You don’t have to accept TIME columnist Joe Klein‘s prescription for fixing the federal health care law to appreciate a key aspect of his diagnosis of the law’s ills.

[D]espite the best efforts of the Obama Administration to camouflage the reality of the situation, the act demanded that people pay money to be part of the system. You can call that a mandate, a fee, a penalty or an aardvark. You can also call it a tax, if it’s something you have to pay. Roberts chose to call it a tax because it was the clearest path—a superhighway, in fact—to constitutionality.

This was a huge victory for the President, but it should be a chastening one. Barack Obama and his handlers have shown a distressing tendency to not speak plainly to the American people on this crucial issue. Political courage requires clarity. The Obama Administration chose the tortured route of arguing the legality of the individual mandate via the interstate commerce clause for one simple reason: it did not want to take the political risk of allowing opponents to call it a tax increase. That was stupid. The Republicans were calling it a tax increase anyway.