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Morning Jay: GOP To Obama: Read Our Lips!

6:00 AM, Jul 13, 2011 • By JAY COST
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Pity poor John Boehner: He really, truly is fine with hiking taxes by $800 billion, but his political coalition – hijacked by those deranged Tea Partiers – has moved his party so far to the right that he just can’t agree to such a hike! This is the 10-cent version of Dana Milbank’s latest column, and indeed the evolving opinion of the media, who are set to blame the lack of a long-term budget deal on the radicalism of today’s Republican party.

It’s nonsense. The tax hike on the table is a terrible deal for the Republican party, which would be utterly foolish to sign on to it. This conclusion does not require us to assume that the GOP has gone off the deep end, as the media does, but rather to follow a simple, three-step argument. First, a tax hike is contrary to seventy-five years of public promises from the GOP, and cannot be adopted lightly. Second, this tax hike is not part of a package that will solve our long-term deficit problem. Third, there is no point in dealing with Obama now on our long-term deficit problem. So, Republicans need to get the best deal on spending that they can, then take their argument on deficits to the voters next November.

1. It is contrary to seventy-five years of public promises from the GOP.

Quoting the late Robert Novak:

“God put the Republican Party on earth to cut taxes. If they don't do that, they have no useful function.“

An overstatement, perhaps, but not by much. Cutting taxes is as close to a raison d'être that the modern Republican party has, and in case anybody is under any delusions about where the party has been in the last seventy-five years on the issue of taxes, consider this sampling of planks from GOP platforms since 1936:

1936: Stop the folly of uncontrolled spending. Balance the budget—not by increasing taxes but by cutting expenditures, drastically and immediately.

1948: The maintenance of Federal finances in a healthy condition and continuation of the efforts so well started by the Republican Congress to reduce the enormous burden of taxation in order to provide incentives for the creation of new industries and new jobs, and to bring relief from inflation.

1956: [I]nsofar as consistent with a balanced budget, we pledge to work toward these additional objectives: Further reductions in taxes with particular consideration for low and middle income families.

1968: Such funds as become available with the termination of the Vietnam war and upon recovery from its impact on our national defense will be applied in a balanced way to critical domestic needs and to reduce the heavy tax burden.

1980: [T]he Republican Party supports across-the-board reductions in personal income tax rates, phased in over three years, which will reduce tax rates from the range of 14 to 70 percent to a range from 10 to 50 percent.

1992: [W]e will oppose any attempt to increase taxes. Furthermore, Republicans believe that the taxes insisted on by the Democrats in the 1990 budget agreement were recessionary. The Democrat Congress held President Bush and indeed all Americans hostage, refusing to take even modest steps to control spending, unless taxes were increased. The American economy suffered as a result. We believe the tax increases of 1990 should ultimately be repealed.

2004: Our Party endorses the President's proposals to make tax relief permanent, so that families and businesses can plan for the future with confidence.

The suggestion here is not that no Republican has ever agreed to raise taxes. Ronald Reagan and George Bush (41) both did. The point is that opposition to tax hikes is an enduring position of the Republican party, and in fact essential to its modern identity. Thus, any Republican-backed agreement to hike taxes should have some very good reasons to justify it.

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