Misinformation, Disinformation, and ObamaCare

In a recent story in the New York Times, we learned this:

When Congress required most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, Democrats denied that they were creating a new tax. But in court, the Obama administration and its allies now defend the requirement as an exercise of the government’s “power to lay and collect taxes.”

The story goes on to explain that under the legislation signed by President Obama in March, most Americans will have to maintain “minimum essential coverage” starting in 2014. In a brief defending the law, the Justice Department says the requirement for people to carry insurance or pay the penalty is “a valid exercise” of Congress’s power to impose taxes.

DOJ argues that the penalty is a tax because it will raise substantial revenue: $4 billion a year by 2017, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And according to the Times, the penalty is imposed and collected under the Internal Revenue Code, and people must report it on their tax returns “as an addition to income tax liability.” Because the penalty is a tax, the department says, no one can challenge it in court before paying it and seeking a refund.

Well, well, well, this does pose a problem for our president, doesn’t it?

In addition to being yet one more violation of his pledge not to tax families making less than $250,000, Obama, during the health-care debate, insisted that a mandate to buy insurance, enforced by financial penalties, was not a tax.

In an exchange with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last September (h/t Ed Morrisey), Stephanopoulos pressed Obama on admitting that what he was advocating was a tax increase. “For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” Obama assured us. Elsewhere in the interview, Obama said, “George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase.” And when Stephanopoulos read the definition of a tax increase from Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, Obama came back with this condescending and foolish response:

George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition.

It turns out the truth is exactly the opposite of what Obama said. Jack M. Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School who supports the new health-care law, stated the obvious at a meeting last month: “[Mr. Obama] has not been honest with the American people about the nature of this bill. This bill is a tax.”

This is just one example of a systematic pattern of misinformation and disinformation related to the health-care campaign. We have seen similarly dishonest claims related to funding abortion (ObamaCare is doing exactly that), bending the cost curve down (it will bend it up), lowering premiums (they will rise), and to allowing Americans to keep the coverage they currently have (many won’t).

In many respects, the Obama administration has shown itself to be thoroughly postmodern; words have no objective meaning. Reality can be molded to the whims of the most powerful. We can each construct our own narrative.

In the case of the president, the narrative is fairly simply: whatever advances his own aims and objectives is defensible. The ends justify the means. If false claims have to be used to advance a larger truth, so be it.

This attitude pervades the Obama administration and appears to be especially concentrated in the chief executive. He thinks he can get away with almost anything, including the corruption of language. He can’t, and if he isn’t careful, this kind of distortion of truth and reality is going to cost him a very great deal.