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.”