President Barack Obama promised to fix health care and trim the federal budget deficit, all without raising taxes on anyone but the wealthiest Americans. It’s a promise he’s already broken and will likely have to break again. Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress have already increased tobacco taxes — which disproportionately hit the poor — to pay for extending health coverage to 4 million children in working low-income families.
Now, lawmakers are looking for more revenues to help pay for providing medical insurance to millions more who lack it at a projected cost of $1 trillion over the next decade.
The floated proposals include increasing taxes on alcohol, which could raise $62 billion over the next decade, and a new tax on sugary drinks such as soda, which could raise $52 billion.
Senate Democrats this week pretty much rejected a proposal by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., to tax health benefits, an idea that Obama repeatedly criticized during the presidential election campaign but has refused to take off the table.
Obama also signed an anti-smoking bill in June that grants authority to the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco. To pay for the new program, a fee is being imposed on the industry — and presumably passed on to consumers — estimated to generate more than $5 billion over the next decade.
While not directly increasing taxes, a House-passed version of Obama’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for causing global warming would similarly increase American families’ home energy bills by $175 a year on average, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Obama hasn’t offered a detailed plan to fix health care, though his aides are working with lawmakers as they craft proposals. Obama included only a down payment for health care reform in the budget proposal he unveiled this spring.
He proposed limiting itemized tax deductions for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000. The plan, which faces stiff opposition in Congress, would limit deductions for mortgage insurance, state and local taxes and charitable contributions, raising about $270 billion over the next decade.
Obama also proposed a series of business tax increases and accounting changes that would raise an additional $30 billion.