The Corner

‘The Tax that Wasn’t’

I’m certain that when Obama told Stephanopoulos the penalty for defying the individual mandate in the health-care bill is not a tax increase I didn’t believe him. Turns out he was correct, as I write today. This makes it much more difficult to defend the individual mandate in court. I couldn’t get into this in my column, but even if the mandate is ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court, most of Obamacare will stand. It will make the insurance regulations even less tenable, but the massive subsidies and increases in Medicaid will presumably stand. The courts aren’t going to save us here–there’s no good alternative for repeal, passed by Congress and signed by a Republican president.

A couple of e-mails. I have a Humpty Dumpty reference in my column. A reader notes another Alice in Wonderland quote appropriate to recent doings in Washington: 

`I don’t think they play at all fairly,’ Alice began, in rather a complaining tone, `and they all quarrel so dreadfully one can’t hear oneself speak–and they don’t seem to have any rules in particular; at least, if there are, nobody attends to them–and you’ve no idea how confusing it is all the things being alive.’

And a thought from a tax attorney:

As a retired tax attorney including four plus years as a trial attorney for the D o J, I think characterizing the penalty for not buying insurance as a tax would give the anti-mandate litigants an even stronger position. I have given this a great deal of thought and I conclude that there is no such thing as a tax on inactivity. For instance the government can tax people who want to smoke or drink but it has never taxed people who did not want to smoke or drink. Likewise it can tax the income of people who work but cannot tax people like me who could earn income but choose to retire. The list goes on and on…

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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