At issue is whether or not these mandates are in fact a tax increase. The president, of course, denies this, however this assertion is countered by the language in the bill. Here's the relevant language.
Page 29, sentence one of the bill introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont) says: “The consequence for not maintaining insurance would be an excise tax.”
And the rest of the bill is clear that the Finance Committee does, in fact, consider it a tax: “The excise tax would be assessed through the tax code and applied as an additional amount of Federal tax owed."
There is a long exchange between President Obama and George Stephanopoulos in the article. I will let the audience click over and read it there. Also, here is full coverage of the interview from ABC.
The president's assertion that these excise taxes on anyone that doesn't get health insurance aren't really a tax goes like this. First, those without insurance cost those with insurance money and so there's already a tax in the system. Second, health insurance premiums are going up and so there's already a tax. Third, by forcing this mandate, we will have a healthier people and so that will bend the cost curve on health care and thus everyone will wind up saving money.
There is absolutely no way to test most of the president's assertions. Sure, health care premiums are going up. There's no way to know that the president's plan will stop that. Sure, those without health care are a strain on the system when they show up and get free health care services. Yet, there's no proof that the Obama plan will have any effect on health care costs. None of his statements can be tested. The only way we would know is by having the plan take effect and seeing what happens.
There is no doubt that his plan calls on an excise tax on both health insurance providers and those with the means but no insurance will be taxed if they continue that way. Those are taxes. Everything else is a theoretical point that can't be proven one way or another. In other words, the president would like us to disregard the tax that is clearly in the bill because in theory, there will be savings that the president hopes will happen as a result of the plan.
Furthermore, the President continues to compare this health insurance mandate to car insurance mandates. That's just silly. No one forces anyone to have car insurance. They merely force you to have car insurance if you have a car. No one is mandated to have a car. In fact, driving is a privilege and not a right. If you drive you must have car insurance, but no one is mandating that you drive. Health insurance is a mandate simply for living.
The president continues to get in trouble with this kind of language. He continues to lose credibility when he claims one thing and has a different outcome. He promised no more earmarks and then signed an omnibus bill with eight thousand earmarks. He promised no more lobbyists in his administration and then proceeded to exempt dozens from that rule. He promised to be open and transparent and then proceeded to block the release of numerous White House minutes.
In this case, he is guilty of promising something he simply has no hope of achieving. The president is determined to spend an unprecendented amount of money. Yet, he also proclaims that only the superwealthy will have their taxes rise. He also promises to tackle the deficit, sometime. Well, you can't spend unprecendent amounts of money, tackle the deficit, and also only tax the really rich. This isn't his fantasy but reality. The math doesn't add up. So, he's forced to claim that an excise tax is really not a tax. The public isn't buying and that's why opinion continues to slip.