Jonathan Chait

Do Republicans Actually Want A Deficit Deal?

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Derek Thompson has a little-noticed reporting scoop that may be far more significant than anybody is  giving him credit for:

a senior GOP aid I spoke with, who asked that his name be withheld to speak freely, said the Republicans' no-tax-increase stance wasn't "intellectually honest" in the real world.

"There are two worlds," the source said. "One world is political, and the sole objective is to maintain party message. The other world is real, and in the real world, fixing the deficit is a matter of national survival. When you get down to the real world decisions, it's not about whether to raise taxes. It's about the ratio of spending to revenue increases. That's the issue."

I repeated the question: Are you saying that the GOP's utter resistance to revenue increases is political? The aide responded: "Yeah." The source indicated that spending cuts should vastly outweigh tax increases, but that the final solution will probably be a blend.

Thompson says he's never heard a Republican spokesperson so bluntly dismiss the party line on taxes. Neither have I.

I'll go further. I've assumed that GOP officials are publicly refusing to consider taxes because that, in fact, has been the party position for two decades. Republicans have been driven by hostility to low taxes above all, with invocations of the deficit nothing more than a rhetorical weapon against Democrats. If they actually believe that the deficit is a "matter of national survival," of course, then their no-taxes-ever position would lead to national suicide: Democrats simply won't agree to a debt reduction plan that requires no shared sacrifice.

I've been working off the assumption that most Republicans do not actually care very much about the deficit, which is the only accurate analysis of their voting behavior since 1990. But maybe they have actually become freaked out about the deficit, and some of them are actually willing to do something about it. I'm certainly not counting on it, but it now seems conceivable when before it hadn't.

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