It took President Barack Obama all of 15 days to break one of his most fundamental campaign promises. Even in these fast-paced times, that has got to be a record.
On Wednesday, February 4, President Obama proudly signed into law a huge increase in the federal tobacco excise tax. The tax is intended to fund part of the expansion of the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). In promoting and signing this bill, President Obama confirmed what he had long denied, that he is after all just another tax and spend liberal. But that’s not really news.
The expansion of the SCHIP program is wrongheaded for many reasons, but that’s not the issue here. President Bush fought and ultimately vetoed a very similar bill last year and so Obama’s election almost guaranteed the nation would take this unfortunate step toward socialized health care.
The issue is the tax increase. A 156% tax hike on tobacco. Tobacco taxes are paid almost exclusively by low- and middle-income individuals. Barack Obama campaigned on the promise that he would not increase taxes on individuals with incomes below $250,000. Virtually every dollar of the revenues to be collected under the tax hike will come from individuals with incomes below that threshold.
As smokers are about as popular as investment bankers and politicians, the fact that smokers will have to pay more for the privilege of destroying their own health hardly garners much sympathy. But the bigger issue is that Obama made a fundamental promise during his campaign, and he broke it in a new land speed record. With all the other mistakes his Administration is making piling up quickly, President Obama is not off to a promising start.