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The Republican mindset on taxes

By Ezra Klein,

If you want to understand where the Republican Party is on the debt-ceiling discussion, it’s worth reading this column by Marc Thiessen and, in particular, this graf:

Let’s be clear: Compromise here isn’t spending cuts for a tax increase; compromise is spending cuts for a debt-limit increase. Republicans elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 campaigned on a promise to reduce the national debt. They are now being asked to turn around a half a year later and vote to raise the national debt. The vast majority of Republican voters don’t want them to raise the debt limit at all. The only way these Republican legislators can vote for a debt-ceiling increase without getting thrown out of office is to show their constituents that they secured unprecedented cuts in current spending — and ironclad constraints on future spending — in exchange. Tax increases? They are not even part of the equation.

Thiessen’s choice of words is telling. Technically, the deficits that produce the national debt are the product of a simple equation: Revenues minus spending. If the product is negative, we have a deficit. If it’s positive, we have a surplus. There’s no world in which taxes aren’t part of that equation. Without taxes, there is no equation, and no way of telling whether we’ve got surpluses as far as the eye can see, or deficits until the cows come home.

But if Thiessen’s equation is wrong, his construction of it is common. Republicans haven’t simply convinced themselves that we shouldn’t raises taxes right now, but that taxes aren’t even a legitimate part of the equation, or of this debate. It’s quite remarkable.

At any rate, read the whole article, which goes on to argue that “Republicans hold all the cards” and have been much, much, much too soft in their negotiations with President Obama. This is the sort of analysis that keeps John Boehner up at night, and persuades Eric Cantor to walk out of the room when he’s almost got a deal.

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