The Supreme Court, including two justices appointed by President Obama, may have found that the individual mandate imposes a tax on those who fail to buy health insurance, but Democrats were in full denial mode on the Sunday talk shows.
Every Democrat from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew spun vigorously in their effort to keep from using the politically toxic T-word.
Lew struggled to explain why the individual mandate doesn’t violate the president’s 2008 campaign promise not to raise taxes on those earning less than $200,000, trying to dismiss the Supreme Court ruling as semantics.
“Well what they said is that the Congress has many powers – the Commerce Clause, taxing powers and that it was constitutional,” Lew said. “That’s what they said. They said it doesn’t matter what you call it.”
The White House chief of staff suggested that 99 percent of Americans will be unaffected by the penalty.
“For the very few people who decide to be free riders and not have insurance, but still have their costs go into the system so the rest of us pay it, there’s a penalty. It is not a burden on the middle class,” Lew said.
Pelosi, appearing over on NBC’s Meet the Press, nearly stumbled into calling the mandate a tax.
“It’s a penalty that comes under the tax code,” Pelosi said
“It’s a ta—it’s a penalty for free riders,” Pelosi said, nearly uttering the dreaded T-word before cutting herself off.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, similarly sought to deny that the individual mandate amounts to a tax increase during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation with Norah O’Donnell.
O’Malley dismissed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s point that it is a “massive tax increase.”
“That’s the biggest falsehood being perpetuated by these unflinching ideologues, that this is a massive tax increase,” O’Malley said. “The massive so-called tax increase they are talking about is the freeloader penalty that would affect at most the 1 or 2 percent of people who could afford health care and instead want to be freeloaders on the rest of us with uncompensated care.”
And ousted Current TV and MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann sought to deflect the impact calling the mandate a tax in the upcoming election during an appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
“Again, I think it’s got to be a concern for the president that wasn’t there before this terminology was used,” Olbermann said. “But this was already such a huge issue in terms of this divide between people who are opposed to the Obamacare concept yet support each aspect of it. it was already a hot-button issue.”