A taxpayer watchdog group is throwing a penalty flag on President Obama's assertion in a Super Bowl pre-game interview that he didn't raise taxes, claiming the president signed into law at least two dozen tax increases.
"Just 16 days into his presidency, Obama signed into law a 156 percent increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco -- a hike of 62 cents per pack," Americans for Tax Reform said in a press release Monday, arguing that Obama's approval of this tax hike was a violation on his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class.
"I lowered taxes over the last two years," he said in an interview that aired before the heavily-viewed Superbowl on Sunday.
But ATR cites the health care law as an Obama administration imperative that contains two dozen new or higher taxes, including the individual mandate tax and the employer mandate tax.
"President Obama's entire claim of being a net tax-cutter rests merely upon the temporary tax relief he has signed into law," the group said. "The tax increases Obama has signed into law have invariably been permanent. In fact, Obama has signed into law $7 in permanent tax hikes for every $1 in permanent tax cuts."
The group estimates that the permanent changes to tax law Obama signed totals a net tax hike of $618.7 billion.
But supporters of the president say ATR's math doesn't add up.
"I think it's a little tendentious on their part," Robert McIntryre, director of the progressive Citizens for Tax Justice, told FoxNews.com."If the rule is anything that's temporary doesn't count as a tax cut, then George W. Bush is in trouble from their point of view since all of his tax cuts were temporary. They must hate Bush."
Ryan Ellis, the tax policy director for ATR, responded that Bush would have made his tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 permanent if he could have gotten the 60 votes required in Congress.
But Obama, he argued, prefers to make the tax cuts temporary.
"If you're looking at temporary tax cuts, how are you paying for it? He's paying for it with a permanent tax hike," he said. "It's not exactly fair to mix those things together."
"It's a question of baselines and the biggest problem is he's a tax cutter of temporary tax cuts by permanent tax hikes that never go away," he added.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that he had not seen ATR's claims but "I would note that I think the Congressional Budget Office released figures yesterday that show that for the third consecutive year the American people are paying less in taxes than they did during the previous administration."
The CBO on Monday said that according to projections, income tax payments this year will be nearly 13 percent lower than they were in 2008, the last full year of the Bush presidency, and corporate taxes will be lower by a third.
The White House also has defended the tobacco tax hike previously, saying it didn't violate Obama's pledge because it didn't apply to income, payroll or investment taxes. Supporters have also noted the money gained from the tobacco tax is intended to finance a major expansion of health insurance for children.
The White House has addressed charges that the health care overhaul raises taxes, saying the law includes the largest health are "tax cut" in history for middle class families. The White House has cited the Congressional Budget Office estimate that Americans buying the same coverage they have today in the individual market will see premiums fall by 14 to 20 percent.
ATR says the individual mandate tax, which starts in 2014, will require anyone not buying "qualifying" health insurance to pay an income surtax of $495. That amount increases to $990 for two members of a family and $1,485 for three-member families.
Among the other tax hikes ATR cites in the health care law are:
- the medicine cabinet tax, which began in January. It will prevent consumers from using their health savings accounts (HSA), flexible spending accounts (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin), the group argues;
- the HSA withdrawal tax hike, which started in January. It increases additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, making them less appealing than IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent, ATR said;
- the flexible spending account cap, or the "Special Needs Kids Tax," which was unlimited. It has been capped at $2,500 since January. The new cap imposes a "particularly cruel and onerous" burden on parents of special needs children who use the money to pay for costly tuition, the group argued.
- the medical itemized deductions cap, which allows consumers to deduct medical expenses if the total cost reduces the filer's income by 7.5 percent, will face a threshold of 10 percent starting in 2013.
- the tax on indoor tanning services, which began in July, imposes a new 10 percent excise tax on Americans using indoor tanning salons.