The Right-Wing Media's “Biggest Tax Increase” Narrative Collapses

Right-wing media have responded to the Supreme Court's decision that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional by claiming the act's revenue-generating provisions will be the “biggest tax hike in the history of the universe.” But those provisions are significantly smaller than many previous revenue-enhancement acts and are focused on high-income earners and corporations.

Right-Wing Media Have Claimed The ACA Is The “Biggest Tax Increase In The History Of The Universe”

Pinkerton: ACA Is “The Biggest Tax Increase In The History Of The Universe.” On the June 30 edition of Fox News Watch, Fox guest James Pinkerton cited right-wing columnists to claim Chief Justice “Roberts has now declared this to be the giant -- the biggest tax increase in the history of the universe, and Obama has to wear it.” [Fox News, Fox News Watch, 6/30/12, via Media Matters]

Rush Limbaugh: “What We Now Have Is The Biggest Tax Increase In The History Of The World.” During the June 28 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said that, with the Supreme Court ruling, “what we now have is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show6/28/12, via Media Matters]

Jim Hoft: Obama “Now Owns Largest Tax Hike In US History.” In a post on his Gateway Pundit blog headlined “FLASHBACK: Barack Obama Promises to Cut Taxes -- Now Owns Largest Tax Hike in US History,” Jim Hoft wrote:

Today the Supreme Court ruled the Obamacare mandate was a tax.

Barack Obama now owns the largest tax in US history. Obamacare will cost over $1.76 trillion in ten years.

Take that, 99%ers! [Gateway Pundit, 6/28/12]

But The ACA's Revenue Increases Are Modest And Focused On High Earners And Corporations

PolitiFact: “Health Care Law Is Not The Largest Tax Ever.” In a June 28 post, PolitiFact called the claim that the ACA is the “largest tax increase ever” a “pants on fire” lie. The post pointed out that although the law does generate revenue, the amount is significantly smaller than previous revenue-generating provisions passed in other administrations. From PolitiFact:

Depending on your rounding, that would mean the tax increases resulting from the health care law would be about the size of tax increases proposed and passed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush and in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.

The health care-related tax increases are smaller than the tax increase signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and a temporary tax signed into law in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. And they are significantly smaller than two tax increases passed during World War II and a tax increase passed in 1961. [PolitiFact, 6/28/12]

Kevin Drum: The " 'Biggest Tax Increase In History' Nonsense Is Crazy." In a July 1 post on Mother Jones, Kevin Drum pointed out that, even including all revenue-generating provisions of the ACA, the bill still falls short of several tax increases in history. Drum noted that the claim that the ACA is the “biggest tax increase in history” is “crazy, and no news outlet interested in accuracy should let it pass without challenge.” From Mother Jones:

Let's be fair: When Republicans talk about ACA's tax increases, most of them are talking about all the taxes in the bill, not just the penalty. But they're still off base. There have been 15 tax increases of significant size since 1950, and Jerry Tempalski, a tax analyst in the Treasury Department, has estimated the size of all of them as a percentage of GDP.  Tempalski hasn't estimated the eventual size of ACA, but PolitiFact took a crack at it using the same methodology, and they figure that ACA amounts to a tax increase of 0.49% of GDP seven years from now. That places it tenth on the list. 

It's fair for Republicans to complain that ACA includes a bunch of new taxes. It does. Most of them fall on high earners and corporations, not the middle class, but they're still taxes. However, the “biggest tax increase in history” nonsense is crazy, and no news outlet interested in accuracy should let it pass without challenge.

The post included the following chart which shows the ACA's place in the list of historical revenue generating legislation:

Drum ACA chart

[Mother Jones, 7/1/12]

Ezra Klein: The Affordable Care Act Is “Not Even The Biggest Tax Hike In The Past 60 Years.” In a July 2 post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog, Ezra Klein noted, "[T]he Affordable Care Act isn't the “biggest tax hike in history.” It's not even the biggest tax hike in the past 60 years. Or 50 years. Or 30 years. Or 20 years." The post included the following chart, made by economist Austin Frakt:

Washington Post ACA chart

[The Washington Post, 7/2/12]