as I can.

    It cannot. It never will. 6000 years of written human history prove it.

    I’m not sure what made you think that I would in any way think children starving to death could be ‘made right’ nor how ‘6000 years of written human history’ proves anything in this regard, but as I said regarding Hitler’s victims, we give some small measure of meaning to their sacrifice by each child we prevent from starving in the future.

    Our race is thoroughly corrupt and the more we try to fix it the worse it gets.

    This is why I think that it is imperative not to let politicians that share your ideology win – the 4 billion year history of our planet (and the much longer history of our universe) is one of continual improvement and evolution, why would we ever want leaders who deny this in favor of saying that no matter what they do, they’ll make things worse?

  16. I wasn’t going to leap into this thread, but here I am. The discussion so far reminds me of all those debates back in the ’60s about whether Jesus was a “non-violent revolutionary.” I still love Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, but we were one large bunch of naive idealists in those days.

    Regardless of one’s views of Jesus as an historical figure, it is clear that he was apolitical. He was preaching a way of life rather than a theory of governmental organization. Therefore, arguments over whether he would have approved of socialism in any form lack a contextual foundation. That is not to say that his views would not be relevant to discussions on the formation of Christian communities; I merely mean to point out that they are not helpful in debates over institutional forms of government.

    Nor do I believe that his words can form a basis for the creation of particular forms of economic institutions. The push to give capitalism some sort of Christian imprimatur is as absurd as the argument that communism as an economic ideal is somehow “Godless.”

    Finally, contrary to Tootie’s views, the existence of God is not essential to the development of a rational moral code or to a rational theory of justice. One need only read Immanuel Kant or John Rawls to understand that.

    In short,forms of government and economic institutions strictly speaking are not the subject of the Gospels and satisfactory moral and ethical principles can be, and are, developed without reference to God. That believers in different religious traditions continually seek to impose specific theological doctrines on society at large through legislation or other forms of coercion does not change that truth.

  17. Gee, Tootles, that “stinging rebuke” might mean something if it wasn’t coming from a demonstrated theocratic and homophobic bigot. But is is funny that you think so much of yourself to assume others would go to the trouble of hating you. Disdain of stupidity and outright personal hatred are distinctly different behaviors. Hate you? I’m not going to speak for Slarti, but from what I’ve seen you simply don’t merit hatred. Hatred is like work – it requires more effort than you are worth. Sure, some of your ridiculous ideas merit hatred like many bad ideas, but you personally? You merit little more than mocking disdain and perhaps a dash of pity for being blind to your true nature: a logically blind and bigoted theocratic busybody who thinks she alone speaks for God and ergo should have special dispensation to rule the world through oppression and hatred.

    Jesus was a carpenter, not a demolitions expert.

    But then again, you missed and misuse most of his teachings so you missing the point again should come as no surprise to anyone. Except maybe yourself. But that would be assuming you were capable of learning and critical thought, two skills you have demonstrated a lack of over time.

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