EXCLUSIVE - CADDELL: Taxes and Trust - The Achilles Heels of Obamacare and Obama, Part I

Part One: The Opportunity

The Political Cudgel--and the Embedded Nail

The Supreme Court’s Obamacare-affirming decision--which can be summed up as “Read John Roberts’ lips, it’s a tax”--has put a political cudgel in the hands of Republicans.  The cudgel, of course, is taxes.  But a huge nail is also embedded in the cudgel: the fundamental deceit of Obamacare.  Yet in the week since the Court’s decision, Republicans have yet to demonstrate that they truly grasp the significance of this weapon--or that they can effectively wield it.  

Why?  Some Republicans are worried that the fight over Obamacare distracts from the issue of the economy. What these Republicans fail to realize is that healthcare and the economy are inextricably linked; Americans now realize that Obamacare was a detour on the road to economic recovery, so to remind them of one is to remind them of the other.  And the two issues, compounded, are all the more powerful.

Other Republicans believe that the healthcare battle has been lost, that Obamacare is just another permanent ratcheting of the welfare state.  What these Republicans fail to see is that the “ObamaTax” issue provides an opportunity to reignite healthcare into the white-hot issue that it was in 2010.   And if the 2012 elections were to be a repeat of 2010, huge changes in the status quo would be not only possible, but inevitable.  

This November, if President Obama goes before the voters on the defensive--that is, on a rickety platform of defending Obamacare as a tax increase--it is he who has a huge problem.   After all, his healthcare program was sold as a boon to the middle class, with a few regulatory sticks included therein.  But if Obamacare can be exposed for what it is--a huge tax increase, the reality of which Obamacare proponents did their best to obscure--then the probability of his survival shrinks dramatically.  To be sure, such an exposing of Obamacare as the ObamaTax will not be easy; the White House and the Democrats, as well as their handmaidens in the Main Stream Media, will do their best to armor up against any attack on the tax issue.    

So Romney must wield that cudgel, and wield it hard.  And so must Republicans, because if the campaign against Obamacare--the ObamaTax--is to be truly effective, it must be a top-to-bottom message.  Indeed, as we shall see, the anti-ObamaTax message could be even stronger for down-ballot Republicans than for Romney himself.  

The challenge is to keep the focus on the tax--the ObamaTax.  Obamacare is many things, but the biggest single thing is the thing that they said it wasn’t--the ObamaTax.   

The American people have shown that they can tolerate incompetent policy.  But what they will not tolerate is being lied to.  As a Jesuit might say, incompetence is a venial sin, but deception is a mortal sin.  And so if troubling questions about Barack Obama’s incompetence turn into serious concerns about his character, the President will lose.

If the Supreme Court had struck down Obamacare, the question of Obama's competence--why he  wasted the first 15 months of this presidency on a legislative goose chase as opposed to helping the economy--would have been front-and-center this November.  

Now the issue is his character.  The President promised no new taxes on the middle class, specifically saying that the mandate was a penalty, not a tax.  Meanwhile, through the entire process of the legal challenge to Obamacare, Justice Department lawyers argued that the mandate was a tax.  Indeed, his own Solicitor General asserted before the Supreme Court in March that the mandate was a tax.    

It was a classic “bait and switch.”  So thus the inevitable question: Was the President trying to deceive us when he said that the mandate was not a tax?  Or were his aides deceiving him--telling him to say one thing while they said another?  Answering that question poses a Hobson’s Choice for Obama: On the one hand, he admits to deception, and on the other hand, he admits that he can’t detect deception within his circle--and furthermore, that he tolerates it after it is exposed.  No matter what the answer to that forked question, the President will have lost his 2008 glow; he is no longer the man who can transcend the blue-state/red-state division through the grace of his own noble character.  

These are the big stakes for the 2012 election: whether a deceptive president--and/or a deceptive presidential administration--should be rewarded with a second term.  

The Achilles Heels: Taxes and Trust

While many on the right are angry about Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision, the importance of that ruling--flawed as it might have been--in exposing the health-insurance mandate as a tax cannot be underestimated.

Why? For two reasons, both starting with “T.” The first reason is “taxes,” and the second is “trust.”  

Let’s start with the obvious: Does anybody think that Obamacare would have been enacted in 2010 if it had been honestly billed as the largest tax increase in American history?  No, of course not.  Indeed, does anybody believe that Barack Obama would have been elected president back in 2008 if he had campaigned honestly on a tax-increase-to-pay-for-healthcare platform?  Not bloody likely.  

And Obama knew that, too.  That’s why he felt compelled to make the no-tax promise on many occasions; on September 12, 2008, for example, he offered this very specific commitment in tax-phobic New Hampshire: “I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase.  Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”

Then after Obama was in the White House, in the midst of the Obamacare debate, he was equally stout in his declaration that Obamacare was not a tax.  In a September 20, 2009, interview, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos--not exactly a hostile interrogator--was nonetheless moved to observe about the mandate, “It’s still a tax increase.”  Whereupon Obama responded, “No.  That’s not true, George … For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.”  To his credit, Stephanopoulos kept after Obama during the interview; he even pulled out a dictionary to underscore his point that being compelled by the government to give up money was a tax.  And he gave it one last try: “You reject that it’s a tax increase?” Obama answered, “I absolutely reject that notion.”  

So what is it, then?  What other terms are available?  In fact, how well is the bill really understood?   As then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of Obamacare in March 2010, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.”  That’s the sort of astonishing bravado and cynicism that has made her, today, the Minority Leader.  


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