7/6/12 Not a Tax

“It’s not a tax,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about the ACA’s individual mandate.

“It’s not a tax,” said President Obama.

“It’s not a tax,” said Mitt Romney’s Senior Advisor Eric Fehrnstrom.

“It’s not a tax,” echoed dozens of other pundits, op-ed articles, and political personalities from every spectrum of American politics.

“It’s a tax,” said Chief Justice John Roberts in his majority opinion.

Guess what folks! You can agree, disagree, refute, rebut, rejoice, renege, or reconnoiter on your ideas of what the individual mandate might be, but the Supreme Court has spoken…and it’s a tax. Tax. TAX. Can you say, “TAX?”

It’s a tax levied on those who do not have health insurance from their employer or otherwise have no health insurance and do not intend to buy it, even if the government uses tax incentives and credits to actually help some purchase it. The tax will be levied by the Federal Government, and was always designed to be collected and enforced by the Internal Revenue Service. And just what services does the IRS provide for the Federal Government? Yep, tax collections.

Even the government’s secondary argument presented before the Supreme Court during the oral arguments back in March was that the individual mandate was a tax. Their primary argument was that this was a penalty authorized and to be enforced under the constitutional clause that allows Congress to regulate commerce. But Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion cited that under the commerce clause, Congress can regulate the activities of those engaged in the commerce being regulated, but Congress cannot compel people into commercial transactions in which they do not wish to engage. What the Congress can do, however, is levy a tax!

Roberts has been chided for handing the Federal Government a new and unlimited power, the ability to tax people’s behavior for things they (Congress) cannot otherwise regulate or control. But this is no new power, since Congress already had the authority to tax for any reason it saw fit. Roberts’ ruling gives Congress nothing it didn’t already have. It is WE who decide what taxes Congress should levy, and the longest length of time we are required to be subject to any tax is two years, because after two years, a NEW congress is seated consisting of those whom we have sent to represent us. If we don’t like a tax, then we vote for those who promise to repeal it…or in other words, we throw the ones who levied it upon us out of office. If we send the same taxers back to office, then, by extension, it must mean that we are satisfied with the tax.

Politicians don’t like the word “tax” applied to their activities towards the people. In fact, they don’t even like the idea of facing an election after establishing an “individual mandate” that they classify as something other than a tax, which is why they set the tax to go into effect in 2014, safely after the 2012 elections. They will be able to say that they fought against this “tax” but were thwarted in their efforts by those reprehensible  obstructionists in the opposing party, whichever one that happens to be.

Congressmen like the word “tax” applied to their Congressional voting activities far less than they like their personally-tailored comprehensive health care package furnished to them just because they serve in Congress, which they will get to keep while YOUR insurance may change dramatically because of the ACA. In fact, the health care coverage provided to them will fall under the provision of the ACA that will allow it to be taxed, unless we allow Congress to exempt itself, which it certainly will if we are not vigilant in keeping our eye on them.

There are other taxes involved with the ACA; the individual mandate is not the only one. There will be a 3.5% tax on medical devices, like the CPAP machine you use, or the wheelchair or walker you use, or the pacemaker that keeps your heart in rhythm, or on the MRI machine that doctors love to send you to . . . but the MRI manufacturers, like GE, are likely to have a lobby strong enough to get themselves exempted from this tax, unlike the small firms that manufactures wheel chairs and walkers. Why are there going to be taxes on these things? How will this help reduce the cost of healthcare for the public at large? There will be a tax on high-quality health care packages that some employers offer, like that offered to Congressmen by the government . . . but some of those will no doubt be “waived” as have other parts of the ACA. Don’t think waivers are not possible. Have we already not seen them? Why should we suppose we won’t see more?

John Roberts says it is a tax. No argument will change this, since it is how the Supreme Court ruled. Arguments relabeling it as something less offensive during this election year are simply disingenuous, self-serving political rhetoric. When a case comes before the Supreme Court and the Court makes its ruling, only another Supreme Court case that has been chosen to be heard by the Supreme Court can change its ruling. Congress can’t. Nor can the President. Nor can pundits on TV news talk shows. Nor the senior advisers of presidential candidates. Any contrary arguments are purely academic, and to say they’re academic is to give those arguments credit they don’t deserve, since academics has no part or parcel in the argument; Orwellian double-speak, however, certainly fits as a description of the argument, and Washington is full of double-speak these days. We have Orwell’s original version. Then Alexander Haig gave us Haig-speak, which was very similar; but Haig is gone now . . . just the speech Orwell named and Haig applied is left.

It would be extremely ironic when any President declares a great victory in a Supreme Court ruling that upholds a law he worked so hard to get passed, then complains about the wording of the ruling that upheld it. One might surmise, perhaps, that that President really wanted the law to be overturned, not upheld. To gripe about the HOW of the details instead of focusing on the victory of the ruling would be akin to baseball team manager in the bottom of the ninth inning who told his on-deck designated hitter, who bats left or right handed, that he really needed him to drive in a run at his immediate turn to bat. When the pitcher threw a hanging curve ball, the designated hitter slammed it into the second tier of bleachers in center field, driving in multiple runs. He then trotted around the bases hi-fiving all them team members at home plate as he stepped on it, the game won, putting his team a game ahead in the final stretch towards the playoffs.

When he got back to the dugout, instead of hearty congratulations and a pat on the back, the frowning team manager merely uttered in disgust, “You shouldn’t have batted right-handed.”

Think that over for a while.

“I will not write about politics,” I swore in an earlier blog entry. Sorry, this is about politics AND health care. I could not refrain. And I will write about politics when politics turns to foolishness. Winning and whining about how one’s win did not occur exactly as one expected is foolishness of the highest order.

“Let’s see what you’ve won behind door number three,” Monty Hall of Let’s Make A Deal said to the contestant in the donkey suit. To the sound of a drum roll, door number three opened slowly as the costumed contestant jumped up and down in excited anticipation.

“It’s a NEW CAR!” shouted Monty over the applause of the crowd. Monty stuck the microphone into the face of the grand-prize winning contestant, ready for him to shout out with cries of joy over winning the big one behind door number three. What he got was not quite was not quite what he expected.

“But it’s not the color I wanted,” said the despondent contestant. “I don’t like silver. I was hoping for gold.”

The foolishly despondent contestant took the car, nevertheless. His son was glad to get it. The contestant should have been just been glad he didn’t pick either of the other two doors, but that never entered his mind. Behind door number one was a feed-bag of moldy oats; behind door number two was a brand new mule-bit and halter. Perhaps he had rather have had these.

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