Saturday, July 14, 2012

President Obama: Let Me Be Unclear [Updated]

    On July 9th, President Obama gave a speech touting his administration's record on taxes, especially for the middle class.  The speech appears to be part of laying the groundwork for his push to allow the "Bush tax cuts for the wealthy," as they are commonly known, to expire at the end of 2012.  In his speech, he made the following claim (via RealClearPolitics):
That’s why I’ve cut middle-class taxes every year that I’ve been President -- by $3,600 for the typical middle-class family. Let me repeat: Since I’ve been in office, we’ve cut taxes for the typical middle-class family by $3,600.
The president's campaign liked this line so much they tweeted it out later that day:
President Obama: "I’ve cut taxes every year that I've been President by $3,600 for the typical middle-class family.”
Pretty soon, Twitter was alive with incredulity at the president's claim, as Twitchy documented:
Oh, dear. President Obama is not too good at those “teachable moment” things, is he? Earlier this month, Twitters tried to teach the president a little lesson about putting “FACT” in front of his absurd statements, as if that would make them true. Looks like The One didn’t heed that advice, because he is at it again.
Some of the responses were: "First define 'fact', 'typical', and 'American'"; "Not in my typical home!"; and "Baloney, you sure didn't cut my taxes. In fact you've drastically increased them with the ObamaTax."  But the rush to heap scorn on the president for his tax-cutting claim, Twitchy and the tweeters missed the larger deception.  There will always be debate about what constitutes a "tax cut" and what exactly is the "typical family," but the president was citing figures from a April 2012 White House document called "Keeping America's Women Moving Forward." This passage appears on page 9:
Tax Incentives for Middle Class Families: 2009 – 2012 
A typical family making $50,000 a year has seen their taxes cut by $3,600 during President Obama’s first term in office...
In 2009, as part of the Recovery Act, the President signed the Making Work Pay tax cut of up to $800 for a family (and $400 for a single individual) in 2009 and 2010. A typical working family making $50,000 per year would have gotten $1,600 in relief from this law over those two years.  
At the end of 2010, the President signed a 2% payroll tax cut for 160 million working Americans and their families, which provided $1,000 in tax relief for a typical family during 2011. At the end of 2011, President Obama stood firm against the opposition of Republicans in Congress and ensured that the payroll tax cut was extended into 2012, and then for the entire year – providing an extra $40 per paycheck for a typical working family this year...
Now that we've looked at the source of the claim, look at the president's statement again:
President Obama: "I’ve cut taxes every year that I've been President by $3,600 for the typical middle-class family.” [emphasis added]
Cut taxes every year by $3,600 for the typical middle-class family? Wow!  That's quite a savings!  Oh, but wait.  Look at the White House documentation again.  "$1,600 in relief from this law over those two years" and "$1,000 in tax relief for a typical family during 2011" and "the payroll tax cut was extended into 2012."  This is not $3,600/year.  They are adding $1,600, $1,000, and $1,000.  This is $3,600 over FOUR years, or $900/year.  President Obama exaggerated by a factor of four.  This is reminiscent of his recent "hyperbole" over student loan interest savings.  Perhaps this explains the more recent "evolution" in the statement that the campaign put out later on Twitter:
FACT: The typical middle-class family's taxes have been cut by $3,600 over President Obama's first term.
Notice the "every year" part has been quietly dropped.  Is this a case of the president's campaign fact-checking their own candidate?  Or is it a case of a deliberately misleading statement that will reach the largest audience followed by "clarification" that can provide deniability later on.  Call me a skeptic, but I tend to believe the latter.

UPDATE:  The president has doubled down on the original deception.  The Barack Obama campaign Twitter account tweeted this from the president's speech in Ohio today:

Since when has "tax burden" ever meant anything other than annual?  This is an in-your-face falsehood that the president is daring someone to call him out on.  Let's see if anyone in the media steps up.

UPDATE:  Well, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air stepped up and chose this post as his "Obamateurism of the Day," for which I am grateful.  That will greatly increase the chance that more people will be aware of the president's (as Ed Morrissey generously puts it) "confusing" statement.  But will it lead to a true Obama campaign clarification?

1 comment:

  1. Hot Air: Obamateurism of the Day