A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama’s Tax Tale


During a Super Bowl XLV pregame interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, President Barack Obama claimed that he "didn’t raise taxes once" during his first two years in office. Cigarette smokers and fans of indoor tanning may be among those to disagree with that statement.

O’Reilly, Feb. 6: Do you deny the assessment? Do you deny that you are a man who wants to redistribute wealth.

Obama: Absolutely.

O’Reilly: You deny that?

Obama: Absolutely. I didn’t raise taxes once, I lowered taxes over the last two years.

It’s likely that the president was referring to the federal income tax when he made that claim. In that case, he’d be spot on.

The president signed legislation at the end of 2010 extending the income tax cuts signed into law under former President George W. Bush for an additional two years. That move actually caused the president to break a 2008 campaign promise to allow the cuts to expire for individuals and couples making more than $200,000 and $250,000 a year, respectively.

But it’s not accurate for the president to make the blanket statement: "I didn’t raise taxes once."

A little more than two weeks after taking office, Obama signed into law a bill expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That was financed in part by an increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products; it went into effect on April 1, 2009.

There were also several tax increases included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the health care law. The biggest tax in the law is an extra 3.8 percent tax on investment income, which applies to persons making more than $200,000 a year or couples making more than $250,000. That one starts in 2013, and is expected to bring in $210 billion through 2019, when coupled with a 0.9 percent increase in the Medicare payroll tax for upper-income earners. But other taxes, like the new 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services, have started already. The 30 million Americans who reportedly use tanning beds have been paying more since July 1, 2010.

So, Obama has raised some taxes.