July 11, 2011
By Erica Werner
WASHINGTON—Call it eliminating an unfair break, or removing an unjust loophole, or even “taking a balanced approach.” Just don’t call it raising taxes.
As they work toward a must-do deal with Republicans on paring trillions from the deficit in order to raise the nation’s debt limit, President Barack Obama and Democrats are saying almost anything to avoid the politically toxic pronouncement that they want to increase taxes.
Republicans, for their part, are just as quick to declare elimination of the most rarefied corporate benefit a job-killing tax hike on the American people.
It’s all about winning the public relations debate over the debt limit, and in turn, perhaps, gaining a more politically advantageous outcome in the resulting deal itself.
“We’re at a point where there’s no good tax,” said Joseph J. Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project at the nonprofit group Tax Analysts. “The sort of value proposition of a tax has been destroyed, so nobody wants to say it, nobody wants to say in any fashion that they support it except, because it polls well, taxing the rich.”
Taxes are hardly the only issue going through the partisan spin cycle — and emerging virtually unrecognizable — as the days tick down to an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the federal government’s borrowing limit or face unprecedented default. Take Social Security. Obama is insisting he won’t agree to “slash” benefits — a vague word the White House refuses to define, thus leaving room for benefits to be cut without ever saying it.