So … the non-compliance penalty for refusing to purchase health insurance (or refusing to buy it for your employees, if you have greater than 50 on your payroll) is officially a “tax,” so sayeth the SCOTUS.
Congressional Democrats, liberals/progressives, and the Obama Administration are still circling the nation in a victory lap. But this decision could prove to be the single biggest gift of all to the Romney campaign.
How, you ask? Simple – Romney can now campaign on all the broken promises, flip-flops, and deception that went into creating the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
1. Candidate Obama distinguished himself from Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Presidential campaign by opposing an individual mandate:
“Here’s the concern. If you haven’t made it affordable, how are you going to enforce a mandate. I mean, if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house. The reason they don’t buy a house is they don’t have the money … In some cases, there are people [in Massachusetts] who are paying fines and still can’t afford [health insurance], so now they’re worse off than they were. They don’t have health insurance, and they’re paying a fine…”
2. Candidate Obama promised a bipartisan healthcare reform bill, where ideas from all sides would be equally considered and a bill that included the best of all these ideas would eventually be drafted. He also declared a personal stake in the reform by repeatedly using the phrase “MY PLAN” during the campaign and during the public debates on healthcare reform. Yet President Obama never sent a single draft version of “his plan” to Congress. Did he ever even have a plan of his own? What we actually ended up with was a partisan bill drafted almost solely on party lines, giving priority to the wishes of the Democrat congressional majority and their special interests and virtually excluding Republican participation. Remember the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase? The bill passed entirely on party lines, without a single Republican “yes” in the final votes taken by the House and Senate.
3. Candidate Obama promised no tax increases in “any form” for any family making less than $250,000 a year. After critics of proposed health care mandate non-compliance penalties characterized them as “taxes,” President Obama vigorously denied that the penalties were taxes. His Solicitor General argued before the Supreme Court in March of this year that the fines in the PPACA law were “penalties” and not taxes. But with today’s Supreme Court majority opinion, the fines have been formally defined as TAXES, not “penalties.” That being the case, President Obama and the Democrats now own the largest peacetime tax increase on working Americans and employers in our nation’s history. They own it, period.
But wait, there’s more. Including the penalties for individuals and employers who fail to comply with the health care mandate, there are no less than twenty new taxes, tax hikes, penalties, and fines associated with the PPACA. The bulk of the much-talked-about “Taxmageddon” that will hit in January 2013 consists largely of the PPACA taxes/fees and the automatic repeal of the 2001 – 2003 Bush tax rate cuts.
I think it will be very easy for Republicans to make the case that President Obama hoodwinked the American people into ponying up the largest tax increase in our nation’s history, loosely disguised is “healthcare reform.” I say disguised, because President Obama flat-out lied about his opposition to the health insurance mandate. Bipartisanship focused solely on the common good was also a lie. And the fundamental purpose of the PPACA as it was sold to us was to make healthcare “affordable”; specifically candidate Obama promised that “his plan” would save the average family $2500 a year in premiums. Yet the Kaiser Family Foundation has already established that family healthcare premiums have risen by $2200 a year since the PPACA was signed into law. In addition, the new Federally funded state programs for the ‘uninsurable’ have failed dismally and the number of uninsured/underinsured Americans actually grew in 2011. So which description is kinder: “broken promise” or “utter failure”?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act promises less expensive healthcare that can be accessed equally by everyone. But the only things that it guarantees are an overwhelming number of new rules and regulations, billions in new taxes and penalties levied annually upon the American people, and by default, massive new layers of bureaucracy to administer it all. Seventy five years ago, we were sold a similar bill of goods by the Roosevelt Administration in the form of the Social Security Act, which was really nothing more than a massive payroll tax hike that was “justified” by a carrot on the end of a stick in the form of a portion of the resulting revenue that would be diverted into a special “trust fund” and paid to elderly Americans as a guaranteed monthly income benefit.
We know what happened to Social Security and its “trust fund” — the program is now broke and people my age are foolish to expect that the program will still be intact in 20 years when we reach retirement age. But if you suggest “Social Security reform” to the DC establishment, they recoil like Count Dracula being splashed with holy water. As unfair and regressive as the Social Security tax/benefit plan is, it has become, in the words of the late Milton Friedman, “the biggest sacred cow of them all” and no one who values their career dares touch it.
Our only hope with respect to the dismantling of the PPACA is to ensure that it never becomes a sacred cow. The Republicans have just been handed a perfect opportunity to do this. It will be their issue — and election — to lose.