The Obama administration spent Sunday morning desperately trying to convince Americans that the President’s healthcare reform law is a “penalty” and not a “tax,” despite the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that the individual mandate portion of the law is constitutional only under Congress’ power to tax.
White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew went on the top Sunday morning news shows to perform the tough task of persuading Americans to believe that the “penalty” that will be assessed on Americans who do not have health insurance is not a tax. Thus according to the Obama administration, the President has kept his promise not to raise taxes on middle class Americans.
“The court found it Constitutional. Frankly what you call it isn’t the issue,” Lew, the former Chief of the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, claiming the Supreme Court decision was a very complicated one that merely stated, “There’s a power, whatever you call it, to assess a penalty like this.”
On CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Lew said, “Well, the law is clear. It is called a penalty.”
He went on to claim on CNN that the Supreme Court “didn’t call it a tax. It was using a power under the constitution that permits it.”
In an attempt to change the subject Lew also insisted that, “what the Supreme Court ruled is that this law is constitutional, and it is time to move on.”
In a heated exchange with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace Lew incorrectly claimed that the Supreme Court said “the law was constitutional and it didn’t matter what Congress called it.”
When Wallace tried to interrupt the White House Chief of Staff and point out that the Supreme Court did in fact rule that it was a tax, Lew inaccurately rebutted that “No, actually, technically what they said is that Congress has many powers, and there’s the Commence Clause and there’s taxing powers, and it was Constitutional. That’s what they said.”
Wallace then jumped in and took Lew to task on what the court actually ruled, pointing out that the Supreme Court said the law was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause. The only way the law was deemed constitutional was as a tax.
“I can’t let you go there,” Wallace said. “It specifically said it is not constitutional under the Commerce Clause. They said it is Constitutional under the tax,” later adding that it will be a “tax increase on the middle class of 27 billion over the next 10 years.”
When Lew still wouldn’t come to reason Wallace played a clip of the Obama administration’s lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, saying that that the law should be constitutional “as a tax power.”
“If it walks and quacks like a duck, it is a duck,” Wallace told Lew after the clip.
Backed into a corner, Lew then told Wallace that Obamacare was “not set up as a tax” regardless of what the Obama administration argued during the Supreme Court hearing or what the court ruled.
Lew repeatedly tried to claim across the shows that only the “1 percent” and “the very, very few who choose to go uninsured who can afford it” would be affected by the tax increase, not the middle class. He claimed that for those Americans that choose to be a burden on other people by being “free riders” and not “paying their fair share” will be forced to pay a penalty.
However, his comments ignored the fact that many unemployed middle class Americans suffering under the Obama economy will also be hit by what Republicans are calling the largest tax increase in the history of the United States.
Lew also tried to subtly make the case that Obamacare is no different than the plan enacted in Massachusetts by then-Governor Mitt Romney, President Obama’s chief opponent in the 2012 presidential race. Yet, Romney’s plan, also known as Romneycare, was never intended to be blueprint for the nation, rather one state’s solution to it’s internal problems under the guarantee of states rights in the 10th Amendment.
While it is true that the Supreme Court decision was very complicated overall, it was clear in it’s opinion, that the individual mandate section of the health reform law – the portion hat requires every American who is not covered by their employer to purchase health insurance – is not constitutional under the Commerce Clause. Congress cannot regulate economic inactivity. The majority opinion of the court states that the law is Constitutional only under Congress’s power to tax under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
Lew said on This Week he didn’t think in the end the election would be a referendum on Obamacare and said that it would instead be about the economy.
Unfortunately for Democrats, the election will now be about both the controversial healthcare reform legislation and the economy, which are now inextricably tied. Millions of out of work and struggling Americans are now facing a massive tax increase that will hurt their finances in the short-term with little to no long-term pay-off.
Democrats now have the clear handicap going into the fall, and if they can’t see that they’re even more out of touch than Americans may have thought before.