The Corner

Obama Panders to the Middle Class as He Lets Their Taxes Rise

Today in his weekly message, President Obama triumphantly claims to have shielded America’s middle class from a tax increase:

I just wanted to take a minute to explain to everyone what we were able to achieve this week. In the face of looming deadlines that would have taken a big chunk out of everyone’s bottom line, you know my top priority has been preventing a tax hike that would have hit 98 percent of all Americans in 2013, because the last thing middle-class families could afford now would be to pay upwards of $2,000 more in taxes this year. . . . We’ve stopped that middle-class tax hike.

Unfortunately, the president is just wrong to claim that he prevented such an increase. His claims of being everyman’s palladium are simply false: Most Americans will see their taxes rise this year.

The president did sign a bill yesterday that prevented one middle-class tax hike — the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans — but he makes no mention of the fact that he did absolutely nothing to block the expiration of the payroll-tax holiday, a tax increase on almost 100 percent of Americans (excepting the small number of state- and local-government employees who are enrolled in a different retirement system). And while it doesn’t amount to $2,000 an American, the mean tax increase for the 77 percent of Americans whose overall taxes will be higher than they were in 2012 isn’t far off, adding up to $1,635. Eighty-one percent of the middle quintile of Americans will see their total tax bills rise.

At no point, even when his administration laid out a risible set of demands, everything they wanted from Congress, did the president try to extend the payroll-tax cut. From the very beginning, he knew he was going to sign a policy that would let a tax increase occur for almost all Americans, and today, celebrating having made “the rich pay their fair share,” he simply pretends otherwise. I (and the editors of National Review) happen to agree with the president that “the last thing middle-class families could afford now would be to pay upwards of $2,000 more in taxes this year” — it’s too bad he’s letting almost exactly that happen.

Obama also boasts about how “we extended tax credits for clean energy companies that are creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil” — the significant extension to which we must assume he’s referring is for wind-energy production. This might make an appealing sound bite but it makes almost no sense: Even if the wind-energy production tax credit did lead to a lot of electricity production (it doesn’t), it wouldn’t affect our oil consumption; America doesn’t import oil to generate electricity (we use it to heat our homes, make plastics, and fuel our cars). In 2011, four-tenths of a percent of America’s electricity was generated from oil. We generate most of our electricity from coal, which is almost all domestically produced.

Patrick Brennan was a senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration and is former opinion editor of National Review Online.


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