Detail & The Donkey: Obama skates on specifics
By: Daniel Clark
Since Mitt Romney announced his tax plan, the media have demanded that he provide more detail. In particular, they want to know exactly which deductions he wants to eliminate while cutting the rates. That’s a perfectly reasonable question, but why is only Romney expected to provide specifics, while President Obama continues to speak in puffy generalities?
Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House, famously said that Congress needed to pass Obamacare in order to find out what was in it. Even if the legislators had given themselves time to read the bill, they’d have found that many of its provisions were not explicitly stated, but were left to the discretion of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Although Obama had pledged that all legislation would be made available to the public online five days before it became law, he signed the 2,409-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act two days after it passed the Senate, its contents remaining largely a mystery to those who had voted on it, let alone their constituents.
Nowhere did that law require employers to provide coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients, but it did empower Sebelius to impose this requirement unilaterally. Her decree was later amended to exempt Catholic churches, but not other Catholic institutions like hospitals and charity organizations. The controversy that arose from this has been thoroughly reported, but there have been no demands for Obama to spell out what other parts of his plan he sneaked through the legislative process through subterfuge.
The president’s stimulus package – also deemed too important to read before passing – was supposed to have created 2.5 million “shovel-ready jobs.” More than two years later, he joked that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” Do you suppose if he’d been forced to explain his plan in greater detail, we might have discovered flaws like that before blowing $825 billion to find out?
Obama now accuses Romney of secretly planning to raise taxes on middle-income earners, based on a discredited static economic analysis which assumes that tax rate cuts need to be “paid for” by raising taxes on somebody else. Romney says his plans do not include any tax hikes on anybody, and there is no substantive reason to doubt him. Obama, on the other hand, has repeatedly pledged never to raise taxes on individuals earning less than $200,000 a year, and he insists that he has kept that promise. Well, unless you’re a smoker, that is, or unless you go to tanning salons.
Also, you can no longer buy over-the-counter medicine with funds from your pre-tax Health Savings Account, and the penalty for early withdrawals from your HSA will soon be doubled. Starting next year, the amount you’re allowed to deposit into your Flexible Spending Account will be capped at 2,500 per year, so that if your medical spending exceeds that amount, it will expose more of your income to taxation.
The Medical Itemized Deduction Hurdle has also been raised from 7.5 to 10 percent, meaning that you must pay at least 10 percent of your adjusted gross income for health care in order to take a deduction for it on your income tax. Those whose health care spending ranges between 7.5 and 10 percent of their income will no longer be able to claim the deduction.
In addition, Obama wants to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, which will raise income tax rates, cut the child tax credit in half, and reinstitute the marriage penalty. It may also expose more than 25 million middle-income earners to the Alternative Minimum Tax. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find media criticism of him for having broken his word. When fact-checking a Democrat president, a mere ten examples disproving his claim are hardly worth mentioning.
President Obama has never been one to let the himself be bothered by the details. When David Letterman asked him how high the national debt was, he said he didn’t know, and made it clear that he didn’t care, either. Letterman’s guess of $10 trillion was actually close to what it was when Obama took office. It’s not surprising that the president didn’t point out that he’d added about $6 billion since then. Besides, he explained, “We don’t have to worry about it short-term.”
By “we,” he must be referring to himself and his friends in the media. The only thing they have to worry about in the short term is Mitt Romney. So don’t hassle them over a trifling detail like six trillion dollars in debt.
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.