Wasn’t it always a tax?
One of the Planet Money podcasters mentioned, a while back, that the American people are really dumb about how we understand taxes and spending (my words, not his). Some of us complain when the government spends money by collecting it and then disbursing it, but few of us complain when the government spends money by not collecting it. They call it spending through the tax code (my biggest benefits via that route? Mortgage interest deduction and two child credits).
But this is beside the point. All the people complaining about the insurance mandate are buttheads. Unless we’re going to go to a draconian system that literally refuses people without insurance from getting medical care (and I don’t see anyone except nutcase Libertarians arguing that), we must have a way to make sure everyone pays, otherwise free riders will bankrupt the system, as is happening right now. (Because they run up bills that they can’t pay, they go bankrupt, and the system has to absorb the costs.) We all pay for the uninsured in higher costs and higher premiums already. We’re already being taxed, it’s just by big corporations whose motives extend to serving shareholders instead of by gov’t bureaucrats who are supposed to serve the country (in whose hands power gets corrupted in different ways, certainly).
To people against the mandate, I’d ask how they think we should deal with this: