“Memo to President Barack Obama: It’s a tax.” That’s the lead on a fact-checking story out today from the Associated Press, hardly bash Obama territory. It is just the latest response to the president’s claim that the—er—fee he’ll impose on citizens for health care is not—er—a tax. The AP reports:

Both the House bill and the Senate Finance Committee proposal clearly state that the fines [for not purchasing your mandatory health insurance policy] would be a tax.

And the reason the fines are in the legislation is to enforce the coverage requirement.

“If you put something in the Internal Revenue Code, and you tell the IRS to collect it, I think that’s a tax,” said Clint Stretch, head of the tax policy group for Deloitte, a major accounting firm. “If you don’t pay, the person who’s going to come and get it is going to be from the IRS.”

Could this turn into a read-my-lips for the president, who promised that nobody who makes under $250,000 would see a tax increase? The AP goes on:

“This is exactly what George Bush Sr. did when he said he wouldn’t raise taxes, and it cost him the next election,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Obama is doing the same thing, but he’s insulting people by telling them that if you don’t call it a big purple banana, somehow it wouldn’t be a tax.”


Some liberals acknowledge that Obama might be vulnerable on the insurance requirement. But they say most people will understand as long as the legislation provides enough subsidies to make the coverage affordable for those who would now be required to have it. The size of those tax credits is a central issue as the Senate Finance Committee starts voting on legislation Tuesday.


Of course, then you have to find money to dole out those subsidies. Hey, maybe we could justify a tax increase to pay the subsidies….