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Mendacity and ObamaCare


 Democracy and Power 108:  Obfuscation

 Wherever politics intrudes upon economic life, political success is readily attained by saying what people like to hear rather than what is demonstrably true. Instead of safeguarding truth and honesty, the state then tends to become a major source of insincerity and mendacity. – Hans F. Sennholz

 The politician’s speech is seldom precise or logically reasoned.  Seeking a favorable image, the politician talks in generalities, exaggerates and obfuscates. 


Mendacity and ObamaCare

Appallingly, the enactment and defense of ObamaCare is an overt example of political obfuscation and mendacity.    

The first priority of the Obama Administration, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi was to enact a universal healthcare system.  Even with big Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, there was strong resistance from the public.  Directly, a majority of Americans appreciated their employer provided coverage, and most people were opposed to a new tax.

It is important to know, Congress and the Obama Administration could have enacted a tax dedicated to a universal medical system.  Since around the 1930’s, this scheme would have been most probably been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, as a valid use of the Constitution’s taxing authority. 

They did not take that course for two reasons.  One, President Obama had promised no tax increases on the middle class.  Two, most people wanted to keep their employer provided health insurance and the additional tax would greatly diminish public support.

Jacob Sullum of Reason reports on President Obama’s firmness that the penalty for non-compliance with mandatory insurance is not a tax.  Below is the exchange between President Obama and George Stephanopoulos in September 2009: 

Obama: For us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it's saying is, is that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore...

Stephanopoulos: But it may be fair, it may be good public policy—

Obama: No, but—but, George, you—you can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase.

Stephanopoulos: I don't think I'm making it up. [Cites Merriam-Webster's definition of a tax as "a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes."]

Obama: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam's Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now...

Stephanopoulos: I wanted to check for myself. But your critics say it is a tax increase.

Obama: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I'm taking over every sector of the economy. You know that. Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we're going to have an individual mandate or not, but...

Stephanopoulos: But you reject that it's a tax increase?

Obama: I absolutely reject that notion.

Interestingly, the original drafts of the legislation referred to the penalty as a tax.  Thus, President Obama was obfuscating when he denied it was a tax increase.

However, because of negative connotations and Obama’s persistence it was not a tax, in the final legislation Congress dutifully removed all mention of a tax and called the fine a “penalty.”  Additionally, in the legislation juxtaposed to the penalty are “taxes” imposed on tanning studios and medical devises, etc. 

Now, after ObamaCare is the law and many lawsuits challenge the Constitutional authority for enacting the legislation, the Obama Administration is claiming the “penalty” is really a tax.  Remember, Obama, Reid and Pelosi could have imposed the tax and created a universal system, al la Canada.

Fortunately, a federal judge is not accepting this mendacity.  Sullum quotes the ruling of U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson: 

In concluding that Congress did not intend to exercise its powers of taxation under the General Welfare Clause, this Court's analysis begins with the unequivocal denials by the Executive and Legislative branches that the [assessment] was a tax. In drafting this provision, Congress specifically referred to the exaction as a penalty….Earlier versions of the bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate used the more politically toxic term "tax" when referring to the assessment for noncompliance with the insurance mandate….In the final version of the [health care law] the term "penalty" was substituted for "tax"…A logical inference can be drawn that the substitution of this critical language was a conscious and deliberate act on the part of Congress....  (emphasis added)

Yes, a tax has toxic connotations, and Congress and the President avoided the term.  Now, the Obama Administration defending the constitutionality is deliberately claiming it is a tax.  This is the mendacity so despicably associated with power politics.  Worse, these deliberate deceits devalue the moral authority of the President and Congress.  A great and exceptional government must be morally approved by the citizens, which is harmfully declining in America