Guest columnist believes political and fiscal pressures may meddle in Obama’s tax plan

Lance Cahill

In numerous public appearances, including his monumental convention speech, Senator Barack Obama has consistently claimed he will deliver tax relief to 95% of taxpayers, with those making over $250,000 seeing a tax increase-including payroll, capital gains, and dividend taxes.

This is very similar to a pledge made by another charismatic and inspirational presidential candidate who, as well, sought to replace a relatively unpopular president with the surname of Bush. Throughout the 1992 Presidential election, Bill Clinton advocated raising taxes on those making more than $200,000 and redistributing the gains in the form of tax cuts for the “forgotten middle class”. Nevertheless, after Al Gore had defended, during the vice-presidential debates, the fiscal policy of his ticket from attacks of raising taxes, Bill Clinton backed down from his previous rhetoric. Rather, Clinton blamed the media for hyping his tax cutting promises at a January 14, 1993 press conference in New Hampshire.

As it turned out, Clinton reneged from his previous campaign promises and families earning as little as $20,000 saw their taxes increased. However, much of this story is muddled and forgotten, lost in the exceptional economic growth of the 1990s.

Without a doubt, whoever is elected President will face enormous fiscal challenges. With Barack Obama’s health plan estimated to cost $1.4 trillion over ten years, plans to institute a national service program, and increase government involvement in the development of alternative energies, there will be much pressure to renege on promises to cut taxes. The pressure is evident when traditional rhetoric advocating Democratic tax policy switches from “the prevailing rates will only be as high as during the Clinton Administration” to “the prevailing rates will only be as high as during the Reagan Administration”.

Similarly, John McCain will face fiscal pressures. McCain has advocated making permanent the Bush Tax Cuts, accelerating defense spending, and, in the short-run at least, his plans to end earmarks will not decrease total federal outlays.

As it stands now, it appears untenable that either candidate will be able to balance the budget in their first four years. It’s not their fault. Our political climate necessitates a fiscal deficit as any measure to restore prudence is commonly met with allegations of insensitivity–in the case of entitlement programs–or weakness, as in the case of policing or defense.