President Obama, confronted with the issue of the Supreme Court upholding his health care law by declaring the individual mandate a tax, contradicted the court by saying that the individual mandate “penalize[s]” Americans rather than taxes them.
“You have to take responsibility, and if you don’t, you’re going to be penalized for it, and that’s the right thing to do,” Obama told WDTN-NBC while defending the individual mandate. He also denied that the court’s ruling means that he has raised taxes through Obamacare. “I have consistently kept my promise not to raise taxes on people [making] under $250,000 a year.”
Obama effectively contradicted Chief Justice John Roberts. “[T]he shared responsibility mandate may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax, not a penalty,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, before concluding, “It is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance.”
The president argued that “it’s estimated that less than one percent of the people throughout the United States will be impacted by this so-called individual mandate.” Obama explained that “whether you call it a tax, a penalty, a mandate — whatever you call it, what it is, is, if you can afford to buy health insurance don’t dump those costs on someone else. You have to take responsibility, and if you don’t, you’re going to be penalized for it, and that’s the right thing to do.”
By saying that the individual mandate is necessary because failure to get health insurance harms society, the president made the basic Commerce Clause argument that Chief Justice John Roberts ruled unconstitutional. “People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do things that would be good for them or good for society,” Roberts wrote. “Under the Government’s logic, that authorizes Congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the Government would have them act. That is not the country the Framers of our Constitution envisioned.”