Weekly Columns

In its historic decision to uphold President Obama’s health care law, the Supreme Court opened the door and invited the taxman in.

Prior to the Court’s decision, the Obama Administration had gone to great lengths to deny that the law’s mandate, requiring that every American purchase health insurance, amounted to a tax. In 2009, President Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “…for us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.”

Let’s be honest, the President and Congressional Democrats knew the bill never would have passed if the mandate was sold as a tax. For that reason, the President and his allies in Congress used the Commerce Clause as legal justification for their plan to force Americans to get health insurance.

The Supreme Court said that defense was unconstitutional. A majority of the justices said the Constitution doesn’t allow Congress to mandate this behavior, only gives it the power to tax and spend. The Court found the only way this law can be constitutional is if the mandate is considered a tax. That is how it was upheld.

The Court’s ruling shows this law was sold to the American people on false pretenses. The President and his surrogates dispute this law would raise taxes, but the reality is that every American’s tax burden just increased.

Since the Court’s decision, the Administration and its surrogates have gone to great lengths to dance around the tax problem. They argue that it a “penalty” similar to the taxes paid when someone buys tobacco or alcohol. Those taxes are levied to discourage behavior. The problem with that line of thinking is nobody forces you to buy cigarettes or alcohol. The tax is levied during a transaction willingly entered into by both parties. This is not a mutual decision, but rather one made by the government. You either get insurance or pay Uncle Sam.

Just because the Court found the law to be constitutional, does not mean it is good policy. Chief Justice Roberts even alluded to that point in his opinion, stating that if the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not the Court’s “role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

The Supreme Court’s decision is just another to add to the list of reasons why this is bad policy. With a $2.6 trillion price tag, the law creates more problems than it solves. It drives up health care costs, busts our budget, bankrupts Medicare and deflates our economy. On top of that, it doesn’t create economic stability for Arkansans, it raises their taxes. 

By exposing the individual mandate for what it is, a tax, the Supreme Court gave us one more reason to step up our efforts to repeal the law and put in place free market solutions that lower costs and allows a patient centered approach to making health care decisions.