Peter Orszag delivered the change in nomenclature on Barack Obama’s tax policy to a group of reporters at a Thomson Reuters breakfast yesterday, and the Daily Beast’s LLoyd Grove couldn’t quite believe his ears. He pressed the OMB Director for clarification, and got more obfuscation instead (via Instapundit):
Remember President Obama’s supposedly inviolable pledge—repeatedly uttered during the 2008 campaign and at countless town meetings since the inauguration—that he would never raise taxes on middle-class citizens who earn $250,000 a year or less?
This morning at a Manhattan breakfast sponsored by Thomson Reuters, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag threw that pledge out the window. Instead, he described Obama’s “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge as a “stance” and a “preference” that is 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.”
Grove reminded Orszag of Obama’s promise, and Orszag accused Grove of playing a “game”:
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.”
Well, did Obama promise not to increase taxes on the middle class? During the campaign, John McCain hit Obama hard on the expensive agenda Obama was fronting, warning that Obama’s massive spending would require steep across-the-board tax hikes. In July 2008, Obama denied that it would cost the middle class anything at all:
And 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.
That’s not equivocal at all. Obama defended his high-spending agenda by promising that it wouldn’t cost the middle class an extra dime in taxes. Now that it’s getting implemented, suddenly talking about the potential for taxes is a “game” and is now the responsibility of an unelected, unaccountable commission, and not the responsibility of the man spending all the money.
That’s a game, all right — one we’ve seen from slick Washington politicians for decades.