President Obama’s insistence that we “eat our peas” — that is, cough up more in taxes to pay down the ballooning debt over which he has presided — is not sitting well with Republicans. In fact they seem to be making much of his admission that after the next election it is tax-hike time, if he is returned to office. His formulation — “What we have talked about is that starting in 2013 that we have gotten rid of some of these egregious loopholes that are benefiting corporate jet owners or oil companies at a time where they’re making billions of dollars of profits” — is both dishonest (it’s not just millionaires and jets) and revealing (he pines to raise taxes so as to preserve as much domestic spending as possible).
You say he wasn’t necessarily referring to tax hikes (“So we might as well do it now; pull off the Band-Aid, eat our peas”)? Come on. The jig is up. This isn’t about spending or maybe even about entitlements; it’s about taxes.
Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a statement, making that clear:
I appreciate what the president said today about the need for us to come together and get this done. Our disagreements are not personal. They never have been. The gulf between the two parties right now is about policy. It’s not about process, and it’s not about personalities.
The president and I agree that the current levels of spending, including entitlement spending, are unsustainable. The president and I do not agree on his view that government needs more revenues through higher taxes on job creators. The president and I also disagree on the extent of the entitlement problem, and what is necessary in order to solve it.
Most Americans would say that a “balanced” approach is a simple one: the administration gets its debt limit increase, and the American people get their spending cuts and their reforms. And adding tax increases to the equation doesn’t “balance” anything.
The American people understand that tax hikes destroy jobs. And the last thing we should be doing right now, at a time of 9.2 percent unemployment, is enacting more government policies that will destroy jobs.
The notion that real deficit reform can’t be done without massive tax hikes is poppycock. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget showed that it is entirely possible to put us on course for a balanced budget without increasing taxes. And Boehner makes clear, if the president wants tax reform (his debt commission recommended this), the GOP is all ears. But we should be candid about what is at stake. (As Boehner noted, “So our disagreement with the president is not about closing loopholes. None of us are fond of loopholes. Our disagreement is over the idea of raising taxes on the very people that we’re asking to create jobs in our country.”)
Why isn’t the president being honest with the public? (As the Associated Press observed, “President Barack Obama and Democrats are saying almost anything to avoid the politically toxic pronouncement that they want to increase taxes.”) Perhaps it is because the American people think the problem is simple: We are spending too much. There is no drumbeat outside the Beltway to give the government even more of the nation’s gross domestic product. And if Obama thinks otherwise he should be forthright enough to say so.