NO ONE CARES: What Orrin Hatch said!

TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2012

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?

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.
At this point, Greta moved on to a different topic.

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.''

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.
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).

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


  1. Oh, dear god, Bob finally turned off MSNBC and tuned in where news and national policy is actually made.

    So he's probably unaware that most Americans not part of the Fox brigade are so accustomed to, and dismayed by, the hourly lies of Fox et al., that correcting them is seen to be an impossible and hopeless task. Indeed, we see an enormous apparatus funded to promote such lies -- the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Inst., talk-radio, the Republican party and to a large extent, the commercial networks -- and a certain Mitt Romney is currently running on the lies. Kill them one day, and they're up and eating flesh the next. It's called the news cycle.

    Of course when self-described "liberal" bloggers focus for months on whether $.77 is the penny-accurate figure for undeniable wage discrimination against women, there's not a hell of a lot of time left for examining anything of consequence in the culture. You know, whether we live or die.

  2. huh?

    Somerby has been talking about Kathleen Parker, Anderson Cooper, and the New York Times for days on this subject.

    It only becomes relevant to you when he mentions Fox?

    1. Again, CeceliaMc, you're confusing purported news reporting with liberal advocacy.

      Parker, Cooper and the NYT news pages are not professional "liberals"; they're paid to cover the news. Of course, much of their "reporting" is incompetent. But it's not incompetent because it's liberal or because of liberal bias.

      I know this distinction is a difficult to comprehend for those convinced that commercial media is "liberal", despite its corporate ownership. But it's an important and vital distinction.

      There is little to be gained, for example, by comparing the deficiencies of NYT front-page reporting, and what Orin Hatch is allowed to say, unchallenged by his host and undeterred by reality generally, on Fox.

    2. Translation:

      NO, we DON'T need to know where Orrin Hatch is getting his "77 percent of people earning less than $120,000 a year are going to have to pay" the "Obamacare tax."

      It doesn't matter.

      Bob shouldn't have wasted his time pointing out Maddow's lies. He should have examined of things of "consequence in the culture. You know, whether we live or die."

      It's incoherent, yes, but it's what the idiots give us to work with.

    3. Right...but when Somerby reported what Anderson Cooper allowed's Erick Erickson to say "unchallenged" on CNN, you only got pissed because he wasn't dissing FNC.

      (Don't try your "deficiencies vs advocacy" bullshit on me you amoral political operative moron. When it suits you, you'll be substituting corporate malfeasance for "deficiencies" in your next breath.)

    4. @CeceliaMc:

      "Right...but when Somerby reported what Anderson Cooper allowed's Erick Erickson to say "unchallenged" on CNN, you only got pissed because he wasn't dissing FNC."

      Absolutely false. I despise "mainstream" media just as much as "conservative" media. You're confusing me with someone else.

      As for: "you amoral political operative moron", I think we can tsay he mask has finally fallen, CeceliaM?

      As noted many times before, the right-wing pro-Somerby types invariably regard the opposition as idiotic or moronic, and it doesn't take many posts for them to say so.

      In your case, it took a little longer than usual for the cuckoo to come out, but now that it's there for everyone to see, good riddance to you.

    5. It's hard to wear a mask when you're posting under your name and you're telling everyone that you're a conservative from the start, aayyy... "ANONYMOUS"?....

      Your sentiments about the mainstream media might be more believable if you hadn't inaccurately suggested that Somerby had wasted time on rebutting Maddow and MSNBC rather than FNC.

      And I call you an amoral political operator bullshit artist because that's what you are.

      Somerby had issued three posts on an issue that engendered a "finally, you've moved from Maddow" only when FNC was mentioned.

      Take a bow, ANONYMOUS. You've hit a high-water mark for disingenuous dissembling in your short non-real...non-genuine...non-life...

  3. Hatch's utterly wrong estimate of how many people would pay the penalty is a more serious error than the semantical question of whether the penalty is a tax or can be regarded as a tax. I have no idea of where Hatch got his figures.

  4. Similar to the endless conflation of the economy-at-large with the federal budget, the entirety of the HCR will be referred to as a tax by tens of millions of perfectly decent Americans. It sucks, but there it is.

  5. @CeceliaMc

    Prance and prevaricate all you want, CeceliaMc -- the persona of the conservative wise woman making careful distinctions went out the window with


    Everybody knows who you are now.

    You'll doubtless want to reincarnate yourself and come back with another handle.

    BTW, sorry for any confusion between the anonmi, but the notion that you're not here anonymously is strange one. Folks with handles seem to think they're somehow more virtuous in the matter of disclosure. I've never understood it, but that's doubtless because I'm a moron.

    1. Good! Everyone knows that I'm a person who thinks that you've revealed yourself to be a moron political operative by pronouncing that Somerby had "Finally" addressed an important matter AFTER he had posted THREE blogs on the subject, and had only just mentioned FNC!

      Yeah, I think I'll stick to the "handle" that I was given at birth, Anonymous.

      You stick with trying to contrast that unfavorably with being... well... what you are... a disingenuous ANONYMOUS political operative moron.

      For all your false moral equivalencies about some overriding reality, that's the best dose of the r-word you'll ever have to confront.

    2. You're on a roll, Cecelia! And by all means, keep repeating that phrase if you're so fond of it.

      In any event, TDH owes special thanks: you're offering the readership a great example of principled conservatism in action, when the mask drops.

      So a million thanks! And by all mean, keep repeating political operative moron, it reflects so well on your character and the political philosophy you claim for yourself.

    3. "So a million thanks! And by all mean, keep repeating political operative moron, it reflects so well on your character and the political philosophy you claim for yourself."

      Not to mention it has the "added benefit" of being true...

    4. Well, hell, Cecelia. Putting the moronism question aside, I can you assure you that I'm neither 1) amoral nor 2) a political operative.

      So you're zero for 2, and we'll say your moronic claim remains unsettled, to give you the benefit of the doubt, though it does seem doubtful that morons are likely to be employed as political operatives, however amoral they may be.

      More interesting, however, is your assertion that factors unknown to you are "true" -- again, another defining feature of America's right-wing today. Next you'll be telling us that you also know poor children are happier if left undisturbed by government assistance, and that cutting taxes increases revenues.

      While I regard your world with horror, it does have a curious attraction, if only one could learn to live in such oblivion.

      But never mind. This is the last response -- you can have the last word, because you'll insist on it anyway.

    5. "More interesting, however, is your assertion that factors unknown to you are "true"'

      Oh, don't be modest. You've proven my assertions about you.

    6. Oh, for crying out loud. Both of you grow the hell up.

  6. Daily Howler disliking Anom, I think TDH is on pretty solid ground here. Not that they need to make a federal case out of a typically bullshit laden appearance from Hatch, but an absurd talking point is being crafted (Largest Tax Hike in History) and the Dems just let it lie there. And it isn't just Fox, the fairly odious Candy Crowley let Mich McDonnell lie his ass off the other night. Bill Clinton's war rooms with rapid response were a big part of his improbable defeat of Bush, and Gore seemed to take the opposite tack, for reasons that have never been made clear. This is the legit stuff that MSNBC could be clarifying for it's viewers and when they don't, yes, they are as bad as Fox.
    Trouble is he has to cherry pick everybody he dislikes and drag them into the mix: yes, Nora Ephron was a limo liberal and something of a dolt, but it's no crime to like her stupid movies and why, why do we have to drag poor Julia Child into the matter?
    As we saw yesterday, CecliaMe is a little slow and really not worth bothering about.

    1. "...and the press just let it lie there."

      Fixed that for you!

  7. The amount citizens and businesses are required to pay for private insurance isn't a tax, but it isn't a voluntary insurance payment either. Maybe we need a new word.

    An analogue would be a practice sometimes used by real estate developers. The developer of a subdivision put in paving, streets, etc. and issued bonds to pay the cost. Then, included with the homowners' property tax bill, was an assessment to repay the developer's bonds. The homeowner was actually making mandatory payments to the developer, but the payments probably felt like property tax. (In thise case, the homeowner voluntarily assumed that obligation by buying a property in that subdivision.)

    Back to the health insurance case: From a buyer's point of view, there's little difference from being required to pay the government for health coverage, e.g. Medicare, or being required to pay a private company for health coverage. The former is a "tax", but what's a good name for the latter?

    1. That's not even the part Roberts was discussing. Having to pay some amount of money for not having health insurance either through work or through the exchanges or through a Medi-program was.

      At any rate, I'm not sure even the Medi-programs or the payments made to support them can be rightly construed as taxes. There are "payroll taxes" that are dedicated to funding those programs, unemployment, Social Security, etc. People don't complain about having to pay The Unemployment Tax, at least not after they get their first paycheck from a 40-hr/week job and realize they didn't get to take home their hourly wage times 40.

      And, for that matter, when you have to buy car insurance that satisfies state minimums, no one calls that experience a "tax." When you have to pay for car registration, you don't call it a "tax." And when your insurance rate goes up, no one, ever, in American history, not even (I'm willing to bet) Grover Norquist, has ever regarded that as a "tax increase."

    2. Oh, and as for the proper name for such a thing, maybe it should be called something that makes it clear that it's mandatory. Perhaps something like "mandate.". No one could possibly be confused by that.

    3. It's not actually manadatory. The only "mandate" in the entire bill is that you are mandated to pay a small tax penalty if you do not have insurance.

      That's what conservatives like David in Cal don't get (or pretend not to get). There is no mandate that you purchase private insurance.

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