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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Tax Hike by Any Other Name

So as not to offend the delicate sensitivities of the infantile right, we now begin the search for acceptable euphemisms for taxes. From Carrie Budoff Brown’s Politico post, “Bridging the no-new-taxes divide“:

Increasing airline fees, eliminating ethanol subsidies, boosting Medicare premiums for wealthier seniors — all of these take money from someone’s pocket and send it to the U.S. Treasury. But not all Republicans would call these tax increases. They haven’t been summarily dismissed. And just enough in the GOP might even be able to stomach them, and more.
“I know how many angels can sit on a pin, but I don’t know what a tax increase is,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative American Action Forum and former economic adviser to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. “There is a lot of language, and they will choose the language they need to get this done.”
But with so much at stake, Holtz-Eakin predicts that Republicans ultimately will agree to “$100 billion in fees and other stuff that aren’t labeled taxes but raise money for the federal government.”

Brown goes on to list other possible revenue sources, including cutting farm and maybe even – gasp – oil and gas subsidies, along with raising various user fees. There is talk of new billions in fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Another idea being bandied about, reports Brown, is tweaking the inflation calculation for federal benefits, including Social Security. Many Republicans like the idea of selling off “surplus” federal properties and auctioning the wireless spectrum. There’s even a proposal to jack up postage rates, which I imagine might prompt the tea partyers get out their tri-corners and go ballistic one more time.
Call these proposals “revenue enhancement,” or what you will, but these are not taxes, you understand.
I get it that face-saving is a necessary part of politics in a democracy. But looking ahead, Dems have some work to do in demystifying the “T” word to the point that the conservative party need not shrink in horror at the mere mention of it. It may be that demystifying the “G” word comes first, as Andrew Levison has argued — reforming government and figuring out new ways to get people involved in helping to make government policy as stakeholders, not just tax-payers.
So let a hundred euphemisms for ‘taxes” bloom in the short run. But as soon as the present crisis is resolved, it will be time to get serious about changing attitudes toward government and holding obstructionists accountable.

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