On John Boehner, the fiscal cliff, and tax reform

John Boehner

Yesterday, I criticized House Speaker John Boehner for openly discussing the idea of raising tax revenue are part of the “fiscal cliff” talks. This caused some of my conservative friends to come back at me on Twitter because they noted that pro-growth tax policies raise revenue, but it’s not a tax hike.

Look, I don’t disagree at all on that. What I was trying to say, and I probably didn’t explain it well enough, was that Boehner is negoiating from a point of weakness because of the election and is more likely to make a bad deal. During the debt ceiling debate, Boehner was willing to close loopholes that would have raised some $800 billion in additional tax revenue. President Obama wanted more in revenue, which caused Boehner to back down.

Boehner wants a pro-growth tax policy. That’s great, so do I. Let’s close all the loopholes — no more tax breaks or tax credits — and use that revenue to lower overall tax rates. That’s exactly what I want. Unfortunately, we’re not going to get it right now, and I think that’s the point my conservative friends are missing. Obama and Senate Democrats aren’t interested in economic growth. They’re interested in class warfare, which they think helped them win the election.

Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have pushed back against raising tax rates, but they could still wind up making a huge mistake because of the atmosphere in which they find themselves. All of this reminds me of the run up to passing the Wall Street bailout, when conservative compromised their principles to pass what was a really bad deal for taxpayers. It wasn’t too long ago when Boehner lashed out at opponents of TARP, calling us “knuckledraggers.”

Sorry, folks, I don’t trust Boehner. I suspect he knows that he isn’t going to get what he wants out of whatever happens before the end of the year, and he’s just trying to lay the groundwork to get something…anything.

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