Another Thought on Obamacare's "Tax"/"Penalty" Dilemma
Allow me to add another thought to Richard's post below about the difficulty facing the Obama Administration in deciding whether to classify the individual mandate as a "tax" or a "penalty":
The Obama administration is making the argument that the penalty and much of the health care law itself arise under the Taxing and Spending power, rather than the power to regulate interstate commerce. The courts have said that the Taxing and Spending Clauses are broader in scope.
So, for example, Congress can give a tax subsidy to people who have more children, even though Congress cannot regulate the size of families directly through the Commerce Clause (though give Justice Breyer some time, he might still get the Court there). In court, the administration is arguing that it is merely taxing people who do not buy a health insurance plan $750 -- this seems not to be true, because it is not for the purpose of raising revenue and is not taken into account for budgetary purposes; rather, it seems to be a financial penalty/sanction.
Parking fines and speeding tickets are not taxes, they are penalties. If the Obama Administration were to be believed, then Congress could simply convert all regulation into financial penalties and essentially escape the limits on Congress's powers -- a line that I believe the courts will not allow the federal government to cross. Saying in public that the penalty is not a tax undermines their argument in court (in fact, the trial court in Florida used similar public statements to find that the penalty was not within the taxing power).