Obama's Tax Whopper

Posted: Feb 08, 2011 1:58 PM
When President Obama sat down for a much-hyped Super Bowl Sunday tangle with Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News host asked him about his economic philosophy (the tax bit comes at the 4:50 mark):

O'Reilly: Do you deny that you're a man who wants to redistribute wealth?

Obama: Absolutely.

O'Reilly: You deny that.

Obama: Absolutely.  Bill, I didn't raise taxes once.  I lowered taxes.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which Obama disparaged earlier in the O'Reilly exchange, takes umbrage at the president's claim and sets the record straight:

The Presidency is demanding, and with the Egypt mess and his other duties, perhaps Mr. Obama has forgotten some of his tax achievements. Allow us to refresh his memory. In his historic health-care bill, for example, there is the new $27 billion "fee" on drug companies that is already in effect. Next year, device manufacturers will get hit to the tune of $20 billion, and heath insurers will pay $60 billion starting in 2014—all of which are de facto tax increases because these collections will be passed on to consumers as higher costs. Of course, these are merely tax increases on business.

As for tax increases on individuals, perhaps he forgot the health-care bill's new 0.9 percentage point increase in the Medicare payroll tax for families making over $250,000 and singles over $200,000. That tax increase takes effect in 2013, as will the application of what will be a 3.8% Medicare surtax (up from 2.9% today) to "unearned income" for the first time. This is a tax hike on investment and interest income, which will reduce the incentive to save and invest.

Even Politifact -- whose credibility earns low marks from conservatives these days -- can't avoid rating the president's tax assertion as "false."  They cite a few examples the Journal omitted, including a number of regressive tax hikes:

The idea that Obama did not raise taxes is just plain wrong. He signed legislation raising taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products soon after taking office; that money goes to pay for children's health insurance programs. The law went into effect in 2009. He also signed the health care law, which includes taxes on indoor tanning that went into effect last year. (Regular PolitiFact readers will remember our fact-check of reality TV star Snooki and her complaint about the new tax last year.)

The new health care law also includes a tax on people who decide not to have health insurance, as an incentive for them to get coverage.  [Me: During the health care debate, Obama claimed the individual mandate was not a tax; now his administration is explicitly defending the provision as such]. The tax phases in gradually, starting in 2014. By 2016, the tax would be $695 per uninsured person up to a maximum of three times that amount, or $2,085. The law includes exemptions for people who can't find affordable insurance, and a few other special circumstances.

While we're dealing with the subjects of President Obama, taxes, and falsehoods, let's revisit his famous "firm pledge" from the 2008 campaign:

"I can make this firm pledge.  Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 per 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."

The Wall Street Journal and Politifact agree that the president has repeatedly violated this unequivocal promise to the American people (it's becoming a nasty habit of his).  As for his "absolute" denial that he's interested in redistributing wealth, you be the judge: