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Even Former Clinton Operative Stephanopoulos Doesn’t Buy Jack Lew’s Spin

Jack Lew

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision that upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional under the taxing powers of Congress, the Obama administration can’t seem to call it a tax.  Instead, they’re trying to peddle the “tax” as a penalty. White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew did his run through the Sunday morning talk shows with this entertaining spin. Even former Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos was unconvinced: “As you know, President Obama denied all along that this was a tax. Is he now prepared to defend it?”

Mr. Lew stuck to the “not a tax” spin:  “I think we have to take a step back. What is in the law is a penalty. It starts by saying all Americans have a right to health insurance. For Americans who buy health insurance or who can’t afford it and get it through a government program, there is no penalty.”

However, Stephanopolous pressed on with “you keep wanting to use the word penalty…they [The Supreme Court] found it constitutional because it is a tax, not a penalty. Here is the Chief Justice. Right here, he said, “The shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax, not a penalty.”  Lew denied it again and indirectly called the American people stupid, stating:

LEW: The Supreme Court looked at what the structure of the law was, and they saw that 1 percent of the people would be paying this charge if they chose not to avail themselves of health insurance. But more middle-class people are going to get a tax cut in this law. There’s a tax cut of $4,000 for people who need help paying for health insurance.

For the very, very few who choose to go uninsured, and who can afford it, and who are saying that if I need health care, it’s going to be someone else’s burden, it says they have to pay a charge.

You know, if you look at the past, since President Obama’s been in office, middle-class families have gotten a $3,600 tax cut. In this law, there’s a $4,000 tax cut for people who need help paying for health insurance. For that 1 percent who have chosen not to buy health insurance and just to pass the burden onto others, there’s this penalty.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you do concede — and you keep wanting to use the word penalty — you do concede that the law survived only because Justice Roberts found this to be a tax?

LEW: You know, I think, if you look at the decision, which is a very complicated one, you know, there are arguments that support different theories. There was…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the argument of Chief Justice Roberts is that it’s a tax.

LEW: He — he went through the different powers that Congress has and he found that there is a power, whatever you call it, to assess a penalty like this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He called it a tax. So you’re conceding that?

LEW: I’m saying that it was set up as a penalty for people who choose not to buy insurance, even though they can afford it, and for that 1 percent, we call it fair.

Lew’s assertion of the opinion being complicated, even though the part we’re discussing is explicitly clear in the written opinion, highlights the progressive left’s inherent condescension.  I guess the vast majority of Americans, who aren’t members of educational elite with learned diction, can’t possibly understand the difference between a tax and a penalty.  How progressive of them?  Mr. Lew’s shameless spinning and distortion of the facts even has liberals in the media saying he’s wrong.

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