It Is This. And That. And This And That.
Republicans don't know which end is up. Usually, the Gas and Oil Party is on message, home to all things Stepford, marching in lockstep in opposition to President Obama and most sensible ideas.
Not so their reaction to the finding of Chief Justice Roberts that the fee to be paid by individuals refusing to purchase health insurance is a tax rather than a penalty. Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom- he of the Etch a Sketch admission- yesterday morning told MSNBC's Chuck Todd "The governor believes what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the Court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax. [...]"
Few Republicans rushed to agree. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, asked on Fox News Sunday about possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, stated "The Chief Justice said it's a tax. Taxes are clearly what we call reconcilable. That's the kind of measure that can be pursued with 51 votes in the Senate." House Speaker John Boehner, on Face the Nation, similarly claimed "The American people do not want to go down this path. They do not want the government telling them what kind of insurance policy they have to buy, and how much they have to pay for it, and if you don't like it we're going to tax you." On Tuesday morning, RNC Chairman Rance Piebus argued "It’s a tax and the reason why it’s a tax is because the Supreme Court number one ruled it was a tax and number two, it’s what Barack Obama’s lawyer argued before the Supreme Court" (faulty reasoning, by the way).
I'm not criticizing the GOP. Thus far, there seems to be no party line on how to categorize the fee, and for that the Repub Party deserves credit, at least until it decides to demand its characteristic strict conformity to talking points. McConnell, Boehner, and most Republicans want to flog the President by pinning a tax on him. Governor Romney's people, however, are loathe to term a "tax" the same thing Romney imposed the upon the people of Massachusetts to avert the "free rider" problem when he implemented the reform later known (with variation) as "Obamacare."
Furthermore, it is, in fact, confusing. The top dog on the highest court in the land, arguably America's foremost jurist, sees a penalty and calls it not a penalty but a tax. A tax is imposed upon individuals to raise revenue for the benefit of the public; a penalty is imposed upon someone who either does what he/she shouldn't or, as in this case, refuses to do what should be done. Notwithstanding collection of the fee by the I.R.S., this is probably a penalty rather than a tax. Legally,obviously, it has become a tax by decree of the Court. Your mileage may vary.
It is therefore a tax. Or a penalty. What it is not, is both.
Unless you're a gutless politician. If you're completely without backbone and want to avoid identifying the fee as either a penalty or a tax, you will say on GOP TV's Fox and Friends "There's no question that it's both, it's meant to penalize people and it is a tax, there's no doubt, because they have to pay for a government program... "
Your name would be Chris Christie. Someone should tell the governor of New Jersey that he does not get to call it a tax when condemning Barack Obama and a penalty when defending former Massachusetts governor and health-care reformer Mitt Romney. If it's meant to penalize people, it is a penalty. If it is a tax, it is a tax. It is not a penalty when convenient and a tax when convenient. And by the way: you're not getting on the ticket.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY