Mitch McConnell's latest talking point about how the budget deal can't include tax hikes is especially strange:
“Those who are calling for tax hikes as a part of these debt discussions either have amnesia about the fate of similar votes just six months ago — when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress as well as the White House — or they’re acting in bad faith, since we all know that including massive, job-killing tax hikes would be a poison pill,” said McConnell on Monday from the Senate floor.
It's true -- Democrats don't have the votes to pass a tax hike on the rich. By the same token, Republicans lack the votes to pass a huge Medicare cut. So why does this mean negotiators should rule out the Democrats' deficit-reducing proposal that can't pass and instead agree on the Republicans' deficit-reducing proposal that can't pass? I don't even see an argument. The whole concept of a bipartisan deficit deal is that each party supports some element of the other side's deficit-reducing proposals, so that plans to reduce the deficit that couldn't pass on their own can pass together.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration says the tax hikes on the rich it's talking about don't mean restoring Clinton-era tax rates:
President Obama, seeking a Republican agreement to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug 2, will not insist that any deal include an end of President Bush's controversial tax rates on the wealthy.
Obama's tactics are coming into clearer focus: they involve seeking higher taxes not on a broad swath of high income earners but on a narrower band of the super rich, such as owners of private jets. This means that those who earn $250,000 have got a reprieve.
That sounds like a retreat, but it's actually good. The Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire. They can't be extended without Democratic support. It would require Republican control of the White House, House and Senate in 2012 to extend the tax cuts on income over $250,000, which means it's unlikely. Obama shouldn't bargain for something he can probably get for free.