Tuesday, July 3, 2012

WSJ: Romney & Obama agree it's not a tax

The Wall Street Journal reported this morning the Romney campaign doesn't exactly think the healthcare tax is a tax:

"Mitt Romney's campaign is aligning itself with President Barack Obama—and breaking from Republican leaders—by saying the government will be imposing a penalty, not a tax, on people who don't buy insurance as required by the new health-care law.

The break from his Republican allies illustrates the difficulty the presumptive GOP presidential nominee faces in criticizing the president for a national health-care law that resembles the one Mr. Romney signed as Massachusetts governor. Both laws include a requirement that most individuals buy insurance coverage.

The Romney campaign's stance puts it at odds with the new line of attack from other GOP leaders that accuses Mr. Obama of raising taxes on middle-class Americans. Republicans promoting this line of criticism include House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).

The break emerged Monday when senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told MSNBC that Mr. Romney disagrees with the Supreme Court decision that upheld the law on the grounds that the penalty for not obtaining insurance resembles a tax and thus falls within Congress's right to impose taxes.

"The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty, and he disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax," Mr. Fehrnstrom said.

Pressed whether Mr. Romney believes "that you should not call the tax penalty a tax, you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine," Mr. Fehrnstrom said, "That's correct."

Mr. Obama argued before the law's 2010 passage that the requirement wasn't a tax, but a way to make sure those with insurance wouldn't have to subsidize the uninsured. But in his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the mandate that individuals buy insurance could be "reasonably characterized as a tax."

Republicans, seeking political gain from an otherwise monumental victory for Mr. Obama, quickly seized on that language to argue the president broke his pledge not to raise taxes on middle-class families. Republican campaign committees and the party's supporters have seized on the ruling in television ads. Party leaders also have crafted plans to use the taxation aspect of the decision to argue that parliamentary rules would allow them to overturn the law with 51 votes in the Senate where 60 votes would otherwise be required.

On the Senate floor Friday, Mr. McConnell said, "The court has now spoken: It is a tax." Mr. Boehner, speaking Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," said, "Even though the president tried to admit for, you know, over a year that it wasn't a tax, nobody believed it, and now we know it

Politico reported the Republican nominee gave the President a "get out of jail free" card:

"To Democrats, the comment looked like a get-out-of-jail-free card for the White House. If Romney agrees that the mandate is not a tax, they argued, then Obama can't fairly be attacked for raising middle-class taxes. The Obama campaign blasted out clips of Fehrnstrom's interview and deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter declared on Twitter: 'Well, that clears it up...."


Anonymous said...

The lawyers on this blog should read the Supreme Court decision.

If this were a tax, the Supreme Court would not have the power to rule until someone had had to pay the tax.

The opinion is about the power of Congress to enact such a law and likens that to the power to tax.

What to call the requirement to be insured is political nonsense.

We don't discuss whether the requirement to have car insurance is a tax or a penalty because we'd seem STUPID.

You can sue an uninsured motorist who hits you , the law can penalize as well. But, when a group of uninsured unknowns show up at an emergency room for a sore throat, what you get is an $8 charge on an .80 bandage when you're injured.

And, while you're reading, read Bob Dole's health care bill from 30 years ago!

And, would someone please tell Romney that a President can't repeal a law? Only Congress can do that.

This bill should be discussed, but instead, we are getting stupidity from those who should know better including the WSJ.

Anonymous said...

The opinion is about the power of Congress to enact such a law and likens that to the power to tax.

Where from does the opinion state that Congress is granted said power that is likened to the power to tax?

When the Majority Opinion states: ""The mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition -- not owning health insurance -- that triggers a tax -- the required payment to IRS.".... that's not likening it to a tax, it's specifically says "triggers a tax."

The "what to call it" is significantly important because in law, words are used to convey the requirement, penalty and parameters of the intent of the law. If "what to call it" wasn't important, as you suggest, then why do you offer in your second paragraph the fact that should it be called a tax, it would therefore be a moot ruling by the Supreme Court, since the Supreme Court can't decide matters of tax until an individual actually has paid the tax?

But, tell you what. You keep your condescension going in your feigned altruistic effort at suggesting the bill should be discussed.

Anderson said...

The syllabus is helpful:

... Congress did not intend the payment to be treated asa “tax” for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Affordable Care Act describes the payment as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” That label cannot control whether the payment is a tax for purposes of the Constitution, but it does determine the application of the Anti-Injunction Act.

* * *

The Affordable Care Act describes the “[s]hared responsibility payment” as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” That label is fatal to the application of the Anti-Injunction Act. It does not, however, control whether an exaction is within Congress’s power to tax. In answering that constitutional question, this Court follows a functional approach,“[d]isregarding the designation of the exaction, and viewing its substance and application.”

Anonymous said...

Nice convenient lift...but the IRS collecting is simply stated here as a fact.

Anderson said...

Is it *not* a fact?

bill said...

Smarter folks than me will figure this out, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I've been pretty successful over my lifetime in identifying it as a duck. This penalty has to be paid if you choose not to participate in Obamacare. There's no due process - you don't get a ticket you can argue in court before a fine is assessed. It's collected by the IRS, and can be withheld from tax overpayments. I guess technically it only applies to those who are required to file a 1040, so there will be some who will get away without paying the penalty, but in all likelihood those people will already be eligible for Obamacare through Medicaid or Medicare, so that's not really an argument. Sounds like a duck to me, boys...

Shadowfax said...

As Limbaugh insinuated today, we're farting in a whirlwind discussing whether or not its a tax or a penalty or a mandate. It matters not since it is now declared constitutional and is the law of the land. It does no good for lawyers and others to sit in the stands rattling on over semantics and who shot John. There's work to be done and it won't be done by a bunch of hacks sitting around pretending to be Supreme Court justices.

Anonymous said...

It matters, significantly, whether it's a tax or "penalty". One thing, the majority specifically says it can't stand on commerce, but is basically a tax so can stand on tax.

Perhaps an attorney can offer insight into what the taxing powers are of the U.S. government. What can the U.S. government tax? Can it tax property? Can it tax anything it wants or is there some parameters to it's taxing authority?

As a tax, once this "penalty" is first paid, it can then be heard before SCOTUS once again as a tax. My question is what items can the U.S. government tax other than income.

bill said...

Of course it matters what this is called. Elections are won and lost with 15 and 30 second sound bites, and voters who can be convinced that their Congressman or Senator supported a tax increase are more likely to be replaced. We need a resounding victory in November, and this is an arrow we can't afford to keep in our quiver.

Anonymous said...

8:01 is a disingenuous tool; the President can't repeal a law, of course, but he can, by executive action, issues waivers to every creature in the galaxy while waiting for Congress and the Senate to repeal it.

Bill is right: I am seriously worried that Romney (and his fool of an advisor) are wasting what is probably the single most effective weapon they've been handed for this campaign. George HW Bush raised taxes and lost his re-election. It;s a very powerful argument for all those who pay taxes.

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty obvious why Romney doesn't want to call it a tax. If he is elected President and Obamacare is repealed, then his "replacement" healthcare plan will have to be some type of penalty mechanism included in his plan for those who don't get insurance. If it's called a tax, he won't be able to get any healthcare plan by the Tea Party House. He knows it and that's why his backtracking.

Anonymous said...

Hell must be about to freeze over if I find myself in more agreement with Rush than with Bill.

Mississippians should realize that car insurance is REQUIRED in most states so this argument will seem ridiculous to most Americans.

They'll say, " Then car insurance is a TAX as well that I get PENALIZED for if I don't have it!"

What idiot in the GOP decided to make this an issue without checking with the candidate? Now, Romney looks like a flip flopper or incompetent for using the wrong word.

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