Jonathan Chait

Not So Fast On That Deficit Deal (John Boehner Likes Having His Job)

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In my previous item, I noted that Mitch McConnell sounded like he was going through the motions of paying homage to the party's anti-tax theology before dropping some serious hints that he wanted a deficit deal, but the obstacle remains the House. How could John Boehner ever sign off on a bargain that included a tax increase of any kind, which would probably cause conservatives to depose him? I have difficulty seeing how this happens.

Recently, Wall Street Journal opinion columnist Daniel Henninger relayed Boehner's absolutist anti-tax position:

A speech Mr. Boehner gave last month to the Economic Club of New York was an important defining statement. Mr. Boehner ran straight at what is probably the most unshakable conventional wisdom in politics: "The big myth of the current budget debate is the notion that in order to balance the budget, we have to raise taxes. The truth is we will never balance the budget and rid our children of debt unless we cut spending and have real economic growth. And we will never have real economic growth if we raise taxes on those in America who create jobs." No speaker has so categorically repudiated using taxes to bail out Washington.

Well, except for the fact that the only balanced budget of the last forty years happened after a pair of deficit deals that included tax hikes which conservatives like Boehner denounced on the exact same grounds they're using now.

Anyway, expecting a grand bargain is to expect Boehner to agree to a tax increase, which is to expect Boehner to put his job at extreme risk. I keep asking people who hope for a grand bargain to explain how that happens, and they never do.

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