Human Events Blog

ObamaCare: the biggest little law ever passed

One of the new talking points emerging from the Obama spin machine over the weekend is that ObamaCare might be a tax, but hardly anyone will have to pay it, so there’s no reason to become upset about it.

Democrats still hate to admit it’s a tax, of course, but it’s increasingly difficult to deny, since the constitutionality of ObamaCare is one hundred percent dependent upon accepting the special “John Roberts Director’s Cut” of the legislation.  The Supreme Court was very clear that if ObamaCare’s individual mandate is not exercised under the taxing authority of Congress, the law is unconstitutional.

This begs the question of when some sort of “controlling legal authority,” to borrow Al Gore’s legendary phrase from his fundraising scandal days, might be invoked to whistle down the fresh load of tax denials from Team Obama.  If the Supreme Court says the law is only constitutional if it’s an exercise of taxing power, but the authors and enforcers of the law continue to insist it’s not a tax, shouldn’t someone step forward and say “very well, then your law is unconstitutional, and is hereby nullified in its entirety?”  It’s one thing for conservative and liberal pundits to argue about this point, but quite another when the President and his minions spend their days publicly declaring their outright rejection of the reasoning employed by Chief Justice Roberts to save ObamaCare.

The fact that this is not likely to happen is the ultimate refutation of the conservative “silver lining” argument that Roberts build some terrific new limitations on government power into his decision, which will pay off for defenders of liberty somewhere down the road.  The reasoning and rhetoric of the Roberts decision were immediately ignored by virtually the entire Democrat constellation, whose attitude was best summed up by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “Call it what you will… take ‘yes’ for an answer.”

The power of government has been vastly expanded, and the statists are supremely uninterested in any fine print that might have been scribbled beneath the new trans-Constitutional covenant between Americans and their government.  It’s even hard to argue that the Roberts decision will hand us the tiny consolation prize of forcing liberals to be rhetorically honest about the tax-raising nature of their future plans, because they evidently don’t feel much pressure to be honest now, about ObamaCare.

However, they seem to have concluded their efforts to deny the widely-reported essence of the Roberts decision might not be politically satisfactory, because those denials are accompanied by a new talking point: “Okay, it’s a tax, but what’s the big deal?  Hardly anyone will pay it.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney was pushing this line as early as Friday morning, exclaiming “You can call it what you want, but it is affecting one percent of the population!”  This assertion was echoed by Obama surrogates on various talk shows throughout the weekend.

It’s also a point the Obama campaign is eager to push on its website, which claims that “around 1 percent of people – those who can afford to buy coverage but instead choose to opt out, shifting their costs to the rest of us – will pay a penalty. The Supreme Court acknowledged yesterday that this penalty will be charged through the tax code – but that doesn’t change its purpose of ensuring everyone who can afford insurance buys it, or its effect of lowering costs for everyone.”

Well, one percent of the U.S. population works out to over 30 million people… and a good 75 percent of them will be very solidly lower and middle class, with annual incomes of less than $60,000 per year, based on figures from the Congressional Budget Office.  That doesn’t sound like a mob of lazy freeloading rich people attempting to “shift” their medical costs onto the rest of us.

It’s also very close to the number of uninsured people whose hunger for health insurance was the entire justification for imposing the ObamaCare nightmare on America.  As you might recall from 2009, the President endlessly claimed that 40 to 45 million Americans couldn’t obtain health insurance – but he suddenly stopped making that claim whenever someone pointed out that his 45 million figure included illegal aliens.  Then the number suddenly dropped to less than 20 million, which is much smaller than 30 million who will pay the ObamaCare tax… but now Obama says 30 million is a trivial population, whose finances and Constitutional rights are not worth getting upset about!

Incidentally, will the new population of pseudo-citizens the President recently created by imposing DREAM Act standards on America be required to pay that ObamaCare tax?  How could it possibly be collected from “undocumented Americans” who refuse to buy government-mandated health insurance?

Furthermore, the actual effect of the “cost shifting” Obama complains about produced an increase to health insurance premiums of about 1.7 percent.  That was supposed to be sufficient justification for a massive, trillion-dollar takeover of the health insurance industry by our beyond-bankrupt government.  However, ObamaCare has increased health insurance premiums by far more than 1.7 percent, a point driven home by a new infographic from the Romney campaign:

Sometimes 1 or 2 percent of the population is a large enough group to justify warping the Constitution and piling up a trillion dollars in debt, plus $500 billion in new taxes.  Sometimes it’s a tiny group of irrelevant malcontents that’s barely even worth noticing.  1 or 2 percent tacked on to the average health insurance plan through “cost shifting” is a titanic sum of money that compels government to seize control of entire industries, but 10 or 20 percent of extra cost piled onto those plans through half-baked ObamaCare mandates is a trivial surcharge we should all be happy to pay, in order to place our insurance industry under the enlightened control of federal bureaucracies.

ObamaCare: it’s the biggest little law ever passed!

Update: Dopey math error on my part: 1 percent of the U.S. population is 3-4 million people, not 30 million.  Also, the actual number of “hard-core uninsured,” while still a topic of heated debate, has been pegged by some analysts as much lower than even 20 million.  A December 2010 article in the Weekly Standard picked apart the numbers and found that if illegal aliens, people on Medicaid, and high-income people who prefer fee-for-service over health insurance are subtracted, the actual total of involuntarily uninsured Americans is closer to 12 million.

One of the reasons the insurance premium “surcharge” for cost-shifting is so small is that charities cover a good 75 percent of medical costs for the low-income uninsured.  Taking both my miscalculation and a more detailed breakdown of the uninsured into account, the point I wanted to make – that sometimes small groups matter deeply to politicians, and sometimes they don’t – is more properly a comparison of 3-4 million paying the ObamaCare individual mandate tax, and dismissed as irrelevant, versus 12 million uninsured, on whose behalf the entire health insurance system was seized, and ruined.  Further, if the effect of charity is factored in, we have 3 million taxed versus roughly 4 million uninsured who weren’t covered by private charity.

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