First it was a penalty. Then it was a tax. Now it’s a penalty again.

First it was a penalty. Then it was a tax. Now it’s a penalty again.

The war of words over what to call the fine attached to the federal health care overhaul’s most controversial provision continued Friday, as the White House took issue with the Supreme Court’s argument — even though that argument alone spared President Obama’s law.

The five-justice majority argued that, while the fine imposed by the law for not buying health insurance would otherwise be unconstitutional, the fine is actually legal under Congress’ authority to tax.

Ergo, the fine is officially a “tax” in the eyes of the court. The law stands.

But in a case of biting the hand that feeds, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday the fine is still just a “penalty.”

Calling it a “tax” causes obvious political problems for the White House. Obama fought that label vigorously when selling the bill in 2009.

Carney went on to say Friday that the “penalty” will affect only about 1 percent of Americans, those who refuse to get health insurance. He said the penalty was modeled after the one put in place in Massachusetts when Mitt Romney was governor.

“It’s a penalty, because you have a choice. You don’t have a choice to pay your taxes, right?” Carney said.

Carney was initially reluctant to assign a label to the fine when pressed repeatedly by reporters Friday. “Call it what you want,” he said.

But describing the fine as a “penalty” helps fight Republican claims that the court ruling confirms the Obama administration raised taxes with its health care law.

Republicans threatened to use that argument against the president and Democrats in the 2012 election.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Fox News the ruling means the law becomes a “middle-class tax increase.” He said the IRS will “come after” people who don’t pay.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration pressed ahead Friday with implementing the law. The Department of Health and Human Services was announcing a new program to help states set up so-called health insurance exchanges, which were established under the law.

While Romney vows to repeal the law if elected, Obama has vowed to press forward with implementation.

“Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country,” Obama said, speaking Thursday on national TV from the White House.

“It should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics,” he said. “I did it because it was good for the country.”

Romney pinned the court’s decision to the election and asked voters to render their own ruling.

“If we want to get rid of ObamaCare,” he said, “we’re going to have replace President Obama.”

Democrats, many of whom were bracing for the court striking down the mandate for individuals to buy health insurance, celebrated the decision Thursday. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., told Fox News that the ruling “gives us the opportunity to re-sell the bill, which we did not do before.”

But Republicans vowed to re-double their campaign to repeal the still-controversial law.

The ruling “underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a written statement. “Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country ObamaCare.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed during a Republican administration, joined the four left-leaning justices on the bench in crafting the majority decision.

Roberts stressed that the decision does not speak to the merits of the law. “We do not consider whether the act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the nation’s elected leaders,” he said.

The ruling did rein in one element of the law — the expansion of Medicaid across the country to take in millions of low-income Americans. The opinion allows Washington to offer more funding to states to expand the program, but says the federal government cannot penalize states for not participating in the new program by withholding existing Medicaid funds.

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2 comments on “First it was a penalty. Then it was a tax. Now it’s a penalty again.

  1. It is a war over words, and nothing but. The reality is that it is a penalty for not participating in the healthcare insurance market (and thereby driving up healthcare costs for the rest of us) that comes in the form of a tax. Republicans want to only label it a tax, so they can rile up the irrational base which elects them; Democrats want to call it a tax, ’cause frankly Obama’s a pussy and won’t argue the reasons why this tax is necessary and how avoiding it will help drive down insurance rates.

    The most efficient way to provide lower cost healthcare to almost all of your citizenry is single-payer insurance, i.e. government runs the health insurance industry. It’s been empirically proven to cost less while giving better returns on health outcome measures. The only measure that will suffer is non-life threatening, elective surgeries. That was dead on arrival, thanks to the right’s fear of all things government. So Obama goes with the public option. A government run insurance company that will compete with private companies to help drive down the cost of healthcare. The Republicans shouted, “Socialism!” and they argued about nothing substantial for half a year. Then, as compromise, the Democrats switched over to an idea, born, raised, advocated for, and implemented by Republicans and their conservative ideology. AND THE REPUBLICANS SHOUTED, “SOCIALISM!” It was the weakest, and probably least effective of any plan that was offered – except the Republican plan to cap the amount of compensation available to victims of shoddy, incompetent medical doctors. The amount of savings from that is minuscule compared to the ever increasing costs of healthcare. I nearly forgot about the plan to open up insurance across state’s borders, which is only going to lower the standard of coverage by encouraging cheap insurance havens with companies that are spending more money on denying you your claims than they are on providing for your medical care, which in turn will suck people out of quality coverage plans increasing the costs of adequate insurance coverage. While the private insurance company’s CEOs laugh all the way to the bank and the cost of healthcare, emergency vists, etc all continue to rise at nearly the same rate.

    Shitty as it is, I’m inclined to leave Obamacare in place until someone else actually presents a plan that will do a better job of driving down costs and increasing coverage. The calls to repeal Obamacare are advocating for increasing our deficit further (by about 250 billion) and they haven’t even bothered to articulate a plan that they think is better, let alone which actually is better. So not only are they advocating for increasing our deficit, but they are also advocating returning back to the insurance environment we just came from that was encouraging the cost of healthcare to skyrocket (again, in comparison to every other first world country out there with socialized medicine). Perhaps if the Republicans made the public, whose agents they are, they number one priority instead of making sure Obama loses his second election, maybe they could have worked on a reasonable plan and found some sort of compromise that might actually have benefited the public. Instead they’ve acted like a bunch of intransigent toddlers who want to take their ball home because they can’t get their way. If you listen to the progressive’s critique of Obama, you’ll know that they feel he’s compromised more than they would have liked. But there has been no compromise from the conservative side. They threw out what should have been a victorious historical ratio of spending cuts to tax increases (4 : 1) for the Republican party, and each one of the goons running for the R nomination said they would not accept a 10 : 1 ratio of cuts to taxes, driving the US to almost default and dropped our credit rating because of their inability to work well with others. And they want to do it again. They held the unemployed hostage so that the wealthy could avoid a 4 %-point tax increase despite the resultant rate being 50 %-points less than the historic high, 30 %-points less than under Kennedy, and the exact same rate they paid under Clinton; under all three of those rates the country was in better fiscal shape than it is now. For decades they have been mounting operation Starve the Beast, and guess what? This economy is the result. Sweden, with it’s generous welfare system and prudent fiscal restraint during good economic times has weathered this crisis better than pretty much anyone else, and faster too. Thank god we have a federal government which will provide aid to its member states (and those states will accept it, whether or not they bitch about the spending) or we’d be much more like the rest of Europe and we’d all be fucked.

    Rant over.

  2. That was an epic rant. Unfortunately, it was devoid of facts and full of hysterical hyperbole. The fact is that ObamaCare is going to cost twice as much as first projected and that is a conservative estimate. It started at about 800 Billion and has escalated up to almost two Trillion. And it hasn’t even been implemented yet. Expect the costs to go even higher.

    A government bureaucrat will have the ability to decide whether or not you need that knee or hip replacement surgery, not you and your doctor.

    Need a colonoscopy…just shit on this piece of paper and send it in…we’ll let you know if your shit don’t stink or your going to die from colon cancer. We’ll send you some pills so you don’t suffer too bad.

    The Democrats shoved ACA down our throats and did not accept any input from the Republicans nor from the majority of Americans who did not want it.. You must have been having one of your cranialrectolotomies* at the time of the passage of this heinous legislation.

    * Head stuck up your ass.

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