The White House, in an unsurprising move, is now saying that taxes aren’t taxes.  Again.

The White House’s blog has written that the tax penalty in the president’s plan is not a tax.  Before we go much further, a definition is in order. Tax: “A contribution for the support of a government required of persons, groups, or businesses within the domain of that government.”

But let’s not let such biased sources as get in the way.  We need the real experts.  We at Americans for Tax Reform call it a tax.  But perhaps we are biased?  How about the non-partisan Tax Foundation? They call it a tax.  The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board?  Yep.  Them too.  What about George Stephanopoulos?  No?  Biased too?  How about Max Baucus?  Certainly the man who wrote the bill would explain whether or not it was a tax increase. 

He did.  Under the “personal responsibility” section, his bill writes as follows:  “Excise Tax. The consequence for not maintaining insurance would be an excise tax.”  Mr. President, you promised not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year.  Perhaps we missed the footnote describing just which taxes that pledge applied to.
Any time that the Internal Revenue Service gets revenue from citizens, it is a tax, no matter what the wording.  Thus, ‘cap-and-trade’ is a tax.  Capping deductions on taxes is a tax.  Taxing health care benefits (or, as it is called, “removing the employer-provided tax exclusion”) is a tax.  So is an excise tax on individuals who don’t get health insurance.

The President did point out that there is a ‘hidden tax’ that is already being paid by Americans.  Their reasoning is this: currently, Americans pay to cover those who have not purchased health insurance, which is a tax to them.  Remembering our definition from earlier, of course, we see that in this case, their ‘tax’ isn’t a tax at all: it is a cost.  All taxes are costs, but not all costs are taxes.  Costs—such as inefficiency costs due to government largesse—aren’t funds that the government can use for spending projects.

Mr. President, you have charged that you will be more honest, more open, more transparent, and more straightforward.  This isn’t just about definitions, it is about being honest with Americans.  If you pass the Baucus bill, people will pay more money to the IRS.  Call a tax a tax.