No, ‘Obamacare’ isn’t ‘the largest tax increase in the history of the world’ (in one chart)

July 2, 2012

Since the Supreme Court decision, Republicans have been calling the Affordable Care Act "the largest tax increase in the history of the world." Politifact rates this false. Kevin Drum's got a table of the 15 significant tax increases since 1950, and the Affordable Care Act, which amounts to a tax increase of 0.49 percent of GDP, comes in 10th. Austin Frakt took Drum's table and made a chart:

So no, the 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.

But it does include a number of tax hikes. The individual mandate, however, isn't one of the big ones. It's only expected to raise $27 billion during the next decade. The largest tax increase in the law is on high earners, who will see their Medicare payroll taxes increase by 0.9 percentage point and who will also pay a slightly higher rate on investment income. That raises more than $200 billion. There's also the tax on unusually expensive health insurance plans, which raises $30 billion in the first decade, and much more in the second. There's a $60 billion tax on insurance companies. You can find the whole list here.

I'll admit, though, that this graph surprised me. I knew the Affordable Care Act had hundreds of billions of new taxes in it. But I didn't realize they were almost equal in size to President Clinton 1993 tax increase. I've written previously that a major difference between the Clinton and Obama administrations -- at least thus far -- is that Clinton was much more willing to raise taxes than Obama. That's an argument I'm going to have to retire.

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Ezra Klein · July 2, 2012