Penalty or Tax, That is the Question

Eric Fehrnstrom

Democrats of stature, such as the White House chief of staff Jack Lew and the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have been saying it all along: the requirement of Affordable Care to pay a fee if you don’t purchase health insurance is not a tax- it’s a penalty.

Surprisingly, senior advisor to Mitt Romney, Eric Fehrnstrom says he is in agreement with these Dems, and the Supreme Court: the fee is indeed a penalty, and not a tax.

"The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court," Fehrnstrom said. "He agreed with the dissent that was written by Justice [Antonin] Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax."

Not all Republicans feel the same way as Romney, however. For instance Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk show host seized the Supreme Court ruling to prove his view that the fee is

“the biggest tax increase in the history of the world.”

This is not to say that Romney and Obama see eye to eye on Affordable Health Care.  And the tax versus penalty issue is still grounds for attack. Fehrnstrom pointed out that if you examine the record Obama has changed his own opinion about whether the fee is a tax or a penalty. At first, in order to get the legislation through Congress Obama said the fee is not a tax; but for the Supreme Court the White House changed its point of view and said the fee was a tax. Then the Obama camp changed its mind again and argued that the mandate was not a tax after all.

“He’s all over the map,” Fehrnstrom said.

Either way the Supreme Court decision has been good for business, says Fehrnstrom. Since the Court delivered its opinion the Romney campaign raised $6.7 million in online donations.

Danielle Stoneman

Danielle Stoneman got involved with Left Justified in 2010, having studied political science and journalism throughout her college career. With her fresh approach to Washington’s scene, Stoneman focuses primarily on opinion pieces, providing readers with a highly unique perspective on current affairs. Contact Danielle at info(at)

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