Yesterday the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Affordable Care Act was seen as a serious disappointment to Conservatives who hoped the entire law would be struck down, but they did at least get a political consolation prize from Chief Justice John Roberts.
Roberts declared that the sole reason the individual mandate is constitutional is because it is a tax and Congress has the power to levee taxes. Democrats have gone to great lengths to try to pretend the individual mandate is not a tax, even though it is new money some people will be required to pay to the IRS when they file their taxes. Democrats tried so hard to avoid this reality that they never used the word “tax” to describe it in the law, which looking at the dissenting opinion almost put the law in constitutional jeopardy.
Now that Roberts has ruled the individual mandate is officially a tax it has become even more difficult for Democrats to claim otherwise, and would now mean Democrats indirectly arguing the mandate isn’t in fact constitutional.
The individual mandate was already very unpopular before and will likely be even more unpopular now that Court has declared it a “tax.” Already Republicans have seized on this talking point to both make the law more unpopular and to prove Obama lied about not raising taxes on people in the middle class. American’s for Prosperity announced that they will spend $9 million on an ad buy to hammer this point and that is probably just the start of Conservative groups trying to exploit this issue.
While this is a solid political talking point for Republicans, like every political argument related to health care reform, its value is seriously undercut by their decision to nominate Mitt Romney. After all, if this federal mandate is a tax, that basically means the individual mandate Romney signed into law in Massachusetts was also a tax.