Congressional Republicans are slowly coming around to the reality that controlling the deficit will require tax increases. They wouldn't call them tax increases, of course.
The search is now under way for ways to raise revenue without violating -- or, at least, appear to not violate -- the no-tax pledge that has so hamstrung the GOP.
Said the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico: "It is a sharp departure from the all-spending-cuts rhetoric, as Republicans realize that they have to at least sound like they're willing to deal with both sides of the ledger to pitch a credible deficit deal that might win over a few Democrats." Not to mention convincing the public and the agencies that rate the soundness of U.S. debt.
So far, the Republicans advising the deficit-reduction congressional supercommittee have proposed a grab bag of revenue-generating eliminations of tax subsidies and deductions, fees for government services and programs, and increased Medicare premiums for high-income seniors. The problem with closing loopholes is that there is a huge army of lobbyists dedicated to reopening them.
And there's a question of whether those proposals would make any kind of dent in terms of the $1.2 trillion in cuts the committee is supposed to come up with by Nov. 23. If the panel fails, cuts are to take place automatically across the board beginning in 2013. The Pentagon has already said that would devastate national defense.
The search for a solution has turned the discussion in some quarters back to the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for eliminating the tax cuts for the wealthy.
The think tank Citizens for Tax Justice says that extending the tax cuts, due to expire next year, for the wealthiest 5 percent, those making over $176,000 a year, would cost the Treasury $2 trillion over the decade. If that figure were revenue, it would more than make up for the $1.2 trillion the supercommittee is seeking.
The wrangling over preserving tax privileges comes as the Census Bureau, in recalculating its figures, offered a darker view of poverty in the United States. The Census said that 49.1 million Americans, or 16 percent of the population, lived in poverty in 2010, up from the previously estimated 46.2 million. The poverty threshold for a family of four is $24,343.
Grimmer yet was that the new metrics showed a poverty rate of 15.9 percent among those 65 and older, considerably higher than the 9 percent using the old measure.
That came out simultaneously with a USA Today report that exit packages for departing CEOs have routinely begun to top $100 million -- $170 million in the case of IBM's outgoing CEO.
The nation looks forward to how Republican hard-liners explain that raising their income taxes 4.9 percent and capital-gains taxes 5 percent, which would void the breaks they got under the Bush cuts, is class warfare. How is it even unfair?
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