The ObamneyCare Tax Increase

I noted briefly yesterday that in Mitt Romney’s statement on the Supreme Court’s ACA decision, he didn’t follow the Tax! Tax! Tax! message that had already been adopted by everyone else in his party, probably right down to any parrots owned by Republicans. At the time I figured that was partly because the less-than-spontanous Mitt was using a text prepared before it became evident that the decision hinged on validating ACA as an exercise of the federal government’s taxing power, and also because Team Romney is still straining to bend the discussion back to economics, leading Mitt to stress the supposed burden imposed on businesses by health reform.

But something else troubling may be going on in Mittland as well. As New York‘s Dan Amira points out today, if “ObamaCare” imposed a tax increase via an individual mandate, then so did “RomneyCare.” That matters not just because it’s another reminder that the former was largely modeled on the latter, but because it strikes directly at one of Romney’s rationalizations for claiming he hasn’t flip-flopped by signing the Massachusetts law while promising to kill the federal law in a fluid motion immediately after his hand drops from the Bible when he’s sworn in as president.

If you were exposed to Mitt’s few serious challenges on RomneyCare during the primaries, you’ll recall his argument that his plan didn’t “raise taxes” on anyone. That’s true, though only because the state was able to gain a big windfall from federal Medicaid funds to make ends meet. But now that Republicans are emphasizing that the individual mandate itself is not only a “tax,” but a monstrous, economy-and-liberty-destroying tax, it’s kind hard to keep that talking point from backfiring on Romney.

That’s not to say that Mitt is incapable of ignoring facts and logic and joining in the chorus of screams about ACA’s unique evils; he’s capable of almost limitless mendacity and hypocrisy, and he’s not really in control of the conservative movement that ultimately calls the shots in terms of election-year messaging. But it’s another reason you figure he’d just as soon everyone calm down and let him get back to his bullet-headed argument that anyone unhappy with the current performance of the economy simply has to vote for him.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.