Moving the Goal Post

by Andrew Stiles

House Speaker John Boehner’s (R., Ohio) office is pushing back against White House claims that the new revenue in the “framework” being discussed in the now defunct negotiations would have been generated by letting current tax rates expire. “That is simply false,” writes Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

In reality, Steel writes, the White House offered a “ceiling” of $800 billion in new revenue over 10 years that would be achieved through comprehensive tax reform (e.g., eliminating loopholes, credits and deductions) in a way that would stimulate economic growth. This would not constitute a tax increase.

Following the release of the Gang of Six proposal, however, the White House then insisted on an additional $400 billion in actual tax increases, for a total of $1.2 trillion in revenue that would become the new “floor” for revenues. Additionally, the administration backed away from several aspects of the tax reform package they had already agreed to, including a protection against tax hikes on small businesses and a guarantee that they would only be three tiers of tax rates, the highest of which would be below 35 percent.

In regard to Social Security, the two sides had agreed on a change in the way the government calculates inflation (the so-called “chain CPI”) that would extend the program’s solvency. However, the White House reneged on a previously agreed-upon solvency target and offered a weaker target that would yield 25 percent less in savings.

If true, clearly the two teams were playing in two separate stadiums.