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A tax by any other name

I want to express my appreciation to John Roberts for a major insight. When he explained that the individual mandate, which I called a “freeloader penalty” is really a tax, I suddenly realized that all taxes are essentially “freeloader penalties” and that those who constantly complain about taxes, e.g., all conservatives, are would-be freeloaders. Once you have that insight, conservatives become very easy targets and their squirming becomes hysterically entertaining, e.g., this interaction between Chuck Todd and Romney’s campaign manager Eric Fehrnstrom this morning on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown”:

FEHRNSTROM: [T]he governor has consistently described the mandate as a penalty […] Let’s take a step back and look at what the president has said about Obamacare. In order to get it past the Congress, he insisted publicly and to the members of Congress that the mandate was not a tax. After it passed the Congress, he sent his solicitor general up to court to argue that it was a tax. Now he is back to arguing that it’s not a tax. So he’s all over the map.


TODD: It sounds like Governor Romney though agrees that it’s not a tax. So what you just said is that Governor Romney agrees that it’s not a tax. You guys called it a tax?

FEHRNSTROM: The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court. He agreed with the dissent written by Justice Scalia which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax.

TODD: Okay. Which — so I guess — we’re — I think we’re talking around each other. The governor does not believe the mandate is a tax? That is what you’re saying?

FEHRNSTROM: The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax.

TODD: But he agrees with the president that it is not — and he believes that you should not call the tax penalty a tax, you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?

FEHRNSTROM: That’s correct.

But that dissent by Justice Scalia, with which Governor Romney allegedly agrees, also says that the mandates are unconstitutional.

The point is that the mandate is a “freeloader penalty,” which is a synonym for “tax.” Everything becomes so much clearer, once you realize that.

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