President Obama: It’s “absolutely” not a tax increase

In 2009 and 2010, President Obama argued that the individual mandate would not be a tax. When the law was being debated in congress, supporters as well insisted that it wasn’t a tax. Today, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate is a tax.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos in 2009, the President made his case against it being construed as a tax. The relevant portion in the video above begins at 3:34. The transcript is below.


STEPHANOPOULOS:  You were against the individual mandate…

OBAMA:  Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  …during the campaign.  Under this mandate, the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don’t. How is that not a tax?

OBAMA:  Well, hold on a second, George. Here — here’s what’s happening.  You and I are both paying $900, on average — our families — in higher premiums because of uncompensated care.  Now what I’ve said is that if you can’t afford health insurance, you certainly shouldn’t be punished for that.  That’s just piling on. If, on the other hand, we’re giving tax credits, we’ve set up an exchange, you are now part of a big pool, we’ve driven down the costs, we’ve done everything we can and you actually can afford health insurance, but you’ve just decided, you know what, I want to take my chances.  And then you get hit by a bus and you and I have to pay for the emergency room care, that’s…

STEPHANOPOULOS:  That may be, but it’s still a tax increase.

OBAMA:  No.  That’s not true, George.  The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.  What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase. People say to themselves, that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I’m not covering all the costs.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  But it may be fair, it may be good public policy…

OBAMA:  No, but — but, George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase.  Any…


OBAMA:  What — what — if I — if I say that right now your premiums are going to be going up by 5 or 8 or 10 percent next year and you say well, that’s not a tax increase; but, on the other hand, if I say that I don’t want to have to pay for you not carrying coverage even after I give you tax credits that make it affordable, then…

STEPHANOPOULOS:  I — I don’t think I’m making it up. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary: Tax — “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

OBAMA:  George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition.  I mean what…

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Well, no, but…

OBAMA:  …what you’re saying is…

STEPHANOPOULOS:  I wanted to check for myself.  But your critics say it is a tax increase.

OBAMA:  My critics say everything is a tax increase.  My critics say that I’m taking over every sector of the economy.  You know that. Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we’re going to have an individual mandate or not, but…

STEPHANOPOULOS:  But you reject that it’s a tax increase?

OBAMA:  I absolutely reject that notion.


  • James Harold Thomas

    Important note: On page3, part 3, Chief Justice Roberts says that the government argued for construing the mandate as a tax. Obana can’t say “well, we still don’t think it’s a tax” when his people argued as much before the court.

  • donsands

    The fathers of this nation and Constitution are rolling over in their graves. Sad day.
    I suppose we need not be suprised. We are headed to be Government run, and there’s no end in sight.
    I would even think they may tell us what time to go to bed, becuase we need to get a good night’s sleep.
    Good-bye Freedom and Republic.

    I do pray it will turn around for my grandsons sake. May our Lord raise up His Church to be a light and conviction in His truth and Gospel to the os in our nation who are unbelievers. Amen.

    • Jake Thielen

      I take specific issue with the way you talk. While you might disagree with the decision and/or the politics, it does not help your case of persuasion to use such doomsday thinking. I find myself on the fence with many issues like healthcare and when I hear this sort of rhetoric it makes me run in the other direction. Why? Because this sort of talk defies all logic. I assure you if the nation were going to implode with a program like this it would have already happened due to Medicare and unemployment benefits… both fully government programs that have similar root causes as healthcare.

      The founders may or may not agree with your ideology *on the policy*, but they would assure you that this is the way the system was supposed to work… with separation and balance of powers.

      Please keep rhetoric out of this and say something meaningful that will persuade me, not just turn me off to your thoughts and opinions.

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