GOP’s Amazing Revenue-Reducing Tax ‘Hike’

The general line in corporate media coverage of the so-called “Supercommittee” tasked with coming up with a long-term budget plan is that both sides aren’t willing to budge: Republicans won’t agree to raise taxes, and Democrats want to protect “entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare.

While some might find the idea of Democrats standing up for Social Security and Medicare, it’s not really true–Democrats have offered to make such cuts if there are some tax increases to go along with them. This insistence that a compromise involve a compromise has been depicted, oddly enough, as a refusal to compromise.

But things got slightly more confusing when it was reported that the Republicans had broken their anti-tax stance, and were putting a $300 billion revenue increase on the table. In the Washington Post, Lori Montgomery‘s piece led with this:

Congressional Republicans have for the first time retreated from their hardline stance against new taxes, offering to raise federal tax collections by nearly $300billion over the next decade as part of a plan to tame the national debt.

That is big news. In the New York Times (11/9/11):

Republicans, long opposed to tax increases, said Tuesday that they might allow $250 billion to $300 billion of additional tax revenue as part of a deal to shave $1.2 trillion from federal deficits over the next 10 years.

One slight problem: The GOP tax increase is, it turns out, a massive tax cut for wealthy Americans. As Steve Benen noticed (Political Animal, 11/9/11):

Way down in the same article, in the 16th paragraph, the piece gets around to mentioning that Republican want to trade nearly $300 billion in new revenue for “permanently extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts past their 2012 expiration date, a move that would increase deficits by about $4 trillion over the next decade.”

That’s the kind of detail that more or less debunks the article’s headline and lede. Think about it: as part of a debt-reduction deal, Republicans want to increase tax revenue by less than $300 billion and cut tax revenue by roughly $4 trillion.

This bit of trickery is still being misreported–in today’s Post, for instance:

Some conservatives in the Republican House majority said they could not support the latest GOP offer to raise taxes by as much as $300billion over the next decade as part of a broader deal to cut spending. The offer marked the first time Republicans other than Boehner have proposed raising taxes above current levels.

Readers had to keep reading several paragraphs to learn that this tax increase is actually part of a massive tax cut–bringing the top rate down to 28 percent.

Perhaps the most bizarre exchange on this topic came on Sunday’s Meet the Press, where NBC host David Gregory insisted that his own reporting should be trusted over the word of Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida:

GREGORY: They did agree for tax increases that Democrats have not accepted this week. But I want to ask you about, specifically, about the debt.

SCHULTZ: Well, no, no, no…. Come on, David, that was not a serious proposal. What they proposed was, you know, reducing the number of itemized deductions in exchange for a passage, an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, which actually would’ve resulted in less revenue and brought the overall top tax rate down to 28 percent. So that was not a serious proposal. We need a serious proposal that balances the revenue the super committee generates and the cuts.

GREGORY: All right. Well, there was new revenue that was proposed, but I realize that’s still a subject of debate. But let me, let me focus…

SCHULTZ: That would result in less revenue overall.

GREGORY: Let me–well, again, that’s in dispute, according to my reporting on that.

It would be of great value to the country–and to the GOP–if Gregory could explain what his investigation turned up.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.