The Obamacare Tax Cut
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The Democrats are fit to be tied over the maneuver underway in the Senate to gut Obamacare through a tweak to the legislation enacting the Trump tax cuts. Imagine that. The mind reels at the thought. What could the Republicans possibly be thinking in dealing with national health insurance through a tax bill? Plus, too, they are preparing to do this on a party line vote.
Blame Chief Justice Roberts & Co., we say. When Obamacare came before the Supreme Court, the Nine made short work of the administration’s claim that Congress had the power to put through the national health care scheme through not only its enumerated power to regulate commerce among the several states — but also through what is known as the general welfare clause.
Those claims to authority — relied on by Democrats when they passed Obamacare — were denied by the Supreme Court. Neither the Commerce Clause nor the General Welfare Clause, it ruled, gave the United States Congress the power to force someone to purchase health insurance. What enabled the Congress to push around the hapless uninsured citizen was the taxing power.
This notion, advanced by the very government that denied Obamacare was a tax, was credited by Chief Justice Roberts in reputation-making double-talk. The administration may describe as a “penalty” what its health care law imposes on an individual who fails to get insured. The court, the chief justice suggested, could take nonetheless a “functional approach” and treat it as a tax. The functional effect of his perverse reasoning is that people started laughing at him.
And if the GOP has its way, the people are going to get the last laugh. If the tax bill does get through Congress — still an if — it is likely to be done on the same kind of party-line vote with which Obamacare was brought into law in the first place. A nice irony. If the Obamacare mandate is ended through an amendment to the tax bill, it will be by the same linguistic dodge through which the Supreme Court originally put the gloss on the law.
There are those of us who saw this coming. When the Supreme Court gave Obamacare a pass, we issued an editorial that called it “a moment to remember that if the Obamacare mandate is a tax, then it is something that can be cut or repealed, as thousands of other taxes have been in the history of our country, almost always to beneficial effect. That is, after all, the bedrock on which our entire revolution began.”