The individual mandate has been a tricky issue for Barack Obama, leading him to make some impressive self-reversals.
When campaigning against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama came out hard against an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, alleging that Clinton would garnish workers' wages and that Massachusetts' individual mandate has left many residents "worse off":
He even dismissed an individual mandate by saying, "If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house":
Once president, of course, Obama endorsed and signed into law both an individual mandate and an employer mandate.
During the debate over ObamaCare, Obama likewise mocked George Stephanopoulos -- no really, he mocked the poor guy-- for suggesting the individual mandate is a tax. Obama didn't mince words: "I absolutely reject that notion." The relevant exchange begins three minutes into this video:
Now, the Obama administration says the individual mandate is a tax. According to The New York Times:
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.”...
Administration officials say the tax argument is a linchpin of their legal case in defense of the health care overhaul and its individual mandate, now being challenged in court by more than 20 states and several private organizations.
(My colleagues Randy Barnett and Ilya Shapiro explain how this flip-flop shows the constitutional challenges to ObamaCare aren't quite as frivolous as supporters claim.)
The next time Obama is in the mood to reverse himself on the individual mandate, he might consider this statement from June 2009:
When you hear people saying, "socialized medicine," understand that I do not know anybody in Washington who is proposing that--certainly not me.
When the government makes health insurance compulsory, that is socialized medicine. (Why else would ObamaCare win plaudits from Fidel Castro?) It would be nice to hear the president admit it.