Political Animal


June 29, 2012 11:59 AM The ObamneyCare Tax Increase

By Ed Kilgore

I noted briefly yesterday that in Mitt Romney’s statement on the Supreme Court’s ACA decision, he didn’t follow the Tax! Tax! Tax! message that had already been adopted by everyone else in his party, probably right down to any parrots owned by Republicans. At the time I figured that was partly because the less-than-spontanous Mitt was using a text prepared before it became evident that the decision hinged on validating ACA as an exercise of the federal government’s taxing power, and also because Team Romney is still straining to bend the discussion back to economics, leading Mitt to stress the supposed burden imposed on businesses by health reform.

But something else troubling may be going on in Mittland as well. As New York’s Dan Amira points out today, if “ObamaCare” imposed a tax increase via an individual mandate, then so did “RomneyCare.” That matters not just because it’s another reminder that the former was largely modeled on the latter, but because it strikes directly at one of Romney’s rationalizations for claiming he hasn’t flip-flopped by signing the Massachusetts law while promising to kill the federal law in a fluid motion immediately after his hand drops from the Bible when he’s sworn in as president.

If you were exposed to Mitt’s few serious challenges on RomneyCare during the primaries, you’ll recall his argument that his plan didn’t “raise taxes” on anyone. That’s true, though only because the state was able to gain a big windfall from federal Medicaid funds to make ends meet. But now that Republicans are emphasizing that the individual mandate itself is not only a “tax,” but a monstrous, economy-and-liberty-destroying tax, it’s kind hard to keep that talking point from backfiring on Romney.

That’s not to say that Mitt is incapable of ignoring facts and logic and joining in the chorus of screams about ACA’s unique evils; he’s capable of almost limitless mendacity and hypocrisy, and he’s not really in control of the conservative movement that ultimately calls the shots in terms of election-year messaging. But it’s another reason you figure he’d just as soon everyone calm down and let him get back to his bullet-headed argument that anyone unhappy with the current performance of the economy simply has to vote for him.

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.


  • J on June 29, 2012 12:07 PM:

    I think you mean 'as soon as he is sworn in with his hand on the book of mormon"

  • Paul Dirks on June 29, 2012 12:12 PM:

    Then there's that problem of his aleardy acknowledging that the State Mandate was a tax.


  • NAL on June 29, 2012 12:18 PM:

    It's not a tax on the wealthy so why would Republicans care?

  • T2 on June 29, 2012 12:22 PM:

    Mitt's got three problems - he invented Obamacare (an argument can be made, of course, that the whole program stems from the GOP), his business "expertise" consists of lots of unsavory practices that made money for the 1%, and he only served one term because he was not liked. We haven't even got to the Mormon thingy yet.

  • potomac upstream on June 29, 2012 12:25 PM:

    What I'm hoping is that Obama's marvelous messaging mavens have something more compelling to say about yesterday's victory than just "it's not a tax, really truly cross-my-heart". There's a good story to tell here, it would be nice to have a couple good storytellers to tell it without this silly right wing framing.

  • Ron Byers on June 29, 2012 12:32 PM:

    potomac upstream

    Good luck.

    I doubt there is a Democrat living in Washington who doesn't lie awake nights thinking about the best ways to surrender to the Republican message machine.

  • T2 on June 29, 2012 12:42 PM:

    “Using tax penalties, as we did … encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others.”
    Mitt Romney's comments in 2009 USA Today editorial.
    Put that in your pipe and smoke it, GOPers.

  • TCinLA on June 29, 2012 1:11 PM:

    We should start calling Obamacare "National Romneycare." Let them prove it isn't.

  • c u n d gulag on June 29, 2012 1:25 PM:

    Obamacare is "Nationalized Romneycare.

    "I LIKE IT!

    And it's the Mitt-tax that helps fund it!

  • ronbyers@homeisp.com on June 29, 2012 1:34 PM:

    I am hoping the President comes out and ties Obamacare around Romney's neck. Something like "my admistration takes good ideas where ever we find them. For example, Obamacare is a national version of Romneycare, except our "tax" (airquotes) is about 1/2 of the Mitt-tax."

    Make their f**king heads explode. Own Obamacare. Be loud and proud.

  • neil wilson on June 29, 2012 1:44 PM:

    The Court ruled 8-1 that it WAS NOT a tax.

    Four Justices said the mandate was not a tax and the mandate was unconstitutional.

    Four Justices said the mandate was not a tax and it was constitutional.

    Only the Chief Justice said that the mandate was unconstitutional but it was a tax which made it constitutional.

  • Peter C on June 29, 2012 2:01 PM:

    I don't care whether it is a tax or not. I have health insurance through my employer, so IT DOESN'T APPLY TO ME. It doesn't apply to most people.

  • T2 on June 29, 2012 2:51 PM:

    say what they want....it is a fine levied by a tax penalty.

  • AMS on June 29, 2012 3:28 PM:

    The Democrats need to come out hard and fast touting the benefits of the ACA. The Republicans have already grabbed the narrative and are framing it to their liking: "It's a tax! It's a job-killer! It will blow up the deficit!" I haven't heard much pushback from Obama or the Democrats.

    This whole sorry spectacle happened in 2009 when the GOP successfully demonized health care reform and set off a firestorm at town hall meetings. (Remember "death panels"?) The Democrats absolutely cannot let them get away with that again---but I fear it's already happening.

  • schtick on June 29, 2012 3:43 PM:

    Just think, if the tealiban would go along with not paying subsidies to oil, it would cover universal healthcare, social security, medicare, medicaid, and welfare for the next two hundred years.

  • schtick on June 29, 2012 3:57 PM:

    AMS, the best way to go after the tealiban is to agree we have death panels, then explain they are called insurance companies.
    As far as the tax/job killer/deficit bit, if they would just follow what Obama did in his little speech after the SCOTUS decision. EXPLAIN the ACA and tell people EXACTLY what it is instead of playing word games with the tealiban.

  • David on June 29, 2012 4:05 PM:

    After the decision Romney announced that he sided with the dissenting view, which held that the law was unconstitutional AND that the "tax" was not a tax. And South Carolina's Demint was still insisting that the law was unconsitutional (as the dissenting opinion argued) and was now urging states not to implement it. Is there a new Republican position emerging that rejects the constitutional argument of Scalia et al.?

  • N.Wells on June 29, 2012 5:19 PM:

    Peter C. "I don't care whether it is a tax or not. I have health insurance through my employer, so IT DOESN'T APPLY TO ME. It doesn't apply to most people."

    I know what you mean, but it does apply to you. It reduces your costs because you are currently paying for treatment of the uninsured via ridiculously high insurance coverage. It also caps your insurance company's profits at 20% of payments, and more or less turns it into a public utility. This are points that need to be made to the people like you (and me) who might think that they have no skin in the game because they already have insurance from their employer.

  • Viking on June 29, 2012 10:50 PM:

    Interesting reading your posts. Here's my take on this. The folks that want the ACA are obviously liking the win of the week. And it is a win for Obama.

    I'm against the ACA. But I'm not against the basic intent...to provide adequate and affordable health care. And nobody I know is against that. Everybody I talk to wants a country where we all can get great health care. All of us. But there is a fundamental issue for me. I look to restrain the boundaries of the power of the government and rely on the people to self govern with better laws. This debate, and frankly most everyone on your side I debate, eventually says 'what's your solution if you don't accept the ACA?'. There are many ideas, but for some reason you want THIS law, the one that increases the power of government. I'm not against the principle of what you want. We both want this. But I'm against the law you've chosen. You have won this point. Now it's done. But here is what you have fought for, and what I fought against...

    You have traded your freedom for a social program. The SC says it's valid...OK. It's now valid. You won. But what you've lost in this trade is far more precious than what you've gained. You've let the power of government invade your life, willingly. You've danced with the devil believing you can decide when to leave. And now today, you have less freedom. That's what you've won. And you've traded it for something that could have been designed better, only you didn't want to do the hard work to make that happen.

    And now, by using the point that Romney created it, doesn't change that fact. The government, and NOT the people, are now further able to control what you buy, what you do, and they now have roots into the very bedrock of what our nation stands for...freedom and self rule. Thanks for reading this to the end.

  • Steve851 on June 30, 2012 6:17 AM:

    Romney, "he’s capable of almost limitless mendacity and hypocrisy," is true. And he's running against someone who is even worse in those regards. I'll be sitting out my third pres election in a row. The political oligarchy, left and right, has an obligation to run someone marginally acceptable, someone who is serious about the office, whether it be from the left or the right. Until they do so, forget it.

  • castanea on June 30, 2012 8:23 AM:

    Reading certain comments makes me marvel at the basic level of stupidity shown by your garden variety emoprog.

    In a nation of roughly 310 million people in which a presidential candidate must win maybe 70 million or so votes to be elected, anyone who thinks that the candidate must always be willing to bring milk and cookies to his/her particular household, else he/she will sit out yet another presidential election, is narcissistic and arrogant beyond measure.

  • MaryOK on June 30, 2012 8:31 AM:


    Thanks for your comment. I too try to look for competency and capacity to govern before ideology. Nothing about Obama's resume ever suggested he was interested in governing. He hasn't proven otherwise in the office. He doesn't even attempt to be consistent with his brand. Talks against the evil 1% in the morning and fundraisers with them in the evening. Gift Registry? Too funny.

    I do think that Romney's resume indicates an ability to solve problems. His Olympics experience indicates his seriousness. I doubt that running one is easy and failure has broad implications. Please keep an open mind.

  • Dwight on July 01, 2012 8:50 AM:

    I noticed some comments saying that the Dems should come out and tout the positives of Obamacare and grab the high ground. Perhaps.

    Perhaps the bill should have been the "Big 3" all along and nothing more. That is, let insurance companies compete everywhere, allow insurance coverage until age 26 and the existing condition clause. Why do we need this behemoth of regulation, bureaucracy and taxation?? Do we really need 2700 pages of crap to make our health care system better?

    And perhaps medical care would be a little cheaper if that bedrock of Democratic support (the trial lawyers) were a little less greedy causing doctors to overprescribe tests to cover their collective butts.