Obama: Broken promises on taxes and health care?

at 06:02 AM ET, 05/17/2012

“If you are a family making less than $250,000 a year, your taxes will not go up.” (quote from President Obama, 2008)

“Promise broken: Obamacare raises 18 different taxes.”

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” (quote from Obama, 2009)

“Promise broken: Millions could lose their health care coverage and be forced into a government pool”

--Assertions in a new Crossroads GPS ad, released Wednesday

The Republican-aligned Crossroads GPS has scheduled a massive $25 million ad buy, starting with this hard-hitting ad that purports to list a bunch of “broken promises” by President Obama.

We are not going to quibble with some of these claims. The president, for instance, certainly has not met his pledge to cut the budget deficit in half. But we were interested in exploring more craefully the two health care-related items listed above.

The Facts

Obama’s promise not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 was one of his signature pledges of the 2008 campaign. It would exempt about 98 percent of Americans.

When the Crossroads GPS ad mentions the 18 taxes, it flashes the words “$503B between 2010 and 2019,” citing a Jan. 20, 2011, report by the Heritage Foundation. The clear implication is that all of these taxes hit Americans making less than $250,000.

But if you look at Heritage’s chart, it’s clear that many of these taxes actually are aimed at the wealthy. And some of the other taxes are imposed on insurance companies and the like, which of course may pass on the cost of the taxes, but it is not a direct tax on a person.

The health-care law includes a mandate that would force people without insurance to buy it, which Heritage labels as a $65 billion tax. (Confusingly, Obama claims the mandate is not a tax, even though the government argued it was a tax before the Supreme Court during arguments on whether the law is constitutional.) Much of this, however, would not fall on individuals, our colleagues at FactCheck.org noted. There is also a tax on tanning salons, which certainly could affect people of all income levels, as well as a cutback in flexible spending accounts and other items.

We will leave it to readers to decide how much of these are tax increases in the conventional sense (ie, hikes in income or payroll taxes). But it certainly does not add up to 18 taxes, worth $503 billion, on families making less than $250,000 a year. At least $210 billion of tax increases is aimed directly at the wealthy, by Heritage’s count.

Moreover, as we have noted before, Obama has cut taxes in the first term, including payroll taxes, so most Americans so far have seen a tax decrease under Obama, not a tax increase.

In fairness, we should note, however, that because of the tanning salon tax and the health-care mandate, our colleagues at PolitiFact — who have assidiously tracked Obama’s promises — have labeled Obama’s pledge as a “promise broken.” They found a rather all-encompassing quote from Obama in which he said, as a “firm pledge,” familes making less than $250,000 will not “see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”

Maybe Crossroads GPS should have cited PolitiFact rather than pumping up the list of taxes to more than $500 billion.

Regarding the claim that “millions could lose their health care coverage and be forced into a government pool,” this is drawn from a recent Congressional Budget Office report. The ad, unlike some critics of the president (see this over-the-top Chamber of Commerce ad), does not make the mistake of claiming “20 million” would lose employer-based coverage — which is the most extreme scenario in the report.

The most positive scenario has 3 million being added to employer coverage, while “on balance, the number of people obtaining coverage through their employer would be about 3 million lower in 2019 under the legislation than under prior law,” the CBO concludes.

That certainly qualifies as “millions,” though it should be noted this is only a projection.

Still, it was a noteworthy pledge made by the president, one he clearly had difficulty keeping.

The Pinocchio Test

The president, like any politician, is certainly vulnerable to charges that he did not achieve certain pledges. PolitiFact’s Obamameter says the president has kept 36 percent of his pledges, which would certainly be a good batting average in baseball, but perhaps not in politics. Only 14 percent of Obama’s pledges are listed as fully “broken,” with the rest stalled, compromised or still in the works.

But Crossroads GPS goes too far when it suggests that Obama has raised so many taxes, costing so much, on families making less than $250,000. By and large, such families have been spared most of Obama’s tax increases, and benefited from his tax cuts.

One Pinocchio




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    About the Blogger

    Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street.

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