Stephanopoulus vs. Obama in tax-truth battle

A Wall Street Journal article highlights the hot debate between ABC newsman George Stephanopoulus and President Barack Obama. Here are the highlights (with some minor editing)…

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Obama was asked by host George Stephanopoulos about the “individual mandate.” Under Max Baucus’s Senate bill that Mr. Obama supports, everyone would be required to buy health insurance or else pay a penalty as high as $3,800 a year.

Mr. Stephanopoulos posed the obvious question about this kind of coercion when “the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don’t [buy insurance]. . . . How is that not a tax?”

Mr. Obama replied: “Well, hold on a second, George,Here’s what’s happening. You and I are both paying $900, on average””our families””in higher premiums because of uncompensated care. Now what I’ve said is that if you can’t afford health insurance, you certainly shouldn’t be punished for that. That’s just piling on. If, on the other hand, we’re giving tax credits, we’ve set up an exchange, you are now part of a big pool, we’ve driven down the costs, we’ve done everything we can and you actually can afford health insurance, but you’ve just decided, you know what, I want to take my chances. And then you get hit by a bus and you and I have to pay for the emergency room care, that’s . . .”
Mr. Stephanopoulos responded: “That may be, but it’s still a tax increase.”
— (In fact, uncompensated care accounts for about only 2.2% of national health spending today, but that’s another subject.)

Mr. Obama: “No. That’s not true, George. The””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 . . .” In other words, like parents talking to their children, this levy””don’t call it a tax””is for your own good.

Mr. Stephanopoulos tried again: “But it may be fair, it may be good public policy”””

Mr. Obama: “No, but””but, George, you””you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase.”

Mr. Stephanopoulos:“I don’t think I’m making it up,”
— He then had the temerity to challenge the Philologist in Chief, with an assist from Merriam-Webster. He cited that dictionary’s definition of “tax””””a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

Mr. 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. . . .”

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

Mr. 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 . . .”

Mr. Stephanopoulos: “But you reject that it’s a tax increase?”

Mr. Obama: “I absolutely reject that notion.”

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  • Frank

    I guess it all depends on what your definition of is, is.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    I do have to wonder about this “gotcha” mentality with BO and tax increases. It is as if everyone is waiting in the wings for one slip up, one mistake, where they can pop up and say “ah ha, now that is a tax increase on the middle class” as if that was some big deal.

    The fact is BO ran on increasing taxes and spreading the wealth around. His central theme was redistribution and if anyone didn’t hear that they simply weren’t listening. It was on full display innumerable times from the questioning during the primary debate right up until Joe the plumber. BO told us during the campaign we would know him by the people he surrounded himself with. Well, he has pretty clearly surrounded himself with redistributionist people right from the get go hasn’t he?

    So let’s get off this notion that Steph seems to have that a tax increase from BO is something remarkable. On the contrary, it represents what he promised and what he has delivered throughout his political career and as president. Why this attitude that health care, with its tax increases, represents some sort of break is a little silly. Democrats were put on this earth to raise taxes. We got it with cap and trade, and health care and we will get more of it in the future. BO has a right to be frustrated. He was clear about his policies and, other than some of the military decisions, has adhered to them religiously. The fact that only now after electing him are people beginning to become concerned must be quite frustrating to BO.


      I know several people that said “If we knew about him we wouldn’t have voted for him”…well, I say the main stream media planned it that way…they lied and covered up what Obama was all about and now there is more buyers remorse than ever before. I do believe that Obama is frustrated but it isn’t for the reason you imply…Obama expects to be treated like a God and doesn’t want to be asked the “hard” questions…why else do you think he only speaks to ABC,CBS, NBC, MSNBC…and refuses to come on a truthful network like Fox news….If you don’t agree with obama, he wants someone, a spy, to report you to his web site…yes, the one all taxpayers pay for…

      The biased media will eventually pay for their lack of committment in reporting the truth, but they were too busy with their quest to get Obama elected. In a lot of rural areas the only news programs are the local television stations and most of them are owned by NBC and CBS. Therefore they had the only news game in town that people heard. If the people are not being told the truth how would they know it? They don’t…so…in the future…things are changing…and changing fast….

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >Obama expects to be treated like a God and doesn’t want to be asked the “hard” questions

        Well my point really was can you blame him?

        He was treated as a God all through the campaign. The guy has had more Time magazine covers than anyone can count and hard questions for him have been close to non existent both now and during the campaign. The guy won with 52% of the vote under conditions that handed the election to him on a silver platter and yet there was this attitude that he came in with this overwhelming mandate. His party has absolute control in congress with leadership that is absolutely mercenary. Can you blame him for being frustrated that given all that he is not able to sail legislation through congress as if he were in fact a God?

        Mind you I’m not saying its right. I am saying that given the kid glove treatment he has gotten through the candidacy and up until now can you blame him for not believing his own press? I sure can’t. Again, I’m not saying its right, but I sure can’t blame him for being arrogant. When the press is essentially little more than a mouthpiece for you for this amount of time, its real hard to have any perspective.

        • Harry

          I agree with everything in Rupert’s last paragraph. It is really hard for Obama. The MSM et al has puffed up Obama so high that he has flown very close to the Sun… so close that he is starting to melt.

          How could he have known that governing in the office of President would be so hard? He had zero hard questions. Every utterance was “The most AWESOME speech ever”, until, of course, the next time he opened his mouth.

          Now, since he was puffed up so high, he can only come down. Hard. From up very high. The higher they go, the farther they fall.

          So, now watch what they do when they screw up. They will screw up (NEA conference call), and then they will go into COVERUP mode, which will really mess up Obama.

          Regarding the NEA conference call, and the breaking of the Hatch law:
          What did Obama know?
          When did he know it?

  • zero

    Gotcha journalism is what all there appears to be

  • v person

    “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

    I don’t see how making people buy insurance for themselves fits this definition. If it does then making people buy car insurance is also a tax, and I don’t know anyone who counts this as such. It is simply making people responsible for their actions.

    I read the Webster definition as meaning its a tax when you pay the money to the government, and then they use it to pay for something that is for the public. Saying you have to buy a private insurance plan is a burden, but the core purpose is yourself and your own health. Imposing a fine if you don’t buy insurance? I agree that part is in effect a tax.

    Rupert writes: “His central theme was redistribution…”

    Hardly. His central theme was “change you can believe in.” McCain and Pailin and Joe the Plumber tried and failed to make Obama’s central theme wealth redistribution. The amount of wealth redistribution Obama proposed was quite modest, basically repealing the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250K a year, and cutting taxes on most everyone else. Which by the way he has already done.

    During the campaign, Obama was against the idea of making people buy insurance. He appears to have changed that position, wisely in my opinion.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >Hardly. His central theme was “change you can believe in.”

      Look, you didn’t even know BO was a liberal.

      As a matter of fact in the weeks running up to the election you stridently maintained he was not a liberal but was rather moderate. Well, obviously you were completely wrong about that so its a little odd now that you try and come back and correct anyone on what Obama’s campaign was all about.

      Obama ran on raising taxes on the rich – That was a central theme. That is redistribution.

      You don’t like it? fine. However raising taxes on the rich to give a tax cut to everyone else, including those who don’t pay taxes is the definition of redistribution. That was the single biggest item in BO’s platform, but I guess a guy who was under the impression BO wasn’t a liberal can be excused for missing it.

      Some other things you may have missed:

      Obama insisted on raising capitol gains taxes throughout the debate even though he knew and was informed it did not increase revenue – That is redistribution.

      Obama insisted to Joe the plumber that it was good to spread the wealth around. – That was a pretty big news story. Sorry you missed it but Obama stood by his words and did not retract them. Virtually everyone in the country was aware of it, and aware BO stood by what he said. You might not like it, but that’s a pretty central theme right there.

      Obama promised cap and trade – That’s redistribution.

      Obama promised to adhere to the AGW agenda, namely Kyoto and its incarnations. – That’s redistribution. Wealth flowing out of the US and into China and India. Both countries said they would not halt emissions. That was well known by everyone on the planet except for you. You insisted if we lead they would follow. Well, we all know how that turned out.

      Please, it’s a little late in the game to try and convince anyone you know what BO’s central themes were when you didn’t even know the guy was a liberal.

      • v person

        “Look, you didn’t even know BO was a liberal.”

        Rinse, wash, repeat. He does not call himself a liberal. He has not packed up the troops and sent them home. He even increased troops in Afganistan. He has yet to close Guantanimo. He has advanced a middle of the road health care plan that unfortunately preserves much of the dysfunctional status quo and ignores single payer, which is the liberal position. He has called for extending provisions of the infernal Patriot act. His cap and trade proposals are squarely in the middle of the American electorate. He bends over backwards to find any Republicans willing to work with him.

        My conclusion? He has confimed my analysis of him prior to his being elected. He is a pragmatic, highly analytical, left of center moderate, and that is how he is governing. I respectfully submit that from a far right shaky perch you cannot recognize moderation because it is too distant from where you are.

        “Well, obviously you were completely wrong ”

        That may be obvious to you. But then you think I am wrong about everything so why be different on this point?

        “Obama ran on raising taxes on the rich – That was a central theme. That is redistribution.” and “That was the single biggest item in BO’s platform”

        I don’t know what made it the “single biggest item” in his platform. You can take any policy he ran on a say it was a “central theme.” But at that point there is a very crowded center. Health care reform, cap and trade, winding down Iraq, engaging in talks with our enemies, re-regulating the banking industry…all “central themes”? OK…whatever.

        I’m not arguing he is not for some redistribution from the rich to everyone else. I’m for that myself and would be disappointed if he did not follow through. But “single biggest item”? Central theme? Hardly.

        “Obama insisted to Joe the plumber that it was good to spread the wealth around. – That was a pretty big news story. ”

        Yes. a casual conversation captured on tape became a ridiculously big news story and gave Joe way more than his allotted 15 minutes. It was a hook for McCain and Palin to try and convince everyone that taking the upper tax rates back to where they were under Clinton amounted to socialism. Apparently they did not convince enough people, or maybe Americans like socialism after all.

        “Obama promised to adhere to the AGW agenda, namely Kyoto and its incarnations. – That’s redistribution. ”

        OK. Now I get your point. Everything can be defined as redistribution, therefore that was his central theme. Only cap and trade is about the climate of the earth, not redistributing wealth. But you are free to believe what you want. I and reality can’t get through to you.

        “Please, it’s a little late in the game to try and convince anyone you know what BO’s central themes were when you didn’t even know the guy was a liberal.”

        See point one.

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