New GOP meme: attacking Obamacare as a tax

Recovering from the blow to their position on Obamacare, Republicans (except Mitt Romney, whose signature achievement as governor was just vindicated, although you won’t hear him say so in this bizarre political climate) have already shifted tactics.

They are genetically compelled to attack, attack, attack the president. So their new means of doing so is to seize upon the court’s assertion that Obamacare constitutes taxation, and attack it accordingly (all taxes being, according to their ideology, bad). Lindsey Graham, being the smartest Republican in Washington, was among the first to make this shift:

To our Democrat colleagues, stand by your tax increase or stand with us to Repeal and Replace Obamacare.

(Note the way he says “Democrat colleagues.” This is a subtle ruse on his part to hide from his base the fact that he is as smart as he is: Look at me! I don’t know the difference between a noun and an adjective any more than you do! But then, he hurts himself with that same base by calling the enemy “colleagues.”)

Democrats, being partisans, will probably not respond any more intelligently.

But here’s how I wish they would respond: By saying, OK, it’s a tax. So let’s stop fooling around. Let’s replace this with single-payer, which of course we would all support through our taxes.

I’d like to see that, but I’m not holding my breath. I’d done enough of that, waiting on the Supremes to make up their minds.

71 thoughts on “New GOP meme: attacking Obamacare as a tax

  1. Brad

    A longer version of what Graham had to say:

    Graham on Supreme Court ‘Tax’ Ruling on Obamacare

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on the Supreme Court decision ruling that the individual mandate is a ‘Tax.’

    “To our Democratic colleagues, stand by your tax increase or stand with us to Repeal and Replace Obamacare.

    “During the entire congressional debate over Obamcare, Democrats vehemently denied this was a tax on the American people. The Obama Administration also denied it was a tax. However, when the case went to Court, they argued, for constitutional purposes, it was a tax.

    “I have always believed the individual mandate would not be upheld under the Commerce Clause because you cannot compel someone to enter into commerce. However, I have always been afraid the broad power to tax could be used by the Court to justify Obamacare.

    “The problem for the American people is this is a massive tax increase at a time they can least afford it and Obamacare will jeopardize the quality and accessibility of health care.

    “Now Congress has a chance to Repeal and Replace Obamacare, one of the largest tax increases on the American people, with common-sense health care reform we can afford. I am glad I voted against one of the largest tax increases on the American people in modern history for the purpose of creating government-controlled health care.

    “The question for Congress is — Did you intend to tax the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars to create a government-controlled health care system or not?

    “I am urging the Republican leadership to immediately insist on debating whether or not Obamacare is in fact a tax in the eyes of the politicians who proposed the legislation. If it was never meant to be a tax, they should immediately Repeal and Replace this bill.”

  2. Doug Ross

    Even when he’s being a partisan hack you have to praise him for being “as smart as he is”.

    Graham is a showboating politician of the highest order. His only internal ethical compass points directly at whatever camera is available.

    The nice thing is that, like the weather, if you don’t like Lindsey Graham’s opinion, just wait til either before the next election or after it. He’ll switch sides as soon as the election is over.

  3. kc

    Why can’t you just acknowledge that Graham is as shameful a panderer as anyone else in Washington?

  4. Brad

    Because he isn’t.

    Why can’t kc and Doug Ross acknowledge that Graham is a man of principle who from time to time places special emphasis on the items where he agrees with his base, in order to give himself enough political capital for the areas where he DISagrees with his base?

    I consider steps taken by Lindsey Graham to stay in office to be steps worth taking. Because the alternative is another Jim DeMint.
    That’s reality.

  5. Brad

    Oh, and I’m having trouble recalling any time that Graham has “switched sides” on a substantive issue, as Doug suggests.

    Mind you, changing one’s mind is no sin. I’m just not thinking of any time when he did.

    Critics like Doug think he did so on immigration. He didn’t. He just switched to emphasizing the part of his long-held position with which his base agreed: securing the border. And he did that because it was clear that for the time being, comprehensive reform was impossible. So a sensible man tries to achieve what he can, and look for the opportunity to achieve more when it comes. And it will come.

  6. Steven Davis II

    From USA Today:

    “Chief Justice John Roberts announced the decision that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans. He argued that the mandate is constitutional only because the penalty “functions like a tax” and is therefore allowed under Congress’ taxing power.”

    Yes, it’s viewed the same as a tax, so calling it a tax is correct.

  7. bud

    To our Democrat colleagues, stand by your tax increase or stand with us to Repeal and Replace Obamacare.
    -Lindsey Graham

    And how does statements like this provide evidence that he’s the “smartest Republican in Washington”. Then again, you don’t have to be very smart to claim that title. 🙂

  8. Doug Ross

    How about all his Obama bashing during the McCain campaign that disappeared immediately after Obama cleaned Obama’s clock? Then we got the Lindsey Graham who wanted to work with Democrats.

  9. Steven Davis II

    Obamacare “Tax” calculator

    Just as an example, I put in that I was married, family of 4, income of $100,000 and had no insurance. I’d have to pay a “penalty” of $2085. Is it financially smart to dump your $1600/month health insurance and just pay the penalty/tax when you need it? This alone could save families $20,000 per year if you don’t visit the doctor.

  10. bud

    Why can’t kc and Doug Ross acknowledge that Graham is a man of principle ….


  11. Silence

    I like that the Dems are applauding the decison with grace, dignity and class including:

    “It’s constitutional. Bitches” – a Tweet from the executive director of the DNC @patrickgaspard
    “Overheard in the office: “TAKE THAT MOTHER******S!!” from the DNC’s new media director @ggreeneva

    OK, well at least Gaspard apologized.

    Keep it classy Democrats!

  12. Steven Davis II

    It gets better, using the calculator as a millionaire single person over the age of 26.

    “At that point, assuming your current income remains the same and your household consists of 1 uninsured adult, you would be subject to a penalty of about $348.”

    Screw BC&BS, I’ll just pay the penalty out of my stripper money in my pocket.

  13. Phillip

    I’m not here to argue with your characterization of Graham as the “smartest Republican in Washington.” Maybe he is, but that’s like calling somebody the greatest player on the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Your point about the alternative in SC being another Jim DeMint, however, is well taken. But SC is not going to stay this way forever.

    I always love this GOP phrase of “repeal and replace,” when they have not the slightest intention of carrying out the second half of that phrase. What they really mean is “Repeal and Relax.”

  14. Mark Stewart

    I fail to see this huge tax increase as an economic iceburg.

    Now, the government susidizes many peoples’ care, either directly through Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, government agency plans, etc. At the same time, those with insurance subsidize those without insurance indirectly through higher medical charges.

    It makes no sense to me that people are complaining about paying for others’ care through a “new” tax when they are already paying those subsidies in a number of ways now.

    This seems more like balance sheet consolidation than anything else. Of course the costs of the ACA will be huge – I’m just not convinced that the sums will be any larger than what we now have in the aggregate.

    Graham raging about repealing because this is a tax is such a red herring. I am actually kind of surprised that he didn’t vote for it; that would have been the principled position to take.

    Somehow I have the feeling that not a few sober Republicans are quietly pleased that something actually substantive and transformative has been achieved – whether they personally could have brought themselves to vote for it or not.

  15. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    @Mark–I see your point. The services rendered are likely to be the same–maybe people will see a doctor sooner rather than later, so maybe even a long term savings. I suppose the economic impact depends on the marginal propensities of the people who will now pay vs. those who heretofore paid. If we see a transfer of wealth from working poor people to rich people, I suppose there could be a negative impact. If, on the other hand, that is offset by lower costs to everyone b/c the working poor are being seen in more efficient MDs’ offices rather than ERs and getting blood pressure meds before they have a stroke….

  16. David

    “Democrats, being partisans, will probably not respond any more intelligently.”

    Seriously? Democrats’ response at Graham’s level will show their partisanship but Graham’s words don’t show his?

    You write that Graham plays to the “base” with phrases like “Democrat colleagues” but he is not a panderer?

    When Graham calls the ACA a “government-controlled health care system” he is being principled. When others do it, they are hyperbolic ideologues.

    Graham can sign the ATR pledge to never ever ever raise tax rates with ONLY the small caveat that he’d use some revenue from a hypothetical elimination of a deduction to reduce deficits and that is reasonable?

    It’s not. It’s ridiculous.

  17. Silence

    @ Burl – No American law enforcement agents were killed because of the Watergate conspiracy. If you have evidence to the contrary, please line up to receive your Pulitzer.

    @SDII – Who’s the sucker paying $1600/month for health insurance? Mine’s cost me $564 this year so far, and my wife & daughter’s costs the wife $200/month.

    I don’t always agree with Sen. Graham, but he strikes me as more of a free thinker than most of the other Senators frome either party. There’s a lot of issues he could go either way on.

  18. Burl Burlingame

    Why do I get the feeling that Graham will only change his mind when the GOP-theme-of-the-day orders him to? So far you can utterly rely on him to slavishly spout the party line, no matter how noxious.

    I’m still wobbly from the last shrieking Republican meme, that invoking executive privilege is “worse than Watergate.” They’re still trying to legitimize the Watergate crimes?

  19. Steven Davis II

    @Silence – Just threw out a number. So using your numbers you could not have insurance, and bank 9 months of premiums.

  20. Brad

    David, excuse me for failing to say “also partisans,” but I thought it was clear that I was saying that they are just like the Republicans, for two reasons — because that’s what I ALWAYS say, and because I just said “will probably not respond any more intelligently.”

    How you could get the impression, within the context of this blog, that I think Democrats are partisans and Republicans are not, is just beyond me…

  21. Silence

    @ Mark – I think the expectation in Massachusetts was that they’d actually save money. The uninsured were using the ER as their primary care source, and of course the hospitals were having to pay for this care. Unfortunately the newly insured didn’t stop using the ER for minor/non-urgent care and the costs to the state for covering the state-pool insured now runs about $2B annually, some of which is reimbursed by the feds, up from about $1B in 2006.

  22. Silence

    @ ‘Kathryn – As I’ve posted several times earlier, I think the expected cost savings will fail to materialize. MA certainly didn’t find any savings. I think there’s probably a lot of people who will consume a lot more care once they are covered, and maybe there’s an intangible benefit there, if it improves their QOL, but I think that we’ll use a lot more services in aggregate.

    Maybe before I’d have just taken some Tylenol for my aching knee, and now I’ll go and get a knee replacement? And that’s fine, if it improves people’s quality of life, but we just need to understand that we’ll spend more.

  23. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    @Silence–No reputable MD is going to give a knee replacement to someone who can be effectively treated with Tylenol.

    Maybe you will get some advice for anti-inflammatory drugs and not need a knee replacement down the way.

    I think we do not and cannot know what will happen. The system is too complex and chaotic.

  24. Lynn

    Gov. Haley is going to say NO to the Medicaid expansion in South Carolina based on the SCOTUS decisions.

  25. David

    Brad, I was not clear. I know you think, generally, that the Republicans and Democrats are partisans. Because they are.

    But Doug specifically claimed Graham to be a “partisan hack” (and then kc called him a panderer). You disagreed with Doug (right?). That was my point. Graham may not be the most partisan person in Washington but he’s pretty guilty in my eyes.

  26. Brad

    … further evidence, if we needed it, of the monumental error the voters committed when they just barely elected her over Vincent Sheheen in the Year of Madness 2010…

  27. Brad

    David, Graham is a partisan, because he is a Republican. A CONSERVATIVE Republican, despite ranting in his base to the contrary.

    Of course, there are partisans and then there are partisans. I refer you to our JUNIOR senator…

    The only guy in the Senate I can think of who is not by default a partisan is Joe Lieberman. The partisans kicked him out of his party…

  28. Brad

    I know you will. That’s one of the ways in which we differ.

    Whether you like him or not, though, the description of “nonpartisan” fits, by definition.

    I liked Joe when he was a Democrat. His getting kicked out of the party, for the sin of being right when they were wrong, just made me like him better

  29. bud

    Silence you’re addressing the cost issue by suggesting people in MA still go to the ER even when they are covered. And you also point out the costs have soared. But haven’t costs for medical care soared everywhere? At least in MA most people have coverage. And they have one of the longest life expectancies in the nation. If it does indeed cost more for medical care in MA that SC isn’t the extra cost worth it?

  30. bud

    Throughout this debate it always fascinates me that people like to play the “costs will go up” card whenever any reforms are suggested to help more people get health insurance. Problem with that argument is that it overlooks the fact that the US pays far, far more for health care than anyone else. Last time I checked one of the Scandinavian countries (I think Norway) was second. But Americans paid about 60% more than they did. Not sure it’s credible to suggest costs will go up when costs have been going up dramatically under the old system.

  31. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – “No reputable MD is going to give a knee replacement to someone who can be effectively treated with Tylenol. ”

    The problem is with the word “reputable”. There are specialists in Columbia who will do fairly invasive and highly profitable procedures on 80 and 90 year old patients who are labeled in the medical community as “train wrecks” where the outcome wouldn’t really matter.

  32. Mark Stewart

    Nikki can be counted on to keep the children of this state at a disadvantage, I’m pretty sure of that.

  33. Brad

    Obama doesn’t mess around with small arms. He’s a drones-and-missiles kind of guy. And if you want to get whacked by him, you have to go through an extensive process until you arrive at the top of the list, on his desk in the Oval Office.

    Hardly worth the trouble, really…

  34. Brad

    I went to check Bud’s assertion that the people of “MA,” as the guys on Car Talk call it, have higher life expectancies.

    Not bad, at 6th in the nation (80.1 years). We rank 42nd, at 76.6 years.

    Who’s at the top of the list? Burl’s home (and Obama’s too, come to think of it) of Hawaii, with an 81.5-year expectation.

    I think that’s probably because if you live in Hawaii, you WANT to live longer…

  35. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    @Silence–but fixing an 80 year old person’s knee, regardless of “train wreck” status, is not the same as saying the knee could suffice with Tylenol. Mobility in the elderly is crucial to keep them at home. This is a huge cost savings!

  36. Phillip

    @Silence: So I guess, let’s say hypothetically, if it later turned out that President Obama bribed Roberts millions of dollars for his decisive vote in the ACA decision, that would still be a less serious scandal than Fast and Furious because nobody died.

    A senseless death is indeed a horrible thing; but if we’re talking scandal and fundamental flouting of executive power and the Constitution, the test of its ultimate significance is how high up and/or how widespread a conspiracy, or the effort to subvert democratic institutions, goes. That may or may not involve direct physical harm. If Obama decided to suspend Congress, for example, and sort of place them all under cozy but non-physically threatening house arrest, well possibly nobody would die but again that would have to be judged more serious than F & F.

    As Jon Stewart pointed out the other night, conservatives/Fox weaken any legitimacy they might have in uncovering Obama misdeeds by invoking Watergate at every opportunity. Even a legitimate investigation such as F&F is undermined by being led by such a clown as Issa.

  37. Burl Burlingame

    Speaking of 80-year-olds with bad knees, I found a huge bottle of oxycontin in my father’s medicine cabinet. “Dad,” I said, “aren’t you worried about getting addicted to this stuff?”

    “I’m 81,” he replied. “What the f*** do I care?”

  38. kc

    Why can’t kc and Doug Ross acknowledge that Graham is a man of principle

    Because he’s not, as your own post demonstrates.

    Or maybe a better way to put it would be “Graham is a man of principle who’s willing to chuck his principles in the trash can if that’s what it takes to get re-elected”

  39. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Well, I fear Slate has nailed it:

    The part about how 19 out of 21 Con Law scholars thought SCOTUS should uphold the mandate based on Commerce Clause precedent, while only 8 believed they would, and how Roberts has been gleefully waiting to spring this Trojan horse that will finish off the Commerce Clause. Federalists hate the commerce clause—which brought you integrated lunch counters, for a start, lest we forget.

  40. Karen McLeod

    Re: longer life expectancy, I noted that Hawaii also has one of the highest percentages of residents who already have health insurance.

  41. Silence

    Sorry all, I was in meetings from 3 PM on yesterday – didn’t get home until 10:30 – so a bit delayed in responding to everyone’s comments which seemed to have been largely directed to me! I love it! Here I go:

    @ Burl – Brad addressed this quite adequately, but Obama is the first president known to have a “kill list.” Which is a policy that I don’t mind one bit, and fully support. He’s a little bit dangerous, like Rick Blaine.

    @bud – There may be other factors at play besides medical spending that are germaine to the MA vs SC lifespan issue. Race, education, lifestyle choices, diet, exercise, and other factors including urbanization all play a role. MA is descended from Puritans, but also from witches. It is likely that the witches have made an unholy deal with Satan that is resulting in a few extra years on this earth. Of course they have long noses, warts, green skin and a penchant for shiny red shoes. Seriously, while the medical care may have some effect, I doubt it’s the major factor – although the effect would likely be cumulative over a lifetime.

    @’Kathryn – I didn’t use the term “train wreck” – I’m just saying that in aggregate America will likely consume more, not less medical services and that costs will almost certainly go up, not down. Of course they are already going up, so I should say that I do not think this will help to “bend the curve” and reduce the rate of growth, although that should likely happen anyhow as the current rate of increase is unsustainable. I also agree that there is an enormous cost savings to keeping elderly folks independent. My point is simply thus – if everyone knows they can get a large amount of care for a very low cost, they will want as much as they feel entitled to. So instead of making due, folks are gonna go in for all of their ailments, regardless of severity, necessity or urgency.

    @ Phillip – you bring up a valid point. It’s more likely that the CEO’s of the major health insurers (likely beneficiaries of the ACA) underwrote the hypothetical bribe. It’s one of Congress’ roles though, to serve as a check on the power of the executive, and the current claim of priveledge is sketchy at best, as I understand it. At this point, any attempt by Congress to cross the President is going to be considered political or sour grapes even if it’s legit. Also invoking Watergate isn’t new, the right & left wing media trot it out at every scandal – Babygate, Whitewater, Iran/Contra, Where’s the birth certificate? etc.

  42. Silence

    @ ‘ Kathryn – so 19/21 Con/Law scholars agree – but not the 9 who matter?

    The commerce clause has been ab/over-used for a long time. The abuse began in earnest after Roosevelt (Frankie not Teddy) threatened to pack the court. Time to reign it in a little.

  43. Steven Davis II

    @kc – “Burl, at least Mr. Davis didn’t use any naughty words.”

    I can if you’d like.

  44. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    @Silence–what that means is that the Supremes went off the rez, so to speak. They did not follow precedent, but were “activists.”

    It’s also telling that only 8 thought they actually *would* do what they should have done based on precedent.

  45. Doug Ross

    Gee, SC with a high populatation of blacks and poor people has a lower life expectancy than those who live in Massachusetts, with a predominantly white population and higher median income.

    If you are going to compare, compare white males and females in each state. Bet the difference is negligible.

  46. Mark Stewart


    As a Yankee, I can make the anecdotal observation that the median BMI is far lower in the NE than in the SE. Across any group you might wish to compare.

    Incomes are also more relevant intra-regionally. The cost of living is much higher in MA; so comparing apples and oranges can give one the same economic cohort.

  47. bud

    Sorry Doug, but facts are facts. MA has a longer life expectancy and many factors may account for that. But to just brush off the importance of universal healthcare as one of those factors is simply an act of desparation to try and explain away the value of a good government program. Sometimes government actions really do make matters better. This is one of those times.

  48. Silence

    @ bud – Sure, better healthcare is certainly a factor, I don’t dispute that, but admit that it is not the only factor, and probably not even a major factor.

    I blame a chunk of our lower life expectancy on the high rate accidental childhood deaths in SC. Our rate of unnatural childhood deaths (0-19 years) is about 30/100k. MA’s is about 12/100k. It doesn’t take a lot of people dying very young to lop a few years off of the life expectancy.

    From a study I found online: “It is likely that expanding insurance coverage alone would still leave huge disparities in young and middle-aged adults.”

  49. Burl Burlingame

    Doug — we certainly don’t want blacks and the poor to have the same access to health that white people do? It’s a handy way to keep them underfoot.

  50. bud

    Seems like all the “last in the nation” issues can be traced to our conservative politics.

  51. Doug Ross


    “facts” at an aggregated level are what people with weak arguments use.

    Saying there is a direct cause and effect relationship in your example is just plain wrong without specific details.

    Since I spent the first 25 years of my life in Massachusetts, I think I have a pretty good idea of the demographics. I didn’t see a black kid in school until 8th grade… and only had two in my high school.

    There are specific diseases that are more prevalent in the black community. Comparing a population that is 70/30 white/black and comparing it to one that is closer to 95/5 is just plain bad math.

  52. Steven Davis II

    Burl – I don’t care what color you are, but if I’m paying out of pocket and you’re standing there next to me with a government provided card, I’m going to step in line in front of you.

    We’ll see how this affects medical care… I have stated before that doctors right now aren’t taking on any more Medicaid patients as it is. In another forum I read a guy stated that his doctor has already decided to throw in the towel January 1st at the age of 54 and his son changed majors from pre-med to engineering.

  53. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Wow, Doug. I think middle class blacks and middle class whites have the same life expectancy, but I can’t locate the figures.

    Silence–we are the buckle in the stroke belt, too–it isn’t just accidental deaths of young people.

  54. Doug Ross


    I was under the impression that blacks had a higher incidence of heart disease, strokes, diabetes. If I’m wrong, let me know.

    And if that is the case, then bud should supply the life expectancies for SC and Mass based on similar demographics. My wife and I have an average height of 5’9. That means nothing.

  55. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn, I have to correct you. Columbia is not the “buckle”, it’s actually located about 6-8 inches below the buckle.

  56. Steven Davis II

    Part of the reason we’re even in the “stroke belt” is because we’re in the top 3 of fattest and laziest states in the country. It’s more of a hand to mouth disease than a hereditary disease.

  57. Silence

    @ Kathryn – but a young dying brings down the average more than an old person dying – that was what I meant.

  58. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    @Doug–Yes, blacks as a whole have a higher incidence of those diseases, but my understanding is that it’s poorer blacks, as also is true of poorer whites–poorer eating and exercise habits, not so much genetics.

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