Thursday, July 5, 2012

It doesn't matter whether we call it a tax or a penalty (updated)

My gawd, I can't believe the number of people who are consumed by this argument over whether the individual mandate in the ACA imposes a tax or a penalty on those who don't buy insurance. You'd think this one semantic battle was the biggest issue facing the country today.

Let me clue you doesn't f*cking matter what its called. And the longer political insiders spend arguing over it, the more average voters see how totally out of touch the whole system is to what really matters to them. The ONLY message that is important in this argument is that - whether you call it a tax or a penalty - less than 2% of people in this country will have to pay it.

Seriously, do you think the 45% of voters who don't even know what the Supreme Court decided are wringing their hands over whether we call it a tax or a penalty?

But I'll tell you another reason why this obsession with semantics doesn't matter...tomorrow we're going to get the next jobs report from the Labor Department. Brace yourselves because its likely to not be good news (lets just hope that its not bad news). And so starting at about 9:00 am EDT tomorrow morning, health care reform will officially be placed on the back burner and we'll all be talking about the economy again.

President Obama knows this. That's why, when he made his remarks following the Supreme Court decision, he ended with this:
With today’s announcement, it’s time for us to move forward -- to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law. And now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time: putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.
UPDATE: As usual, the Obama campaign's Stephanie Cutter nails it!
Cutter said that the mandate is a “penalty that’s administered through the tax code,” but also said that the distinction doesn’t really matter. “Look at what has happened over the past five days,” Cutter said. “His spokesperson calls it a penalty. A couple days later after the right wing of his party rises up and criticizes him, he is suddenly calling it a tax. That’s what this debate is all about, whether Mitt Romney can take a principled position and stick with it. That’s the question.”

The Obama campaign doesn’t “particularly care” if Romney calls it a penalty or a tax, Cutter said. “We just hope he chooses one and sticks to it.”


  1. ADP is out with some optimistic jobs numbers this morning. They're sort of hit or miss, so I will hope for official corroboration tomorrow.

    1. I'll have to check that out - thanks.

      What's interesting is that Romney's camp will likely have to make a calculation...the better the economy is doing, the more he'll be left with having to talk about repealing health care reform. I'm not sure the latter is a winning strategy for him.


    If I were the president, I think that I would ask Romney how his policy plans are significantly different from the ones Boosh used to drive our economy off of a cliff. Most americans still see Boosh as responsible for the recession.