If everyone is going to talk about how “courageous” and “serious” GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s approach to fiscal policy is, then perhaps we should also make it a part of the discussion that in a recent interview, Ryan broke with GOP colleagues and said he might be open to raising taxes as part of the solution to our fiscal problems.
Yes, that’s right — in an interview with the Associated Press back in March, Ryan did just that:
However, in a break with many Republicans, Ryan did open the door to higher taxes in the future, but only as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code, and only after the big benefit programs have been reformed.
“If we just do a tax compromise without fundamentally fixing spending, then we’re just fueling more spending,” he said. “Do I believe you can get slightly higher revenues without harming jobs, and get better economic growth? Yes, I do believe that. But I don’t think it’s a worthwhile exercise if you don’t deal with the problem and the problem is spending.”
Republicans and conservatives are widely praising Ryan today as a voice of fiscal credibility and sanity. So it seems fair to ask them if they agree with Ryan’s willingness to open the door to tax hikes, and his claim that higher revenues don’t necessary impede economic growth. Those are both major breaks with GOP orthodoxy, and Republican leaders have repeatedly suggested tax hikes won’t be part of the discussions over our fiscal future.
Ryan, by the way, is not the only leading Republican fiscal voice who has insisted that tax hikes should be part of the discussions. Senator Tom Coburn, a leading fiscal conservative, has also insisted that ”everything must be on the table,” including increased revenues and doing away with costly subsidies, such as those for ethanol. This has landed Coburn in a big brawl with the Grover Norquist wing of the party, which opposes tax hikes at all costs.
Dems are jumping on Ryan’s proposal, arguing that it’s hardly “courageous” to have a discussion about our fiscal future without even allowing for the possibility of tax hikes for the rich. Chris Van Hollen, for instance, said today:
“To govern is to choose, and it is not courageous to protect tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies, and other big money special interests while slashing our investments in education, ending the current health care guarantees for seniors on Medicare, and denying health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans. That’s not courageous, it’s wrong.”
Dems can point to Ryan himself — and Coburn — to buttress this point. You’d think that Ryan and Coburn, two of the GOP’s most respected fiscal voices, would give other Republicans cover to allow tax hikes to be part of the discussions. If we are going to start talking about entitlement cuts, and if Ryan, our new paragon of “courageous” and “serious” fiscal policy, is also willing to entertain the posssibility of tax hikes, how many Republicans are willing to agree with him?