Taxes and tables

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in his speech last night in New York, insisted that he’s desperate to lower the deficit. But his desperation has limits.

“We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions. They should be actual cuts and program reforms, not broad deficit or debt targets that punt the tough questions to the future.

“And with the exception of tax hikes — which will destroy jobs — everything is on the table.”

Dave Weigel noted, “At some point, eventually, people are going to notice that if one thing is off the table, ‘everything’ is not on the table.”

Alas, that point has not yet arrived. The Speaker didn’t just make his argument in passing, either — he returned, again and again, to his commitment to blocking any measure that increased any tax on anyone at any time by any amount. Indeed, Boehner has given up entirely on any claim to reason — he not only argued that even a modest tax increase would “wreak havoc” on the economy, the Speaker went so far as to say increased revenue would make it harder to lower the deficit.

As a substantive matter, Boehner has no idea what he’s talking about. His entire schpiel is gibberish. Even a rudimentary understanding of recent events should make clear, even to someone with Boehner’s limited abilities, that his model doesn’t make sense. Reagan raised taxes and the economy grew. Clinton raised taxes and the economy grew. Bush slashed taxes and produced the worst job-creation record of any president in generations.

How does the Speaker even think this is possible?

For that matter, multiple national polls show that the single most popular deficit-reduction idea is increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and a balanced approach — a combination of tax increases and spending cuts — enjoys broad bipartisan support. Does Boehner think the whole country has gone mad?

As for what’s on or off the proverbial table, I’d still like to hear, just once, Democratic leaders declare that spending cuts are off the table.

Dems, in this hypothetical, would say they agree with the importance of addressing the fiscal problem, but before the debate advances, they want to make one thing clear: spending cuts would be bad for the economy, so Republicans ought to just forget about it. Democrats would compromise, but not on this fundamental point. If we’re going to tackle the problem, they’d say, the exclusive focus would be on receipts, not expenditures.

If Democrats were to take this line, it’s safe to assume they’d be mocked, laughed at, and dismissed as unserious. And yet, Boehner continues to make this precise argument, only from the other direction.

The Speaker reminded us last night that he considers one penny in new revenue entirely unacceptable. I’ll look forward to all the pundits questioning his “seriousness.”