Part 1—Where do huge tax hikes come from: A strange conversation occurred on the Fox News Channel last night.
It was a very strange conversation. It was extremely strange.
Senator Orrin Hatch was speaking with Great Van Susteren. They discussed the recent Supreme Court decision concerning the health care law.
“If I had my way, I would have held the individual mandate unconstitutional,” Hatch grandly proclaimed. “But I would have certainly said you can't force the state to take more and more Medicaid recipients and when they know that the monies aren't going to be there in the future.”
At this point, Van Susteren asked Hatch whether “it” is a tax. (She didn’t say what she meant by “it.”)
Greta was fashionably imprecise. But when Hatch replied, the conversation became extremely strange:
VAN SUSTEREN (7/9/12): How does Governor Romney get out of the two-step he's in? His assistant or his campaign leader said that it is not a tax, and then the governor comes out and he says it's a tax. He's getting hammered from both sides. How does he walk out of this?At this point, Greta moved on to a different topic.
HATCH: I think the flip-flop is really on the part of president, because the president and his own solicitor general argued that it was a tax. All the way through the legislative process here, the president and his allies argued that it was a penalty, and now all of a sudden it's a tax, so that it would defeat the Republicans approach toward the individual mandate.
Now they're trying to say, “Well, it's just really a penalty.” Unfortunately for them, the chief justice and the majority of the members of the Supreme Court held that it is a tax. And therefore, that means that, well, if you talk about a tax, that means about 77 percent of people earning less than $120,000 a year are going to have to pay it. And by the way, 10 percent of the people earning less than $23,000 a year, the poverty level, have to pay that tax as well. It's going to be a devastating thing for those not earning a lot of money in our society.
They're trying to get away from it by saying, “Oh, well, it's a penalty.” No. The Supreme Court has held it's a tax. It's a tax.
Those highlighted claims by Hatch are stunning—truly remarkable. But trust us: Your “journalistic” and “liberal” elites won’t care enough to report the things Hatch said. They won’t attempt to clarify or challenge his very strange assertions.
Let's start to do so here:
For starters, no—Justice Roberts didn’t say that the penalty payment “is a tax.” In reality, his opinion was vastly more nuanced.
But just for argument’s sake, let’s pretend he did declare that the penalty payment “is a tax.” Last night, Hatch was telling two million Fox viewers that “about 77 percent of people earning less than $120,000 a year are going to have to pay” that tax!
And not only that! “Ten percent of the people earning less than $23,000 a year, the poverty level, have to pay that tax as well.”
Those are astonishing statements. But several million potential voters saw Hatch make these remarkable claims with Van Susteren gulping them down. At some point, they’ll pass this general framework on to several million relatives and friends.
In the process, tens of millions of voters will come to believe that they are going to have to pay some onerous new tax as part of the health care law. From this general framework, a punishing notion has already been born:
Obamacare is the biggest tax increase in American history!
What in the world was Hatch talking about? If you get your news from other sources, you’ve heard a vastly different account of that penalty payment/”tax.”
In the New York Times, Jackie Calmes described the sweep of the new “tax” in the following manner. Her report appeared two days after the court opined:
CALMES (6/30/12): [M]uch depends on how each side handles the message wars in the aftermath of a court ruling whose impact has already been felt in the presidential contest and still has far to go to play out. In its ruling on Thursday upholding the federal health care law, the court found that the financial penalty it imposes for not obtaining health insurance ''may reasonably be characterized as a tax.''Calmes used some of the actual language from Roberts’ nuanced opinion. The penalty payment ''may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” the chief justice had written (“for constitutional purposes,” he added).
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that in 2016, two years after the mandate takes effect, about 4 million Americans out of about 21 million uninsured would pay the penalty; the rest would be exempted for hardship, religious beliefs and other reasons. The penalty—$695 a person in 2016 or 2.5 percent of a household's income, whichever is greater—would be half as much for children and indexed for inflation; a cap would apply for families.
He didn’t say that the penalty payment just flat is a tax. (Quite plainly, Roberts is smarter than that.) He even seemed to say that it’s “more natural” to view the payment as a penalty.
But just for now, let’s forget all that! According to Calmes, only four million Americans (out of perhaps 200 hundred million adults) will end up having to pay this penalty payment/“tax.” Where in the world did Hatch get the claim that “about 77 percent of people earning less than $120,000 a year are going to” pay that tax?
That should be the question of the hour. But trust us: You won’t see that question addressed in the days and weeks to come.
You won’t see it addressed in the New York Times. You won’t even see it addressed on The One True Liberal Channel.
You won’t see it addressed by your ruling elites, even your ruling “liberal” elites. The fact is, these largely worthless, privileged life-forms just flat-out don’t care.
Last night, the children played happily on The Last Word, chuckling about the way Republicans have branded both Clinton’s tax plan and Obama’s health law as “the biggest tax increase in history.” To Lawrence and Krystal and Steve, this conduct was cause for good-natured chuckling tribal amusement.
Glorying in the pride of their strength (and the size of their contracts), these “liberal” gods lounged on Olympus.
Also last night: Anderson Cooper tugged on his weewee while once again refusing to “keep them honest.” Last Thursday, this $11 million airhead seemed to endorse the claim that the health care law is “the biggest tax increase in history.”
Since then, Cooper had conducted two hour-long CNN programs. He has never gone back to clarify, examine or explain the remarkable thing he said.
On each of these programs, this big overpaid tub of faux has refused to keep himself honest!
About 77 percent of people earning less than $120,000 a year are going to pay that new tax! We warned you about this starting last Monday, noting that Kathleen Parker (and others) had opened the door with unskilled attempts to explain what Roberts said.
But here's the simple truth: No one cares about these matters! The mainstream press corps doesn’t care. Neither do high-ranking “liberals.”
They care about the late Nora Ephron and her wonderfully romantic movies. They care about eating upper-class food, the kind the late Ephron prepared.
They care about the fact that Cooper finally came out as gay. They miss “The Thrill of Bill & Hill”—the good solid fun they always had chasing that pair around.
Your elites don’t care about anything else—and that includes your “liberal” elites. You’ll see this broken-souled culture play out all through the coming week.
Tomorrow: Children at play—and Lithwick’s extremely good question