In August 2009, on a visit to Elkhart, Indiana to tout his stimulus plan, Obama sat down for an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, and was conveyed a simple request from Elkhart resident Scott Ferguson: “Explain how raising taxes on anyone during a deep recession is going to help with the economy.”
Obama agreed with Ferguson’s premise – raising taxes in a recession is a bad idea. “First of all, he’s right. Normally, you don’t raise taxes in a recession, which is why we haven’t and why we’ve instead cut taxes. So I guess what I’d say to Scott is – his economics are right. You don’t raise taxes in a recession. We haven’t raised taxes in a recession.”
Todd reminded Obama that he had promised to raise taxes on “some of the wealthiest” Americans.
Obama responded by reiterating his opposition to tax hikes during a recession and making an argument about timing. “We have not proposed a tax hike for the wealthy that would take effect in the middle of a recession. Even the proposals that have come out of Congress – which by the way were different from the proposals I put forward – still wouldn’t kick in until after the recession was over. So he’s absolutely right, the last thing you want to do is raise taxes in the middle of a recession because that would just suck up – take more demand out of the economy and put business further in a hole.”
When Obama warned about the consequences of raising taxes, the economy was moving away from recession—growth in the fourth quarter of 2009 was nearly 6 percent. Today, however, economic growth has slowed to less than 2 percent.