Cracks in the wall on revenue

The Republican line on taxes is entirely straightforward, at least in the abstract: no one should raise taxes on anyone, by any amount, at any time, for any reason. Increasingly, leading GOP officials are considering an exception when it comes to raising income taxes on the middle class, but in general, the anti-tax message is unshakable.

The American mainstream generally doesn’t agree. Polls frequently show strong and consistent support for increased taxes on the wealthy, and the elimination of tax breaks for the oil industry. Would public sentiment force Republicans to reevaluate their position?

Maybe. Jamison Foser flagged this item from freshman Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) yesterday.

Hanna said he is open to discussing certain revenue-raising items. While he believes there should be no additional taxes on small businesses, he is willing to talk about higher tax rates for those making more than $1 million.

“I think if you want to go to people who literally make a million dollars or literally make a billion dollars, that’s a conversation I’m personally willing to talk about. But I don’t think you change it for small business. You need to let them keep their capital,” he said.

To be sure, this isn’t exactly the progressive line, per se, but it’s still an example of a House Republican — a freshman, no less — willing to consider tax increases on millionaires and billionaires.

I admittedly set the bar for progress pretty low, but I’m inclined to find this at least mildly encouraging.

Also note the larger trend. Last month, four far-right House Republicans participated in a joint town-hall meeting in a very conservative area. Three of the four said they’re open to additional revenue, and one said he wouldn’t rule out tax increases on those earning over $700,000 a year.

A week later, Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) was badgered by constituents at a town-hall meeting on the need to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations, and reluctantly said he’s open to ending oil-company subsidies and closing tax loopholes. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), confronted by 200 angry constituents the same week, said the same thing.

Even House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in his big speech yesterday, said, “Yes, tax reform should include closing loopholes — not for purposes of bringing more money to the government, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

I don’t much care about his motivations; the point is he’s now open to some revenue.

To be sure, part of the problem here is that members aren’t afraid to lie. Boehner was recently pressed on national television about billions of dollars in tax subsidies to the oil industry, and he said he’s open to eliminating them. Soon after, Boehner admitted he didn’t mean what he said, arguing he felt justified lying because he considered the question a “trap.”

In other words, House Republicans don’t always mind saying things about taxes and revenue that aren’t true.

But if these guys are sincere, there’s room for at least a hint of optimism. If Dems can put the GOP from “no revenue” to “OK, maybe some revenue” it’s evidence of some progress.