Political Animal


June 28, 2012 11:42 AM Tax! Tax! Tax!

By Ed Kilgore

Gotta say I am impressed by the speed with which the Right has adjusted to the various surprises presented by the Supreme Court decision and has come up with its central talking point: ObamaCare was a gigantic tax increase! The Supreme Court says so! I just heard Marco Rubio on Fox, and he managed to use the word “tax” about four times in every sentence.

Already conservatives are beginning to get over their anger at John Roberts for betraying the Cause, because they think he may have not only preserved the possibility of a radical restriction of Commerce Clause powers in the future, but trapped Obama with justification of his landmark achievement as a “tax.” Here’s John Hood at The Corner:

Chief John Roberts may have flinched from doing what his fellow Republican-appointed justices were willing to do — strike down the individual mandate as a violation of the Commerce Clause — but he did so ilever way. He resurrected an earlier argument, one the Obama administration had mostly abandoned, that the mandate was really a tax rather than a regulation. No one denies that Congress has the power to levy a nationwide tax, so the core of the president’s legislation survives even though Roberts and the conservatives sided with the plaintiffs on the main constitutional claim about the limitation imposed on federal regulatory power by the Commerce Clause.
But it does so at a significant political cost. First, those who dislike the mandate — which includes a majority of U.S. voters — will now have no recourse but to vote for Mitt Romney to repeal it. Second, the only way the administration prevailed was to have Obama’s main legislative accomplishment redefined as one of the largest middle-class tax increases in the history of the country.

Get used to hearing that.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Joe Friday on June 28, 2012 11:59 AM:

    EXCEPT, it's Roberts who road to the rescue with the tax. As enacted by Obama and the Congressional Dems, they would have struck the ACA down, but it was Roberts who saved the day FOR THE INSURANCE COMPANIES, not for Obama and the Dems.

    The White House can claim that it's Robert's idea coming down from on high.

  • Steve LaBonne on June 28, 2012 12:01 PM:

    I'm sure that line of BS will play well on Faux. Yawn.

  • glendenb on June 28, 2012 12:01 PM:

    From Corey Robin's book The Reactionary Mind:

    Unlike their opponents on the left, they do not unfurl a blueprint in advance of events. They read situations and circumstances, not texts and tomes; their preferred mode is adaptation and intimation rather than assertion and declamation. There’s a certain truth to this claim, as we will see: the conservative mind is extraordinarily supple, alert to changes in context and fortune long before others realize they are occurring.

    Of course the minute their primary argument was struck down, conservatives leapt to another argument. It's what they do.

  • foosion on June 28, 2012 12:03 PM:

    It's only a tax increase for those without insurance who don't qualify for a subsidy. The vast majority either have insurance or would get subsidized.

    "one of the largest middle-class tax increases in the history of the country" is not supported by the numbers.

  • K in VA on June 28, 2012 12:04 PM:

    Right-wing anger is wonderful for my health so, yeah, ObamaCare is working already!

  • Quaker in a Basement on June 28, 2012 12:05 PM:

    foosion shoots and scores! Exactly right.

  • Basilisc on June 28, 2012 12:06 PM:

    All Obama (or any other Dem) has to say is: "Yes, it is a tax. It's a tax on people who don't buy health insurance, even though the ACA provides subsidies so it should be affordable for everyone. If you still don't get insurance, you're basically asking the rest of us to take care of you if you get sick. And I think it's fair to ask you to pay for that."

  • Bob on June 28, 2012 12:07 PM:

    I'm just curious: who exactly writes the talking points that the Republican office holders and media surrogates repeat with such mechanical precision? Is it an office in the RNC? Someone in either Boehner or McConnell's offices? These people get a message out there and they stick with it. Like I said, I'm curious...

  • Peter C on June 28, 2012 12:14 PM:

    "Gotta say I am impressed by the speed with which the Right has adjusted to the various surprises presented by the Supreme Court decision and has come up with its central talking point"

    Ed, the Republicans long ago converted all their 'policy' people to 'message' people; they have plenty of staff to whip together the necessary spin; it's what they DO. Indeed, half of what they call 'policy' always depends upon "sending a message...". For years, they've been: all message, zero policy; all hat, no cattle; ruling rather than governing.

  • T2 on June 28, 2012 12:15 PM:

    Basllisc comment is great. Obama can turn this around by just saying "hey, it's not your neighbors or the governments responsibility to pay for your healthcare, it's yours".....a page right out of the TeaBag playbook.

  • T2 on June 28, 2012 12:18 PM:

    oh, and Peter C.....its easy to write this stuff when facts and truth don't get in the way.

  • catclub on June 28, 2012 12:19 PM:

    better tax message: You know how the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math? This is a tax on people who want to stick you with their healthcare costs.

  • goterpsgo on June 28, 2012 12:20 PM:

    I just saw the Daily Show episode where they had Marco Rubio to push his book. On the one hand, I was pleasantly surprised how moderate and conciliatory he sounded, decrying how politicians can get stuff done with compromise (with the exception of saying how Obama is the most divisive president ever). But the other voice inside my head said he was doing this to not piss off the audience and sell more books.

    And now I see he's back to spouting GOP talking points on CNN. He's still a politician. They say sweet things and they pander. He's no different.

  • berttheclock on June 28, 2012 12:24 PM:

    Right wing talking points? For starters, try Frank Luntz and his "Focus Groups". Mix in a little from the offices of Norquist and stir.

  • T-Rex on June 28, 2012 12:46 PM:

    Maybe Americans should just get over their infantile notion that all taxes are bad and that the country can survive without them. My friends, there is no free lunch. Adults know that. Americans were infantilized by Ronald Reagan, who acted like a kindly grandfather sneaking candy to the kids, but sooner or later we've got to grow up.

  • boatboy_srq on June 28, 2012 12:47 PM:

    Blitzer must be so relieved. Anyone who watched his reporting on the event this morning couldn't miss the steam coming out of his ears when the decision was made public.

  • ElegantFowl on June 28, 2012 12:50 PM:

    OK, I'll grant you it's a voluntary tax that might add up to $4B if the expected number of volunteers decide to pay it instead of getting subsidized health insurance.

    Is that really the most compelling case you can make?

  • tcinaz on June 28, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Gotta love the GOP spin on this one, "It's a tax." Leaving out of course, "except in cases where people are insured, claim hardship and are eligible for the fine to be subsidized, and is only collected from those who can afford to purchase insurance but chose the tax instead, which tax will offset the increase their lack of insurance causes to those who are insured." Now I know that's too much for most on the right to absorb, but months of beating it into their heads before November will help.

  • Patango on June 28, 2012 12:55 PM:

    Ed , you said you never watch tv ? ( kidding )

    Basilisc 1st post nails it , also , norquist romney and ryan are all ok with raising taxes on the working class, who supposedly pay no taxes , so the liberal msm will just call the gop on that one ....RIGHT!!!!!!!

  • Patango on June 28, 2012 1:15 PM:

    catclub nails it also

    T Rex , I have been screaming that since the bush daze , why are the dems not pointing out it is patriotic to pay for wars and pay down our debt ? the dems constant cowering to the right , and giving them cover , is nauseating ...

    Another dem talking point


    Send these talking points to your dem rep, tell them to bust the gop over their heads with it , and tell them to do it with some constitutionally confirmed dem platform pride , and back bone


    Some commentary on that would be nice , I canceled my cable some time ago , while I did not watch cnn much , Wolf at least had some good stuff , no more huh?

  • Steve P on June 28, 2012 1:23 PM:

  • Forrest Leeson on June 28, 2012 1:25 PM:

    So let's see--

    A) The Heritage Foundation's idea of forcing the purchase not even of services but the mere open possibility of coverage for already-received services has been preserved.

    B) By virtue of this, the Progressive Caucus's single-payer bill has been forestalled, along with all other genuinely beneficial plans.

    C) The preservation of the forced purchase evaded conservative endorsement of the Commerce Clause argument.

    D) The forced purchase was preserved on the grounds that it is a tax, allowing the GOP to not merely continue to use HCR as a campaign issue, but add it to their existing anti-tax platform.

    E) The newly defined tax itself is not based on what one owns, earns, sells or buys, but simply on one's citizenship. (Fortunately this precedent will not lead to anything bad, because reasons.)

    F) The ruling is being interpreted as a victory for Democrats and thus the left, thereby whipping the Republican base into a frenzy for the election.

    Um, yay?

  • Doug on June 28, 2012 8:08 PM:

    Forest Leeson (subtle that), you forgot one:
    G) up to 40 MILLION people, not previously covered for HCI, will now be covered.

  • AMS on June 28, 2012 11:03 PM:

    So the "shared responsibility payment" in the ACA is a tax today, but it wasn't yesterday, or last year, or the year before that? If the provision is such an outrage, why wasn't the GOP all over it before now?

    The "get insured or pay" provision has been in the ACA from the beginning and wasn't hidden in any way.The SCOTUS decision changes nothing in the real world by calling it a tax---the practical effect is the same whether it's labeled a tax, a penalty, a "shared responsibility payment", a bicycle or a unicorn. I can't believe this line of attack will fly.