The Spectacle Blog

It’s Not Spin, It’s A Tax

By on 6.29.12 | 12:26PM

Dave Weigel identifies what he considers "laughable Obamacare decision spin" from Republicans. He includes the argument that it makes Barack Obama more vulnerable to the charge of raising taxes: "Hi, have you met Republicans? They were going to do that anyway."

Let's stipulate that Obamacare's reversal was the preferred outcome. It would have stricken the monstrosity from the books. Even politically, it would have contributed to Obama's image as a failed president. Domestically, the main things he would have to show for his first term was a stimulus that failed to bring unemployment below 8 percent and a health care bill that was struck down by the Supreme Court. His campaign would have focused more on running against George W. Bush, House Republicans, and John Roberts than his own record. Mitt Romney could have moved beyond his own past support for the individual mandate in Massachusetts.

But this does meaningfully settle the argument over whether the individual mandate is a tax. You won't just have Republicans calling it a tax. The Supreme Court has called it a tax and the mainstream media has reported this news. And unlike taxes on tanning beds or even the top marginal income tax rate, this is a broad-based tax that ensnares many recognizably middle-class people. That's not spin, that's just a fact.

Democrats are forced to either admit that the mandate is a tax or disavow its entire legal basis. If the mandate isn't a tax, it has no constitutional justification that commands majority support on the Supreme Court. Remember, if this was decided solely on commerce clause grounds, yesterday's decision ends up 5-4 the other way. This last bit may only be of interest to high-information voters. But you can now read about the mandate being a tax in your hometown paper rather than in a Republican National Committee press release. It matters that this debate has been taken out of the realm of partisan "He said/she said."

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