WASHINGTON – The GOP's image as a rigidly anti-tax party is softening. Spurred by federal debt worries in Congress, the shift conceivably could reshape the Republican Party's brand ahead of the 2012 elections, forcing tough decisions by its presidential candidates. [...]
In recent months, growing numbers of Republican lawmakers and strategists have grown wary of the no-exceptions position. They fear independent voters will abandon the GOP next year if it seems too rigid and beholden to tea partyers. They also worry that another deficit-reduction impasse will further erode Congress' image, and House Republicans might be handy election targets.
The evidence for this "softening" among Republicans?
The Republican tax-hike overture has turned heads largely because its sponsors rank among Washington's best-known critics of tax increases. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is a former head of the conservative Club for Growth. Backers of his plan include Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who holds similar stature among fiscal conservatives.
Both are members of the 12-person bipartisan "supercommittee" tasked with reaching a debt-reduction deal by next week.
Toomey's plan would raise $300 billion in new tax revenues while overhauling the federal tax code. Republican officials say it would drop the top tax rate on personal income to 28 percent from the current 35 percent. It would reduce or eliminate some well-known itemized deductions and reduce the corporate tax rate.
No. Toomey's plan does not raise $300 billion in new tax revenues. It takes $800 billion off the table by making the Bush tax cuts permanent. And increased revenues are on the backs of low- and middle-income Americans. More from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities about this plan:
[T]he Toomey plan would permanently set tax rates below those set by the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, effectively locking in the Bush tax cuts for high-income taxpayers (as well as other taxpayers) and taking them off the table for future deficit reduction. In addition, by requiring several trillion dollars in tax-expenditure savings in order to pay for these reduced tax rates, the Toomey plan would use up most or all of the achievable tax expenditure savings and effectively take tax expenditures off the table for future deficit reduction, as well.
By contrast, the Democratic offer would set the Bush tax cuts to the side, neither extending nor ending them and leaving their disposition for another day. And, by securing $400 billion from tax expenditures now rather than several trillion dollars as the Toomey plan would require, it would allow future Congresses to consider further savings here in the future rounds of deficit reduction that our fiscal situation will necessitate. [...]
The bottom line is that the two plans had essentially the same overall revenue increase number, spending reduction number, and deficit reduction number—yet they differed greatly in terms of fiscal responsibility. Since both plans would achieve only $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, several trillion dollars more in deficit reduction will be required in the years ahead. Effectively taking the tax code off the table for the sizable further deficit reduction that the nation will need, as the Toomey plan would do, would hinder fiscal responsibility, rather than advance it.
That Democrats actually tried to meet the Toomey plan with the same cuts—and an astonishing and unacceptable ratio of 5:1 cuts to revenue—doesn't do a lot to argue for the Democrats providing a more balanced approach. But to argue, as Babington does, that the Republicans have come to the negotiating table with anything other than deficit peacockery is bullshit.