Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- President Obama absolutely refuses to acknowledge there is a huge middle-class tax in the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare bill. The president flatly denies the legislation that the White House supports contains a stiff penalty tax that would hit uninsured middle-income people the hardest -- the very folks he promised would never see their taxes rise under his presidency.

Obama has repeatedly stated that promise throughout the healthcare debate, despite evidence to the contrary, and no one in the national news media has called him on it. That is, until George Stephanopoulos raised the issue with him Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

First, Stephanopoulos reminded the president that in his campaign for the presidency he was "against the individual mandate" that all Americans be required to buy health insurance.

"Yes," Obama replied.

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Then Stephanopoulos hit him with the question no one apparently had asked him before. Pointing out that the Finance Committee plan contained just such a mandate whereby "the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don't," he asked, "How is that not a tax?"

Obama replied, "No, but ... but, George, you ... can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase."

"You reject that it's a tax increase?" Stephanopoulos asked. Obama said, "I absolutely reject that notion."

But if Obama looked on page 29 of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus' legislation -- the bill he hopes will enact his healthcare plans into law -- he would have read this line: "The consequence for not maintaining (health) insurance would be an excise tax."

What part of those two words doesn't he understand? The government imposes a raft of excise taxes on all of us: the tires for our cars, alcoholic beverages, jewelry and many other purchases. Now it wants to add health insurance to the tax-revenue list as a penalty for those who do not purchase a product the feds insist you must buy or else face fines up to $950 for an individual and up to $3,800 a year for a family.

The House healthcare bill, which is stuck in a holding pattern awaiting the Senate's version, also makes no attempt to disguise what the mandated penalties are called: a "tax on individuals without acceptable healthcare coverage."

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.