“Now that we have resolved the revenue issue,” McConnell also said on Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” “tax reform ought to be revenue-neutral.”
Except “the revenue issue” is far from resolved. The fiscal cliff deal struck last week will raise a mere $620 billion over 10 years. That’s less than the federal deficit projected for any single year over the next decade. It’s also about $2 trillion less revenue than the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission proposed in its deficit-closing plan. To be sure, Congress must curb projected growth in entitlement spending. McConnell has every reason to insist that be on the table in any grand budget negotiation. But ruling out any additional revenue from here on would result in a budget reckoning that is either much too small or very unbalanced in favor of spending cuts.
Obama’s post-fiscal cliff rhetoric has been closer to reality. “I agree with Democrats and Republicans that the aging population and the rising cost of health care makes Medicare the biggest contributor to our deficit,” he said last week. But, he added, lawmakers must balance Medicare restructuring with more revenue from “further reforms to our tax code.” Yet the president has talked a good game before, and though he put some non-trivial Medicare cuts on the table in the abortive grand bargain of 2011, his words have not so far translated into serious renovation of entitlements.
The question over the next few months is whether McConnell and his party will back away from his rhetoric, and whether in that process Obama will live up to his own words.