Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Republicans are lying about Obamacare and trying to have it both ways on the individual mandate

One of the most ridiculous right-wing claims about Obamacare is that it's the largest tax increase ever -- the "biggest tax increase in the history of the world," Dear Leader Rush exclaimed, and this line has become a standard Republican talking point in response to last week's Supreme Court ruling upholding the law.

It's ridiculous... and it's simply wrong.

Kevin Drum has a table that puts Obamacare in perspective. There have been many larger tax increases in U.S. history, let alone "the history of the world." (Many on the list happened on Reagan's watch.) In chart form (from Austin Frakt, via Ezra Klein), it looks like this:

Breaking news: Republicans are liars.


Now, there's still the question of whether the individual mandate -- just one of the revenue-generating elements of the Affordable Care Act, though one designed to compel people to buy insurance, and so unlike a direct tax increase -- is a tax or a penalty.

The Supreme Court, contra Obama, said it is, and that could spell trouble for Democrats, particularly with Republicans already on the offensive, but it helps that Romney's campaign has come out on the "penalty" side. It did that so as to place Romney in opposition to the Court's ruling, but politically this helps Obama.

While the truth is nuanced -- as Brian Beutler wrote, the mandate "functions like a tax, but serves the purposes of a penalty," and so isn't a normal tax -- Republicans are trying to oversimplify the matter with their anti-tax rhetoric, slamming the Democrats for imposing a new tax on the American people. But can they really get much traction with that if their nominee, whose own agenda involves sucking up to the right and therefore disagreeing with the Court's ruling, is saying it's a penalty?

Because if it's a penalty, it's not a tax and so Obama and the Democrats didn't impose one. But if it's a tax, Roberts and the liberals were right.

You can't have it both ways. Though, no doubt, Republicans will try.

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