Cantor and the Budget, Update

I recommended earlier that we’d need to watch Rep. Eric Cantor’s future statements to see whether he was serious about negotiation and compromise or not. Today he’s made a statement that I would characterize as a half-step in the right direction.

By accepting at least the principle of raising some taxes (by “closing loopholes”) as part of the deal, he’s recognizing (a) that this isn’t only a spending issue and (b) the necessity of giving something to get something. That’s the good half.

The bad half is that he’s still apparently not willing to discuss any increase in revenue – he wants to offset any increased taxes with equivalent decreases elsewhere. That’s not actually the Democrat’s aim. Yes, we need to fix the tax code. But the point is that this is a discussion about the budget, deficit, and debt ceiling. Revenue-neutral tax changes don’t help address any of those problems (though they may be better for the economy).

The question is still what Cantor’s willing to discuss in private. Perhaps his public statement today was a step toward the eventual embrace of some (probably relatively minor) tax increases as part of the debt ceiling compromise. After all, he’s gone from a position of “no tax increases” to “some tax increases with corresponding tax cuts.” Perhaps the next step is “we fought hard to avoid tax increases, but ultimately a slight increase was necessary to secure far more significant spending cuts.” Ultimately, that’s what the Republican leadership will have to pitch to make this deal go through. And it’s a moderate position in that it would be arrived at through negotiation, entail compromise, and reflect the prioritization of governance over ideology.

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