James Kwak provides an enlightening analysis of the GOP argument that the individual mandate is an oppressive tax on the middle class. His conclusion:
In short: Very few people are even theoretically subject to the tax, and most of them are made much better off by the law, since they are transfer beneficiaries.
How can this be? How can a law make everyone better off? Well, it doesn’t. There is a tax-and-transfer element to the Affordable Care Act. The main people who are paying more are the rich (because of a Medicare payroll tax surcharge) and those with good health plans (because of the excise tax on “Cadillac plans”). In addition, the new spending is financed in part by reductions in Medicare spending; those reductions may or may not result in reduced availability of care for Medicare beneficiaries.
The Affordable Care Act is not painless, and there are definitely taxes involved. But the individual mandate “tax” is not one of them.
Of course, Romneycare wasn't an oppressive tax on the middle class because the definition of 'mandate' is apparently different in Massachusetts....