Right after the election, it was all peaches and cream and conciliatory common-ground language when President Obama met with congressional leaders to discuss the fiscal cliff. Of course, the president campaigned on tax hikes for the rich, by which he meant raising top income-tax rates and extending the Bush tax cuts for incomes below $200,000. And the president’s first meeting post-election was with his union and liberal-interest-group supporters, all of whom want to raise the top rates and then some. But instead, the newly reelected president spoke about “new ideas,” as long as they provided a balance of spending cuts and tax increases on the most successful upper-end earners.
Now, however, stalemate may be just as likely as solution. Why? Well, it was former Bush advisor Keith Hennessey who discovered a big obstacle in all this. Team Obama wants a gargantuan $1.6 trillion tax hike over the next ten years to finance larger government. And Hennessey surmised — and I agree — that the reason the president couched his language in terms of higher tax “revenues” rather than tax “rates” is that he essentially wants both. Raise the top rates and cap or eliminate a number of tax deductions for more revenues. This is going to be a big problem. It could well be a deal-breaker.
Read my full column here.