Taking taxes off the table?

TAKING TAXES OFF THE TABLE?…. If policymakers are going to emphasize debt reduction above all else — they shouldn’t, but if they do — it’s obvious some tax increases are going to have to be part of the mix. The deficit and debt are simply too large to tackle by spending cuts alone — to bring the budget closer to balance, the government is going to have to bring in some additional revenue.

This isn’t complicated. It isn’t even controversial. Any intellectually serious look at the nation’s fiscal challenges makes this obvious, a fact even some Republicans are occasionally willing to acknowledge.

But therein lies the problem. Some in the GOP are still eyeing a “grand bargain” that would require Republicans to accept some additional tax revenue in exchange for entitlement cuts. For much of the right, such a compromise simply cannot happen — any deal that that raises any tax on anyone by any amount is necessarily unacceptable.

According to Grover Norquist, conservatives have nothing to worry about.

…Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have pledged to Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist they will not support any deficit reduction package that increases taxes.

This promise will make it considerably tougher to get Democrats to agree to a broad deficit reduction package. […]

Norquist says Senate and House Republican leaders have promised not to allow history to repeat itself. “I’ve talked to the Senate leadership and House leadership. They’re not voting on tax increases and they know that,” Norquist told The Hill Friday.

What about the Senate Republicans involved in the Gang of Six talks — Tom Coburn (Okla.), Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) — who’ve said taxes have to be on the table? Norquist added, “I’ve talked to the three guys in the room and they’ve promised not to vote any tax increases.”

Now, it’s worth noting that Norquist isn’t exactly a credible figure in this debate, and it’s possible he’s making this up as part of a larger strategy. It’s also possible that the players are fudging the definition of “tax increase” — they could keep rates the same, but bring in additional revenue by tweaking eligibility, exemptions, and deductions.

But if Norquist is telling the truth, and the entirety of the Republican Party has ruled out any and all efforts to increase revenue, the “grand bargain” is dead, the most popular deficit reduction ideas have been wholly rejected by the GOP, and the prospects of a larger bipartisan deal on fiscal issues is now impossible.