The Supreme Court of the United Stated decided on Friday that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act is justified under the Congress's Constitutional taxing authority ("The Congress shall have the Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises "", Article I, Section 8).
In the wake of that decision, a teapot-sized political tempest has raged over whether to call the individual mandate a tax, a penalty " or a tax penalty.
Then the hyperbole began. By the end of Friday, it was "the biggest tax increase ever in American history" (Florida governor Rick Scott).
"Now it's official: Obama increased taxes on struggling families," bawled one super PAC ad.
"I can tell you that every single Democratic Senator voted for this tax increase and these $500 billion cuts in Medicare and it will be a huge issue in 2012," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
No, Democrats insisted, it's not a tax; it's a penalty. "It's a penalty that comes under the tax code for the one percent, perhaps, of the population who may decide that they're going to be free riders. But most people are not affected by it," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told David Gregory on Sunday's Meet the Press.
Listening to conservatives carry on about the individual mandate is like watching an episode of Beavis and Butthead: "You said tax, heh heh; you called it a tax; I heard you [chuckle, giggle, snort]." Sic transit political discourse in 2012.
The politicians are, to no one's surprise, thick into thin things with this semantic faux controversy. It doesn't matter whether you call it a tax, a penalty, a fee, a levy, an assessment, or an American Beauty rose: it's an amount people will have to pay if they can afford to buy health insurance and choose not to.
Those are the same people who, if they do become sick or injured, will fully expect to receive the finest medical care available on the planet -- at no cost to them.
They are the freeloaders -- the ones who expect to receive something for nothing.
So let's just call the individual mandate what it is: the Freeloader Tax.
And if conservatives want to comport with, encourage, and defend freeloaders, well, this wouldn't be the first time.