So is the mandate a tax or a penalty? The gov't can't seem to get it quite straight. I feel sorry for the Solicitor General, throwing himself on his sword for Obama. I guess getting laughed out of the Supreme Court is still some kind of honor. Supreme Court considers: Did health care law challenge come too soon? | The Ticket - Yahoo! News I thought a tax penalty was something you paid if you hadn't paid enough tax. I guess Obama has a different meaning fo the word is too.