Lawyers and politicians - you gotta love 'em.
Despite assurances by proponents of the then-proposed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that the health care mandate was not a tax - including resounding statements from President Obama himself - the administration was successful Thursday in its legal assertion that, well, it really is a tax after all.
A sharply split Supreme Court ruled that the penalty portion of the mandate is, in fact, a tax and so constitutional.
Those who opt out of the plan - or can't afford it, even with government subsidies plucked from the pockets of other taxpayers - are now looking at a new tax the Congressional Budget Office has estimated will be $695 per uninsured adult, or 2.5 percent of family income up to $12,500 per year. At present, the tax/nee fine will come from federal tax refunds, assuming one has a refund due.
Businesses that don't provide insurance to employees are looking at a new tax/nee penalty of $2,000 per.
Whether you think "Obamacare" is long overdue or a costly debacle that needs to be repealed, let's be honest with those required to pay the freight.
When the government imposes payment, be it a fee, a "contribution," or a penalty, it's a tax.
That was, in fact, the linchpin of the administration's argument as to the health care plan's constitutionality, and it is the bedrock of the Supreme Court's 5-4 finding.
While we're demanding honesty, let's go one step further - and nearly 77 years back.
"Social insurance," aka the Social Security Act passed in August 1935, went through a similar challenge and prevailed for much the same reason.
And, like the lawyers and politicians of today, proponents of Roosevelt's reform back in the day argued social benefit, a tax on the workforce so that basic needs might be provided for when needed without burdening the taxpaying public as a whole.
Passage of the Social Security Act "...marked a great advance in affording more equitable and effective protection to the people of this country against widespread and growing economic hazards," President Roosevelt told Congress and his fellow Americans.
Today, Washington politicians call the fruits of that tax workers and employers are required to pay, at amounts mandated by the government under the full penalty of the law, an "entitlement."
As if the expectation that government programs will work as promised, at the price that was promised, is somehow unreasonable.
As, we have seen, it all too often is.
- Observer editorial