On their own, of course, getting rid of these tax preferences will produce modest revenue increases. But stack them up against cuts to, say, Pell grants, which means fewer students in college, or feeding programs for pregnant women and children. Honestly: which is the more humane and sensible way to reduce the deficit?

Moreover, this question is an effective challenge to the Republicans’ theological opposition to any tax increases of any kind. To get anywhere on the deficit, Republicans have to be forced off their absolute resistance to even a smidgen of new tax revenue. Challenging them on their weakest flank is the right way to move the argument. Once tax increases are transformed from a matter of theology to a question of sensible governance, discussions of the larger problems can become more fruitful.