White House Spokesman 'Not Sure' If Obama’s Health Proposal Increases Taxes on Those Earning Less Than $250,000--And Thus Violates Obama's Tax Pledge

February 23, 2010 - 7:57 PM
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he is "not sure" if President Obama's new health care plan increases the Medicare payroll tax on people earning less than $250,000 a year -- thus violating the president's tax pledge.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. greets President Barack Obama before a speech to Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas, Friday, Feb. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he is "not sure" if President Obama's new health care proposal calls for increasing the Medicare payroll tax on households earning less than $250,000 a year, which would be an apparent breach of the president's pledge not to raise taxes on people earning less than that amount.
 
When he was running for president, Obama pledged that he would not increase taxes on families earning less than $250,000 per year. “I can make a firm pledge: Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase--not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes,” he said in Dover, N.H., on Sept. 12, 2008.

When fielding questions about Obama's tax pledge at an Aug. 3, 2009 press briefing, Gibbs said, “Let me be precise: The president's clear commitment is not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year.”
 
On Tuesday, CNSNews.com repeated Gibbs’ statement from August and asked if the Medicare payroll tax in Obama’s health plan would violate his 2008 campaign pledge. “I'd have to look through the proposal,” said Gibbs. “I'm not sure that's correct.”
 
The White House posted the president’s health care proposal online on Monday. It has not yet released a detailed bill.
 
“Under current law, workers who earn a salary pay a flat tax of 1.45 percent of their wages to support the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund, but those who have substantial unearned income do not, raising issues of fairness,” says the White House summary of Title IX of the proposal.

“The Act will include an additional 0.9 percentage point Hospital Insurance tax for households with incomes exceeding $200,000 for singles and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly,” reads the proposal. “In addition, it would add a 2.9 percent tax for such high-income households to unearned income including interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents (excluding income from active participation in S corporations).”
 
Unless President Obama is prepared to say that the only type of “family” that qualifies as a “family” under his tax pledge is one that is formed around  "married couples filing jointly," then his new health care proposal violates his 2008 tax pledge on its face. 
 
The Internal Revenue Service, for example, makes clear that the “head of household” tax filing status is for “unmarried” taxpayers. A definition for “head of household” on the IRS Web site says: “Generally, you may claim head of household filing status on your tax return only if you are unmarried and pay more than 50% of the costs of keeping up a home for yourself and your dependent(s) or other qualifying individuals.”