White House Memo Urges Allies to Mislead on Obamacare Tax

Matt Cover | June 29, 2012 | 5:46pm EDT
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President Barack Obama on Air Force One with Press Secretary Jay Carney, right, and Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer on May 2, 2012. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) A memo published by White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe advises allies to mislead when they discuss the recent Supreme Court decision on the individual mandate, saying they should call it a penalty when it is in fact a tax.

“In light of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act, Republicans in Washington are trying to deliberately misrepresent the President’s record of cutting taxes for the middle class,” Plouffe wrote in his memo Friday.

“We welcome this debate on middle class taxes, and we urge you to seize this opportunity to go on offense to illustrate how the President and Democrats in Congress are standing up for the middle class.”

Plouffe’s memo offered several talking points that White House allies could use when discussing Obama’s record on taxes. One of those talking points misleads on the individual mandate, calling it a penalty instead of a tax.

“For those that can afford health insurance but stay uninsured—forcing the rest of us to

subsidize their care for free—a penalty is administered,” the memo reads.

Calling the mandate a penalty is false, since the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that it was in fact a tax, not a penalty.

“The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain in­dividuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court.

Roberts rejected the idea that the mandate was a penalty, saying that even the Obama administration agreed that the mandate was not, in fact, a penalty.

“In distinguishing penalties from taxes, this Court has explained that ‘if the concept of penalty means anything, it means punishment for an unlawful act or omission,’ Roberts wrote. “The Gov­ernment agrees with that reading, confirming that if someone chooses to pay rather than obtain health insur­ance, they have fully complied with the law.”

In other words, because the law does not punish people for not having insurance beyond taxing them, the mandate is not a penalty.

The Obama administration has twice avoided the facts of the court’s ruling, which upheld the mandate as constitutional because it is a tax.

Obama himself did not admit the mandate was a tax in his Thursday press conference, praising the ruling, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called it a mandate while talking to reporters aboard Air Force One Friday.

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