Donald Lambro

Obama and the Democrats fiercely reject the notion that the punishment they would inflict on Americans -- who will not do what they are ordered to do -- is a tax. They still insist it is a penalty or fine, no more of an imposition than the charge bill collectors may impose for late payment.

Besides, if their punishment was defined as a tax, crafty White House strategists feared Republicans would use it against them in the upcoming election. But a tax it is, the chief justice ruled, handing the GOP a lethal political issue in the presidential and Senate elections on Nov. 6.

Not only is it a tax, but one that will be levied on people who cannot afford to buy health insurance, let alone pay an annual tax to the government.

Certain Americans will be exempt from the tax, such as those who would have to shell out more than 8 percent of their income for a health care policy, those who fall below the tax threshhold, those exempt for their religious beliefs, members of Indian tribes, and those in prison.

But the rest of us without insurance would get a tax bill from the IRS, starting at $95 in 2014, $325 in 2015, and $695 in 2016 for an adult and $375 per child, with annual tax increases after that.

Nearly 4 million (3.9 million) uninsured Americans will pay this tax, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, though there are estimates running higher than that.

In his popular economics blog, Stanford University economist Keith Hennessey points out that according to CBO's analysis, "More than three-fourths of them are not rich."

"CBO says that under this law in 2016 there will be 400,00 people below the poverty line who will be uninsured and pay the tax," Hennessey writes in his June 28 blog.

Moreover, if you add in the income groups up to 500 percent of poverty in CBO's analysis, "we see that under this law there will, in 2016, be three million people with incomes less than $59,000 (singles) or $120,000 (families of four) who will be uninsured and have to pay the tax," he adds.

"These three million people are not rich, they will be uninsured, and they will be required to pay higher taxes. The tax increases on these people... clearly violate the President's pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250K," he reminds us.

There is now the increasing likelihood that many more Americans will choose to pay the lesser fine than buy an insurance policy which will be much more costly under the Obama law. A typical family health insurance policy would cost them $20,000 a year, Turner says.

Meantime, while Roberts may have found a clever way to change the defined terms of the law, it does not lessen its unjust assault on economic freedom.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the dissenting opinion for the four justices who wanted the law struck down in its entirety, took aim at Roberts' legal word play. "[W]hat Congress called a 'penalty,' the court calls a tax. What Congress called a 'requirement.' the court calls an option... in short, the court imposes a tax when Congress deliberately rejected a tax."

Now the fate of Obamacare rests in the hands of the voters. If the Republicans win back the White House and take control of the Senate, this law will surely be repealed.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.