NEWS BLOG: Taxes, smaxes – paying for health care


I’ve loved watching Mitt Romney wrestle with the issue of taxes and the Affordable Care Act. First his campaign staff said Romney doesn’t consider the ACA’s penalty a tax; then yesterday, Romney himself said he does. That means, of course, that he was perfectly happy to raise taxes in Massachusetts for something he thinks his state needed.

We can laugh all we want about him slip-slopping on the issue (which he was), but the wrestling is important. And it’s time everybody did some of that. Why is “tax” such a scary word?

I don’t want to pay taxes for things we don’t need. I don’t want to pay taxes that end up in waste and corruption. But I do want to pay taxes for things that help the general welfare: to educate children, to feed and clothe the needy, to police the streets, to help the unemployed.

I think most Americans agree. And until the Iraq War, we seemed to think it was worth paying higher taxes for national defense (or for a war the president said was for national defense).

George Bush and Congress decided that we could spend zillions fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and ramping up defense efforts here at home – and cut taxes at the same time.

We can debate why such a fiction entered their mind, but we can’t debate the result: it helped cause the economic problems we’re still struggling with.

So now the issue of taxes is in front of us again, thanks to the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Fine. Can we all take a deep breath and think about this rationally? Do we really not want this country to provide better health care? Don’t we think access to health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for the wealthy?

If so, don’t we think somebody besides the tooth fairy ought to pay for it?

Does it matter whether we call that payment a tax or a penalty?



  1. j jongen · · Reply

    Tax or penalty? Let’s call it what it is, it is a premium, like what we willingly pay for on an insurance policy to protect our home, or our income (life insurance), or our car, etc. anything that we prize and could not live without. Insurance premiums spread the cost among high and low-risk subscribers and are therefore affordable to all. Medicare premiums payments are levied on all Social Security beneficiaries; they are not optional and that is the reason that they are affordable. And like Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits too are paid for by its beneficiaries.

  2. Who cares what you call it. The fact is, it will cost us MORE, not less, as promised. The question should be “how much more will it cost us and who will be forced to pay it?”

  3. “Does it matter whether we call that payment a tax or a penalty?”

    Probably should to the one who promised no increases of the former would touch the middle class on his watch.

    1. j jongen · · Reply

      John, we have to get away from the notion that ‘forced to pay it’ is always evil or immoral. Unless you think that being forced to pay taxes to pay for safe roads and bridges that you use daily is not a fair deal? ‘It will cost us MORE’? Really? The Congressional Budget Office has scored the Affordable Health Care Act and concluded that it will over time reduce our health care costs and insurance premiums.

      1. jj, first, I”ll answer the question that was not asked, but is a frequent talking point from you side. No, we aren’t asking for no government. We’re asking for limited government. The government has it’s place building roads, sewers and taking care of the truely needy. BTW, the truely needy are probably closer to 10% of our population, not the 65% or so who now recieve some type of government handout.

        The CBO can only deal with the data that congress gives it, so it’s very easy to say it would cost less. Have you been living in a cave? The past couple of weeks, all I’ve heard is that it will cost more. 40 million more people getting “free” healthcare. Someone has to pay for it, right jj?

      2. j jongen · ·

        Is it a tea party requirement to be uncivil? No john it will cost LESS; check the Medicare history; it will cost LESS.

  4. The CBO’s estimates, methods and assumptions about the ACA are utter rubbish … um … susceptible to criticism in some regards. Yeah. That’s it.

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