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A tax by any other name

Shortly after the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act, Mitt Romney, speaking with the U.S. Capitol in the background, announced his disagreement with the court majority and emphasized his vow to kill health care reform "on my first day."

Among other things, the Republican presidential hopeful insisted, "Obamacare raises taxes." It is, as it turns out, the talking point of the day on the right, bolstered unexpectedly by the Supreme Court's ruling itself. As the five-justice majority concluded, the individual mandate is less a forced purchase and more a tax penalty for those who refuse to get insured.

"A ha!" conservatives have been saying for the last three hours. "That means Obama raised taxes when he signed health care reform into law!"

On a substantive level, this has all the sophistication of a second-grade spelling bee, but there's a fairly specific policy reason Republicans might think twice about their new rhetorical toy: it's called Romneycare.

As I assume everyone knows by now, Obamacare and Romneycare are effectively the same policy, sharing the same basic structure, including the individual mandate Romney used to be fond of. What happens in Massachusetts when someone doesn't want to buy insurance? They, you guessed it, pay a tax penalty, just like under the Affordable Care Act.

In fact, if someone in Massachusetts refuses to buy insurance, they pay the penalty on their income tax return, just like under the Affordable Care Act.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, apparently trying to rub it in, wrote, "Congress followed Massachusetts' lead."

Everyone on the right who seems to think the Supreme Court handed them a powerful talking point needs to realize that their presidential candidate is subject to the identical condemnation. If today's ruling means Obama raised taxes, it means Romney raised taxes.