Open Thread: A Mandate by Any Other Name

Since the beginning of the debate over Obamacare began, the left has taken to alternatively calling the unconstitutional "individual mandate" provision of the law a tax. In its briefs to the Supreme Court defending the law, the Administration has insisted that the penalty levvied against people who refuse to purchase medical insurance is a tax. Earlier this week, however, the Administration's top budget official was at great pains to avoid calling the mandate a tax:

For political reasons, O doesn’t want to be accused of having slapped a brand new tax on the middle class before the election, but he’s on much firmer ground constitutionally if he can argue that the mandate is an exercise of Congress’s taxing power. So we get this pitiful spectacle, in which he and his team insist to any reporter within earshot that the mandate’s not a tax while the DOJ turns around and tells the Supreme Court that it most assuredly is. (At least one federal appellate court agrees.)

The logic is simple: You’re being compelled by the state to pay a sum towards a public purpose, i.e. defraying the cost of health care for the uninsured. But instead of collecting your money and giving you certain benefits in return (a.k.a. FICA and Medicare), the state lets you pay your “tax” to, and receive your coverage from, the private insurer of your choice. It’s a tax, but a tax over which you have a bit more control than you usually do. If Congress has the power to simply take your money and toss it in the Treasury, surely they also have the power to take it while giving you a little extra leeway over where it ends up — or so the argument goes.

Do you think that the Administration's flip-flopping on the mandate will have any bearing on the Supreme Court's verdict? Or will the Court ignore it as political posturing? Should it?

Open Thread