“And I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase – not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital-gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” – President Obama in 2008.
It was a “Read my lips: no new taxes” moment. It was unequivocal, inviolable, unbreakable, and a whole host of other un-words. Of course, that promise didn’t last long. Not long after being sworn in the president began crusading for Obamacare, which included a slew of taxes that would impact the middle class including an income surtax for those who didn’t buy health insurance, a payroll tax on businesses who didn’t buy proper insurance for their employees and tax hikes on healthcare spending accounts. As if to make it official, then-White House Budget Director Peter Orszag threw the pledge out the window, calling it a more of a “stance” and a “preference” than a firm promise.
But just in case you somehow still thought that President Obama really did mean what he said when he promised not to raise taxes on the middle class, there’s this, courtesy of Politico:
“President Obama rarely misses a chance to call on upper-income Americans to pay more taxes.
But his annual budget is doing more to target middle-class taxpayers than any of his previous proposals, calling for caps on deductions, changes in the way some tax benefits are calculated and a big hike in cigarette taxes – all proposals that would make middle-class Americans pay more.”
We’re talking big tax hikes. All told, Obama’s budget would increase revenues by $1.14 trillion over the next decade. And because of the way Obama structure the provisions—so that tax brackets are tied to a different measure of inflation—his budget will have the effect of pushing more and more middle class people into higher tax rates.
“It’s shifting the whole income tax schedule down relative to what it will be if you used the headline inflation index to adjust it over time and consequently increasing average tax rates over time,” Tax Policy Center scholar Joseph Rosenberg told The Huffington Post.
Rosenberg wasn’t the only person from the Tax Policy Center speaking out on Obama’s decision to hike middle class taxes.
“We knew the president wanted to raise additional revenue focused on high-income folks,” said Donald Marron, the director of the Center. “The old idea of not raising taxes on people earning below $200,000 and $250,000 seems to have gone away.”
So why the change? Simple. He’s been reelected for the last time. There’s no more races left to win, which means he has nothing else to lose. As Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the issue of missile defense last year, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
It was a gaffe not meant to be captured by any microphones, but it was deeply revealing about the president’s thinking, even outside the world of foreign relations. The president had a very public first term agenda, aimed at getting him reelected, and an ambitious, left-wing second term agenda once the Republican “fever broke.” Without having to worry about reelection, Obama is now free to toss aside any political constraints, any fretting about alienating moderates, and can slide ever further towards his radical liberal vision for America.
This all indicates a president who continues to be unable to wrap his mind around the fact that America isn’t unified in its support of his agenda. Because in the world his mind inhabits everyone agrees that high taxes make economic sense, that wealth redistribution is acceptable in a free market system, that spending vastly more than you take in has no long-term consequences and adding new entitlements to an already overburdened system carries no ill-effects.
It’s now clear that President Obama is willing to toss aside his previous promises in a bold attempt to achieve this vision. His budget makes that all too clear on the issue of middle class taxes. The question is what promise will be revealed as a lie next.