Yesterday on ABC's This Week, Obama adviser David Axelrod left the door open to funding health care reform through tax hikes on households making less than $250,000, which would violate one of the president's campaign promises. Host George Stephanopoulos showed a September 2008 clip of candidate Obama saying:
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.
Then Stephanopoulos asked if "the president will veto any health care bill that includes a tax increase on people earning less than $250,000 a year." Axelrod dodged the question. Noting that Obama has said he is "open to compromise" on a proposal to treat health care benefits as taxable income, which would affect many families earning less than $250,000, Stephanopoulos asked whether that meant "the tax pledge he made back in September is no longer operative." Axelrod dodged again. Finally, after Stephanopoulos observed that President Obama is "not drawing a line in the sand," Axelrod replied:
One of the problems we've had in this town is that people draw lines in the sand and they stop talking to each other. And you don't get anything done. That's not the way the president approaches us.
He is very cognizant of protecting people—middle class people, hard-working people who are trying to get along in a very difficult economy. And he will continue to represent them in these talks. But they're also dealing with punishing health care costs, and that's something that we have to deal with.
The beauty of Axelrod's rhetorical strategy is that Obama is being virtuous no matter what decision he makes. If he keeps his promise, he is being faithful to voters. If he breaks his promise, he is still being faithful to voters, since he also promised them health care reform. In any case, Obama broke his tax promise with his very first tax hike.
Last year, when Obama was slamming John McCain for suggesting that employer-provided medical coverage should be taxed as income, I explained why the idea makes sense, not as a way of raising revenue but as a way of reducing government distortion of the insurance market.
[via Americans for Tax Reform]