Two-and-a-half years ago, President Obama teamed up with Democrats in Congress to pass a health care bill they knew most Americans didn’t want. Americans weren’t shy about expressing their bad opinion of the bill, so Democrats settled on a dishonest sales pitch aimed at changing their minds.
Nearly every day since, the promises that formed the heart of that sales pitch have been exposed as deceptions. Whether it was the pledge of lower health care costs, lower premiums, the protection of Medicare, or the oft-repeated claim that those who like the plans they have can keep them, Obamacare has already produced a lengthy trail of broken promises even before the Supreme Court blew the cover on what may be the biggest howler of all: that the penalty incurred for not obtaining health insurance was somehow not a tax.
For years, President Obama swore up and down that the failure to buy insurance would not result in a tax. And the reason for the claim was obvious: If Americans knew they’d have to choose between being forced to buy a health insurance policy mandated by the government or pay a tax, it never would have passed. Nor could the president claim he wasn’t raising taxes on the middle class.
The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate on one basis only: that a failure to buy the insurance results in a tax. According to the majority opinion, Congress does not have the constitutional authority to mandate insurance coverage for every American under the Commerce Clause, but it does have the power to tax. So the majority upheld this mandate on that basis.
In the eyes of the court, the failure to follow the individual mandate will get you taxed, plain and simple, and according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, it hits the middle class hardest. That’s why last week’s decision turns the president’s campaign rhetoric on its head. According to the CBO, at least 77 percent of the people paying this tax will meet the president’s own definition of middle class.
Despite paying an average tax of nearly $1,200, the people paying this penalty still won’t have health insurance.
This is the truth the court unmasked on Thursday, and it’s one that Republicans will continue to talk about until this terrible law is wiped clear off the books. Most Americans thought the process Democrats used to pass it was unseemly, secretive, partisan and anti-democratic. Unlike the proponents of this bill, they also thought it was unconstitutional for Washington to create commerce in order to regulate it.
All of this is still true. But what many Americans may not have appreciated when the president’s health care bill was passed was how empty all the promises were that were used to sell it. At the center of them all was the claim that the failure to comply with the individual mandate would not result in a tax. But the court has now spoken: It is a tax. It falls primarily on middle-class individuals and families. And this is just one more reason among many for why Obamacare must be repealed.
It’s time for Democrats to stop defending the indefensible and to join us in repealing this colossal mistake. The court’s decision gives us the clearest proof yet that this law has to go, so we can clear the way for common-sense, step-by-step reforms that protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. And that’s precisely what Republicans intend to do.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, is minority leader of the Senate. He was first elected to Congress in 1984.
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