It is likely to become the next big talking point: Republicans are acquiescing to the will of the people by agreeing to an increase in tax revenues, via the closing of loopholes, if not in tax rates. Some Republicans are arguing today that the public actually endorses the closing of loopholes over raising tax rates on the rich.
They are citing a poll taken by GOP pollster Dave Winston to make the point. Here’s how the poll frames the relevant question:
Both parties agree that major tax reform and spending cuts must be enacted to address the nation’s debt, and agree a down payment on reforms should be enacted this year to avoid taxes going up significantly and commit to solving the debt problem. Which type of down payment would be better for the economy and raise revenue?
Raising tax rates on January 1st on Americans earning more than $250,000 and cut government spending by a similar amount: 25
Eliminating special interest tax loopholes and deductions commonly used by the wealthy and cut government spending by a similar amount: 65
What’s striking is that the position polled by Republicans that supposedly shows public support for their approach is almost identical to the one held by the Republican nominee for president — the one who lost the election. Mitt Romney called for a combination of spending cuts and higher revenues from the wealthy, but only by cutting loopholes and deductions. The argument between that position and Obama’s — that we must raise tax rates on the rich — was litigated before the electorate for months and months. The voters sided with Obama. The outcome of the election would seem like a better clue as to the public’s verdict on this question than a Republican-sponsored poll.
What’s more, this isn’t an either/or question. Democrats support both raising rates and nixing loopholes as a means to raising revenues. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
The broader point is that Republicans are portraying support for increased revenues via closing loopholes as proof they are heeding the people’s will. Check out this remarkable quote from a GOP leader:
“Elections do have consequences,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a member of the House GOP leadership. “The bottom line is the president is getting his revenues. We can negotiate how much; we can minimize the damage to the economy.”
In other words, the fact that Republicans are agreeing to increased revenues shows they are acknowledging that elections have consequences, that they are accepting the public’s verdict. But adopting the approach favored by the loser of the election hardly constitutes acknowledging the will of the people. What’s more, as Steve Benen notes, the practical outcome of this approach is that Republicans would get the tax rates (continuing all the Bush tax cuts) and the spending cuts (entitlement reform) they want. It’s hard to see how this was the public’s intended message — or how it constitutes bipartisan compromise.
Sadly, however, many news outlets seem to be adopting the GOP framing of the issue — that the willingness to give ground on revenues via loopholes and deductions alone represents some kind of major concession. It isn’t.