Speaker John Boehner said yesterday that any deficit reduction deal that the Supercommittee might reach will have to include tax increases.
Here’s the quote from Boehner, speaking yesterday at his weekly press conference:
“I think there is room for revenues, but I think there clearly is a limit to the amount of revenues that are available.”
If Boehner can deliver substantial Repub votes for a bipartisan deal that includes a net increase in taxes it will be a big breakthrough and create possibilities for progress on a number of fronts. The Repub not-a-penny-more tax position, more recently coupled by a new no-more-cave-ins determination by Dems has been the biggest single reason that progress toward dealing legislatively with either America’s deficit/debt problem or its near-stagnant economy have become impossible.
Boehner said any new revenue would come from the closing of tax loopholes, not from higher rates. He didn’t specify the loopholes nor talk about how much “revenue” the Repubs will support. And — bear this in mind — Boehner has been open to a deal like this before and has been unable to sell it to his caucus. I do assume that he wouldn’t have said what he said yesterday unless he had reason to believe he could sell such deal to his fellow Repubs.
The vast majority of congressional Repubs have signed the “taxpayer protection pledge” of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, which requires them to oppose any increase in taxes. That pledge specifies that any loophole-closing counts as a banned tax increase unless it is offset by a tax cut elsewhere. Boehner’s new statement would break the pledge. As reported in the WashPost, when Boehner was asked about the Norquist problem yesterday, he replied:
“Listen, our focus here is on jobs We’re doing everything we can to get our economy moving again and to get people back to work. It’s not often I’m asked about some random person in America.”
Asked whether he genuinely believed Norquist was a ‘random person’ to members of his conference, Boehner replied, “Listen, our focus is on creating jobs, not talking about somebody’s personality. Our conference is opposed to tax hikes because we believe that tax hikes will hurt our economy and put Americans out of work,”
As a language-watcher, I was intrigued by Boehner statement that “there is room for revenues.” It’s a ridiculous phraseology if you look at it closely (what, precisely, does “room” mean) but it reflects the awkwardness of the moment. Presumably the language doctors have told both parties that the public’s natural flinch reaction to the terms “higher taxes” or “tax hikes” is reduced if they are instead called “revenues.”
So, for years, Repubs have preferred the word “taxes” because they opposed it and wanted it associated with the Dems. The Dems generally tried to avoid blunt terms like “higher taxes” and often substituted “revenues” as a euphemism. The fact that Boehner has adopted the Dems euphemism is actually a stupid sign of hope for a breakthrough, as long as the Dems agree to call the bill “The No New Taxes for Room for Revenues Act of 2011.”