Tax Analysts Blog

WSJ Reports Republicans Ready for Tax Hikes

Posted on Nov 7, 2011

Talk about burying the lead!

In this morning's Wall Street Journal Stephen Moore reports in the 4th paragraph of an op-ed that super-committee co-chairman Jeb Henserling (R-Tex.) told him: "We have no interest in raising rates--period." (Emphasis added here.) This could imply there is interest in raising taxes without raising rates. Paragraphs 6 and 7 confirm the implication. Republicans would agree to cuts in big-ticket tax breaks (like the mortgage interest and charitable deductions) in exchange for keeping the top individual rate at 35 percent. This would be a tax increase relative to the intuitive current policy baseline that Republicans almost always insist on using. (It might not technically be considered a tax increase against the current law baseline. But if Republicans resort to this argument they would merely be using a gimmick to obfuscate what they (in the past) and the public consider a tax increase.)

If Republicans on the committee agree to this, they would be breaking the gridlock on deficit reduction by turning their backs on the Tea Party and Grover Norquist who have insisted they do not raise taxes. If it is true that this deal is in the works, it is front-page news because it changes everything. It would open the way for bi-partisan compromise because tax increases and spending cuts would be on the table.

Or is all this just an illusion fueled by wishful thinking on Moore's part? From his point of view (not shared publicly by most conservative politicians) this "deal" is a "positive development." Is he in favor of increasing taxes as part of the deal? Is he reporting or advocating?

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