Talking Point Alert!

February 14th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Sometimes you just get the feeling that the various people with whom you’re arguing all got together a few days ago and agreed on a talking point.  (Fans of the wonderful Costa-Gavras movie “Z” will know of what I speak: “lithe and fierce as a tiger…”)

In almost every single debate I’ve had regarding the President’s budget plan, when confronted with the fact that they have thus far refused to accept new tax revenues as part of a deal for deficit reduction, conservatives cry foul.  To the contrary, they cry.  They’d be happy with far more revenue than the $1.5 trillion called for in the President’s budget.  But it must come from “lowering the rates and broadening the base.”

For example, I’ve heard many say they want to follow the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson commission, which goes way–and by “way” I mean half-a-trillion bucks–beyond the President in terms of revenues.

Can this be for real?  I’d really like to believe it is, but it’s awfully hard to imagine.  First, it breaks the Norquist pledge, or at least it does if it’s revenue neutral.  Grover’s been a bit muddy on this point, but I’m pretty sure he won’t let his minions raise taxes over here to pay for a cut over there.

And, of course, that’s what we’re talking about here.  “Broadening the base” means some win and some lose.  Those not benefiting from the credits and deductions that base-broadening gets rid of come out ahead.  Everybody else pays more.  And for the record, simply recouping the revenue you lose by lowering rates through the broader base isn’t enough.  Our fiscal reality is that these plans must be revenue positive, not just revenue neutral.

Fact is, as Bowles-Simpson revealed, there’s real money here—tax expenditures now amount to over $1 trillion per year.  There’s the mortgage interest deduction, the exclusion of employer health premium contributions, 401(k) contributions, accelerated depreciation for equipment purchases, capital gains tax breaks, and tons more.

Now, it’s absolutely true that many of these should go, as I’ve stressed in these pages before.  And if my conservative friends truly want to stand up to Grover, engage in some 1986-style brush-clearing in the tax code, and raise even more revenue than the President, then I will gladly fight alongside them.

So, here’s a real time test.  Treasury Sec’y Geithner today announced that the administration was ready to propose corporate tax reform “…that will lower rates, broaden the base and eliminate or wipe out…dozens and dozens and dozens of special tax preferences for businesses.”

If the people touting this meme of lower rates, broader base stand up and applaud the reform, I’ll take them a lot more seriously than I have thus far.  If they do not, I will remind them of their refusal to do so next time we speak.

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13 comments in reply to "Talking Point Alert!"

  1. foosion says:

    Step 1 – lower rates, eliminate tax preferences
    Step 2 – add back tax preferences

    It’s happened before

  2. Michael says:

    Is there some point at which we’re allowed to note that conservatives themselves don’t take their talking points very seriously, so we shouldn’t have to?

    Unemployment is 8.5% and the banks are still broken. We should be spending $1 trillion a year on direct hiring for infrastructure, purely deficit financed. Any other approach is sociopathic, gaining utility from American broken homes, treatable illness, and wholesale misery.

  3. Fred Donaldson says:

    Increasing taxes on the working class will many times lead to them qualifying for more public programs. For example, more taxes paid, may make work less profitable than not working, which defeats the purposes of even the most Randian adherents.

    The goal of “tax fairness” seems to not be fiscal fairness, but putting more of the population into a dependent class – a condition that destroys initiative and self-worth.

    The Ayn is all mine approach would argue against more taxes at any level – particularly where they represent a serious threat to the earnings excess after basic necessities, which in some cases is already zero or negative.

    • fausto412 says:

      I see your point but I disagree. As long as working leads to a better living standard than being on government assistance people will work. What you have to look at is how little the pie for the 99% has gotten when it comes to income gains over the last 30+ years, retirement benefit losses and increasing health care costs, add to that dependent care costs(I pay 440 a week for 2 kids). We get the raw deal. How can household income have increased when women joined the workforce yet people live more broke today than in 1950 while tax rates are supposedly much much lower? It’s a fatal flaw in capitalism. Sure it’s a great system for attaining wealth and combining resources for profit but it also has its bad side effects. Our government is for the money, by the money and will only listen to you if you have the money. Citizens united made this worst. But back to my original point, people who are able to work stay on public assistance because because it is better than the jobs they can get. The answer starts with a much higher minimum wage and a stronger safety net but good luck with that. GOP has slowed the minimum wage so much that it doesn’t even keep up with inflation. Minimum wage adjusted for inflation today would be over 15 dollars. Today it is $7.25, who can list on that? That doesn’t even cover daycare! that’s $290 a week at 40 hours a week.

      • Fred Donaldson says:

        Minimum wage is more than $15 in Australia, so it could happen even here if we could recruit kangaroos to run for Congress. At least they wouldn’t be putting so much campaign money in their pouches as today’s gremlins stuff into attache cases.

  4. azlib says:

    The conservatives do not care how illogical their arguments are. They have their “no new taxes” talking points and they are going to stick to them, regardless of how illogically they are.

    • fausto412 says:

      yes. it’s time for the left or progressives to figure out a way to deal with ignorance and the right wing bubble that continues to grow and grow over the whole nation.

      we have the better policies but policies are not simple…we need out own bumper sticker department coming up with silly one liners to stay competitive.

      • Michael says:

        No, we need to seriously take on the media culture that pretends Fox News cannot be mocked.

        • Chigliakus says:

          I can think of two entertainers off the top of my head that make a living mocking Fox News. There is a frighteningly large fraction of the US population that is less interested in being informed than in having their prejudices confirmed. As long as those people exist Fox News will have an audience. I’m less worried about Fox News than the overall decline in the quality of journalism in the US, and I’m not really sure what to do to fix it.

  5. n0elly says:

    As Dean Baker points out repeatedly, there were no recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson commission: