For more than three years, Republican critics of President Obama's health care reform law have come up with all kinds of reasons to hate the law, most of which fall apart rather quickly under scrutiny. Thanks to last week's Supreme Court ruling, however, the right has a new talking point they've largely ignored up until now: Obamacare raises taxes.
For Republicans, this should effectively end the conversation. The individual mandate counts as a "tax"; taxes are inherently evil; ergo the law is awful and anyone who supported it deserves to be publicly flogged. What's more, conservatives are arguing that this wasn't just any ol' tax increase -- it was the Largest Tax Increase Ever.
On Fox News, Jim Pinkerton characterized the mandate as "the biggest tax increase in the history of the universe."
I hope most objective observers can agree this is, for lack of a better word, dumb. As Josh Marshall explained, "The Congressional Budget Office says the mandate penalty will raise $27 billion between 2012 and 2021. $27 billion over a decade. Anybody who cares to can do the math. But if you want to call it a 'tax increase' -- which is debatable -- it's clearly one of tiniest ones in history."
This one tax penalty raises less than $3 billion a year, and it would affect about 1% of the population. What's more, even if we're generous, and assume the right is talking about all of the provisions within the law that raise new revenue, it's still not even close to being the largest tax increase ever.
And just to top this off, Mitt Romney, the man Republicans want to be president, created and imposed the exact same tax penalty. He is, in fact, the only public official in American history to implement the policy the right is now pretending to find outrageous.
The entire argument is demonstrably ridiculous, apparently crafted under the assumption that voters are fools. We'll see if the assumption is correct.