by Jared Bernstein
As expected, conservatives aren’t too pleased about the outcome of Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act (lots of angry #fullrepeal tweets!), and their current attack strategy is to moan about what they’re calling a new tax stemming from the decision.
The court ruled that that a penalty for refusing to purchase health insurance is permissible as a tax, thus essentially approving the individual mandate by another name. Predictably, then very use of the word “tax” caused some, shall we say, unkind feelings toward the trajectory of Obamacare:
Grover Norquist: “Now that we recognize that the mandate is only constitutional because it is a tax, it’s now clear that ‘Obamacare’ is all about taxes and it hits everybody, not just rich people.”
Sarah Palin: “Obama lied to the American people. Again,” tweeted Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor. “He said it wasn’t a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies.” (Been going to poetry class?)
Mitt Romney: “Obamacare raises taxes on the American people…” Quick Q and A on this one: Q: Doesn’t Massachusetts’s RomneyCare also have a mandate penalty? Answer: Yes. In fact, Romney has in the past even referred to this as a tax. Enough said there.
Uh, is this for real? Let’s pump the brakes for a second.
First, this is a matter of personal responsibility. If someone doesn’t have insurance and gets treated for an illness, that’s uncompensated care, which I will pay for. This tax will get imposed on me and the other 84% of insured Americans. Aren’t conservatives supposed to be all about personal responsibility?
The vast majority of Americans will never have to pay a penalty. The law anticipates that most people will have access to affordable health care through an employer, the Exchange or a public program and will take advantage of the opportunity to obtain or maintain such coverage. In addition, there are three key exceptions to the penalty:
- Those who are uninsured because their coverage is unaffordable
- Those who are uninsured and do not file taxes because their incomes are too low
- Those who would encounter “hardship” by paying the penalty
Third, the people in the taxes-are-forever-and-always-unequivocally-bad camp are conveniently forgetting that the tax benefits coming from the ACA, such as the credits it will provide to help people buy insurance. And, according to the non-partisan CBO, the benefits in the health reform law will outpace the penalties by more than a factor of 10 ($686 billion versus $55 billion)!
So here’s my question for all of these ACA opponents: At what point do you recognize that the ACA is a legitimate health care reform program passed by a democratically elected government and supported by the highest court in the land, and stop trying to block it?
OK—that’s a rhetorical question. But it’s a good one
Jared Bernstein served from 2009 to 2011 as chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, and as a member of President Obama's economic team. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and an MSNBC contributor.