The PJ Tatler

Little Ezra Klein needs a dictionary, stat!

When is a mandate not a mandate? How about when it’s something you’re not forced to do under threat from the IRS’s many lawyers, guns and money. That’s how I see it. At that point, whatever you’re talking about becomes an option, or in government speak, an incentive. Not a mandate. Everybody follow me?

Now, read Ezra Klein on the Ryan plan. He claims that in spite of GOP hate for the ObamaCare individual mandate, Ryan’s plan has two mandates.

Here’s how the Ryan plan works: If you’re an individual who’s not covered by Medicare, you’re eligible for a tax credit up to $2,300 to purchase insurance. If you don’t purchase insurance, you get nothing. So, in practice, there’s a $2,300 penalty for not purchasing insurance. In essence, you’re giving the government $2,300, and you only get it back if you buy health-care insurance. It’s slightly more roundabout than an individual mandate, but it’s the same idea.

Um, no it’s not. That’s an incentive. Whatever choice you make won’t draw the attention of the loving and patient IRS. Incentive =/= mandate.

His plan for Medicare is even closer to an individual mandate. There, everyone has to pay into the system through payroll taxes. When you’re 65 years old, you get a voucher that will pay part of the cost of health-care insurance. If you decide not to use the voucher, or the voucher is insufficient, all the taxes you paid into the system are forfeit. Either you buy insurance as a senior, or you face a tremendous lifetime tax penalty.

Again, not a mandate. If you choose not to use the voucher, you’re out some bucks, but it’s your choice. You won’t face the prospect of a fine or jail for making that choice. Option =/= mandate. Ezra has corrected his post, claiming that there is only one mandate in the Ryan plan instead of two. The actual number, however, remains zero.

I know this post has been quite technical in nature, what with all the =/= and stuff, but do try to keep up, Ezra.

(hat tip Drew M.)