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Remember the President’s promise during the campaign?

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.”

Millions of people voted for President Obama based on that promise. The future President did not waver in that promise it was in one of those “lock boxes” left over from the 2004 elect. The future POTUS said over and over no new taxes of any kind for people making less than $250,000.

During the debate on Health Care, Press Secretary Gibbs backed up the firmness of his boss’ pledge:

Q    The President’s opposition to tax increases for the middle income.  Does that apply to the health care bill, and specifically to this idea about taxing health insurance premiums?
MR. GIBBS:  Taxing?
Q    Health insurance premiums.
MR. GIBBS:  Well, I mean it’s — the statement didn’t come with caveats.

Granted, when he signed the Obamacare bill it had a long list of taxes directed toward the middle class, of course the president can defend himself by saying  how could he be expected to read a bill he was signing, when the people who wrote and passed it didn’t read it.

This morning Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast attended  at a Manhattan breakfast sponsored by Thomson Reuters, where he witnessed White House Budget Director Peter Orszag  commit “tax-pledgecide” and throw the President’s tax promise under his already crowded bus. Orszag described Obama’s “read my lips, no new taxes for families making less than $250,000 ” pledge as a “stance” and a “preference” which was  subject to study by the president’s newly formed bipartisan Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.

“The president has been very clear about what he prefers,” Orszag said under questioning from Thomson Reuters’ Chrystia Freeland. “That was his stance during the campaign, and he still believes that’s the right course forward. But he has also been very clear that we shall let the commission go do its work.” 

Freeland followed up, asking if that means the White House might be open to the idea. “Perhaps here’s some give there?” 

“I don’t feel like I’m in a position to say that there will be any give there,” Orszag parried. “But the president has been very clear that the commission should go explore whatever options they all deem to be appropriate.” 

Later on during the breakfast, Orszag resisted my attempts to pin him down when I asked if the White House could live with a tax increase on the middle class. 

“No, I didn’t say that,” he answered. “What I did say is look, the typical thing that’s going to happen, and it’s already been happening, is everyone is going to come along with this idea—the value added tax, this thing under $250,000, Social Security, Medicare changes, what have you—and you’re looking for us to say no, yes, no, yes, no, yes—which will mean that the commission has absolutely nothing to talk about and nothing to do. The president has been very clear that we’re not going to play that game.” 

Commission member Jeb Hensarling, a member of the House Budget Committee and a Republican congressman from Texas, told me this morning that Orszag’s refusal to reiterate the president’s commitment is a new wrinkle in the debate—and will likely become “a huge issue” in the 2010 midterm elections. 

“It appears that the president’s ‘promise’ is being morphed into a ‘preference,’ ” Hensarling told me. “Peter Orszag has one of the toughest jobs in Washington—defending all the spending and the deficit. I like Peter, but the bottom line is you can’t have a lot of the long-term spending projects of the federal government, and knowing we’re going to drown in debt, and not raise taxes, unless you get serious on the spending side.” 

UH-OH, that sounds ominous. Betters start saving up the cash folks, it seems as if Obama’s opponents were correct the whole time….  the middle class is screwed.

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