Immune to facts, the mendacious Mitt Romney and his Congressional allies shrieked “Tax Increase!” in press conferences and talk shows after the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its individual responsibility provision.
The truth, of course, is that the individual responsibility provision is not a tax increase. And we can be sure Mitt Romney knows it, because he rejected that argument when it was made against the Massachusetts health care law he personally championed and signed. What Mitt Romney and his friends in Congress are referring to as a 'tax' today is the penalty people must pay for not meeting their responsibility to buy insurance if they can afford it, and shifting their medical costs to the rest of us. That penalty is substantially similar to the one in Massachusetts' Romneycare, where penalties are administered through the tax code, labeled “tax penalties,” and are about the same amount as fines imposed by the ACA.
Mitt Rommey's campaign has struggled to define the ACA penalty as a “tax,” because the ACA's individual responsibility provision is functionally identical to Romneycare's. Last Monday, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney veered off message on MSNBC. He contradicted Romney by rejecting the notion that the individual responsibility provision imposed a “tax,” instead acknowledging it was a “fee or penalty” on free riders. That adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, is the same one who suggested in March on CNN that Romney could easily distance himself from the crazy Republican shit he said during the primary, because general election mechanics are like an “Etch a Sketch” (that is, it allows candidates to be shamelessly inconsistent). Unfortunately, Fehrnstrom couldn't shake off Romney's previous statements in the face of Chuck Todd's persistent questioning.
The day after, Romney again insisted that the Affordable Care Act's individual responsibility provision amounts to “a tax.” It's a rather audacious move for the human weathervane, whose previous statements and actions are at odds with the ones he is using to score political points today. Take these two previous statements, for example.
“First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages “free riders” to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn't cost the government a single dollar.” – Mitt Romney Op-Ed, USA Today, July 30, 2009
“If you don't buy it, you're going to get penalized with a higher tax rate for not having gotten insurance.” – Mitt Romney, in a speech at Claremont McKenna College, April 15, 2010
Americans are smart enough to smell a liar. With less than four months until November's election, there is still plenty of time to examine Romney's previous assertions. We can only hope that by pointing to them, Romney's deceit comes back to bite him.