Republican Tax Increases: A Centrist Fantasy That Refuses to Die

| Tue May 13, 2014 11:40 AM EDT

Dave Weigel points me to Ron Fournier's latest column:

As late as a year ago, just a few months after Obama shoved a reelection tax hike down their throats, the GOP leadership was still open to compromise. A budget deal would be hard, but not impossible, to strike. The situation required an able, nimble partner in the White House, a president who could help the GOP leadership reach and sell a deal to their conservative base. In March 2013, I wrote of the GOP: "Don't mistake a negotiating position for reality. House Republicans tell me they are open to exchanging entitlement reform for new taxes—$250 billion to $300 billion, or approximately the amount that Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania proposed raising over 10 years under the guise of tax reform."

The numbers were specific because the possibility of a deal was real. But the White House, quite literally, laughed at it. The president had already bowed to his base, given up on compromise, and damaged his legacy.

I just don't get this. Are there a few House Republicans who are open to a tax increase? Sure. Probably. Is there even the slightest chance of getting a majority of the GOP caucus to support a tax increase? Of course not. The evidence on this score is overwhelming. John Boehner was never able to get agreement even for the smoke-and-mirrors version of a tax increase, the kind that relies on dynamic scoring and rosy growth estimates. Nor were Republicans willing to accept Toomey's proposal, even though it was effectively a tax cut, not a tax increase. There's just plainly never been any chance at all of getting agreement for a proposal that would genuinely, concretely raise revenue.

I'm just flummoxed by this stuff. Whatever else you think of Fournier, he's an experienced reporter who understands the political landscape. How can he possibly believe this stuff?