Has Obama broken his first campaign promise?

Barack Obama promised to institute a windfall profits tax on oil companies, but the policy was quietly removed from his Web site.


Vincent Rossmeier
December 4, 2008 2:55AM (UTC)

In June, during his campaign for presidency, Barack Obama promised that he would institute a "windfall profits tax" on US oil companies. "I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we'll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills," he said at the time.

Of course, crude was above $140 a barrel back then, and U.S. consumers were shelling out nearly $4 for a gallon of gas. Now, with crude prices having dropped more than $100 a barrel, Obama has apparently given up on his idea.

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Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reported that the American Small Business League noticed that language referring to the policy has been removed from the Obama transition team Web site, Change.gov. Asked about what seems like a sudden policy change conducted completely under the radar, an unnamed member of Obama's transition team told ABC News, "President-elect Obama announced the policy during the campaign because oil prices were above $80 per barrel. They are below that now and expected to stay below that."

An Obama aide told the Chronicle that the “emergency energy rebate," a part of Obama's windfall profits tax plan that would have used the tax revenue from companies like Exxon to grant US taxpayers up to $500 individually or $1000 for every married couple, is still intact and included in Obama's "rescue plan" for the middle class.

But some liberals, like columnist David Sirota, aren't happy about the change. In a blog post, Sirota wrote:

Between this move and the move to wait to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, it seems like the Obama team is buying into the right-wing frame that raising any taxes -- even those on the richest citizens and wealthiest corporations -- is bad for the economy... [I]f oil prices are down and oil industry profits are truly down, what's the harm in passing a windfall profits tax? Even if you buy the right-wing nonsense about a windfall profits tax 'hurting the industry' or 'hurting the economy' when it is applied, if there really are no windfall profits to tax, then it won't be applied.


Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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