Repubs on Fiscal Commission not Ruling out Tax Increases

Republican Leadership

An article in The Hill on Saturday provided a glimmer of hope for those of us keeping an eye on President Obama’s debt panel. According to the piece, “Republicans aren’t ruling out raising taxes or any other option for dealing with the country’s debt problem as they head into the White House fiscal commission’s first meeting,” which is scheduled for early next week.

Walter Alarkon of The Hill spoke with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) – who asserted, “Everything is on the table” – and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) – who said, “I will sit down with anybody at anytime to discuss anything to see if there is any common ground” – who are both members of the commission.

While Hensarling’s comments are the more non-committal of the two, it seems as though the representative from Texas is at least taking the commission more seriously than his leader, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), who has criticized the bi-partisan effort as “a partisan Washington exercise rigged to impose massive tax increases and pass the buck on tough choices.”

Arguing that tax increases can't be part of the answer to our fiscal problems is disingenuous to say the least. Any reasonable economist will tell you that the government cannot erase current deficits by either cutting spending or raising taxes alone. Along with entitlement reform, Congress will need to implement some combination of spending cuts and tax increases to adequately deal with future deficits.

Of course, being open to a policy option doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll support it. As Alarkon notes towards the end of his article, “Just because Republicans haven’t ruled anything out as the commission ramps up doesn’t mean they’ll end up backing tax hikes they’d normally oppose.”

Coburn and Hensarling might just be putting on a good face prior to the beginning of the commission, and maybe none of the congressional Republicans assigned to the panel has any design on honestly considering tax increases during deliberations. But, my hope is that once all the panel members sit down to discuss the issues, economic reality – along with prodding from other commission members – will help convince enough congressional Republicans to give up their obstinate resistance to tax hikes for the panel to produce substantive deficit reduction proposals.

Image by Flickr user republicanconference used under a Creative Commons license.

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