When Is a Tax Not a Tax?

When Obama sez so, that’s when.

Jake Tapper dissects Obama’s twisting and turning during his interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday. Stephanopoulos pressed Obama to explain why a federally enforced penalty on those who choose not to sign up for the individual health program is not a tax.

Stephanopoulos cited Merriam Webster’s Dictionary definition. “Tax — ‘a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.'”

“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,” said the president. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition….I absolutely reject that notion” that it’s a tax increase.

But as Tapper reveals, the proposed bill itself specifically uses the phrase “excise tax” to describe the penalty.

It’s all right there on page 29 of the bill: “Excise Tax. The consequence for not maintaining insurance would be an excise tax.”

So the Jedi Master waved his hand and declared, “It’s not a tax.” And it was so.

UPDATE: Even the AP gets it.

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