Has President Barack Obama become what he, his campaign and liberal pundits accused Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of being?
Romney was pulverized for flip-flopping, shading ideas to the point of distortion and making up facts. Yet within weeks of being re-elected president, Obama has done the same thing.
With few exceptions, the left has given him a pass. The political left either ignored what he did or offered little to no criticism. The religious left applauded part of what he did, but were mostly mute about the other part.
By doing so, they – both the secularists and religionists – have given Obama permission to make up facts, to shade positions and to speak half-truths.
Which is exactly what Obama did on the “fiscal cliff” legislation related to taxation.
He has talked repeatedly about raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, the top 2 percent – the so-called millionaires and billionaires.
Obama’s Jan. 1 statement on the tax deal had a headline that read in part, “Senate Deal to Extend Middle Class Tax Cuts.”
The statement itself said the agreement “protects 98 percent of Americans … from a middle class tax hike,” while millionaires and billionaires would be required “to pay their fair share.”
Writing for The White House blog, Colleen Curtis focused on increasing taxes on the wealthy and “keeping taxes low for the middle class.”
The White House fact sheet also talked about “keeping taxes low for the middle class” and proclaimed the tax agreement to be “a victory for middle-class families and the economy.”
Inviting e-mail recipients to a Jan. 1 conference call, the White House’s Office of Public Engagement touted taxes on the wealthy.
None mentioned that the middle-class and the working poor would see a tax increase. All conveniently avoided referencing the payroll tax increase. All shaded the truth or spoke with half-truth.
By letting the payroll tax increase, taxes increased for the majority of Americans.
Never mind that the payroll tax cut was considered temporary. When it was initiated, it was touted as critical to the survival and recovery of middle-class and working poor families.
Their plight has hardly changed – except that they will have less to spend in 2013 due to their tax increase.
USA Today has a good fact-check article on what Obama has said on taxes, in general, and the payroll tax, in particular.
“In a Web video, President Obama leaves out some key facts about the fiscal cliff deal, possibly leaving the wrong impression about its impact on taxpayers and the deficit,” read the piece. “Obama doesn’t mention that the deal allowed a payroll tax cut to expire.”
According to the paper, “77 percent of taxpayers will pay more in taxes this year – nearly $1,200 more for those earning between $75,000 and $100,000, a group that fits squarely in Obama’s broad definition of middle class.”
Those who earn around $50,000 will see a tax increase of $574 annually.
One wonders if Obama thinks the middle-class and working poor will not see that their taxes have increased.
Perhaps he thinks that if he chest-thumps enough about taxing the rich that working Americans will not realize that their paychecks are lighter than they were last year.
While EthicsDaily.com did have several tweets on Jan. 1 about Obama’s rhetoric not matching reality and about the silence regarding the payroll tax increase, most of the mainstream media didn’t make this point for a number of days.
Only later did this issue begin to get the coverage needed. Of course, most folk have moved on to other issues and will not realize what has taken place until they get their first paycheck.
Obama has not been transparent – and straightforward – on taxes. Neither have been his ideological sojourners.
One can certainly favor a progressive tax system – based on the moral teachings in the Abrahamic faith traditions – without sacrificing one’s integrity by being silent when the president is deceptive.
If the faith community is mute about what the president has said on taxes, will the faith community remain silent on other shadings of the truth – gun control, immigration reform, climate change?
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.
Editor’s Note: EthicsDaily.com has produced a documentary on faith and taxes. “Sacred Texts, Social Duty” explores taxation through the Abrahamic faith traditions.
Robert M. Parham (1953 – 2017) was the founder and executive director of Baptist Center for Ethics from 1991 to 2017. He served as executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, BCE’s website, from its launch in 2002 until 2017.