The debt-ceiling negotiations continue apace in Washington, which is to say Monday saw another round of Democrats demanding tax increases and Republicans refusing to go along with them.
Aside from the fact that the House GOP position is merely to cut the same amount of spending over 10 years that President Obama wants to borrow during the next 18 months, and apart from the fact that the negotiators claim to have found $1.5 trillion in cuts that ought to be considered little more than low-hanging fruit, there is a very simple problem with raising taxes as part of this deal. I’ve touched on it before, but Mickey Kaus hit on it again Monday:
Deals must be honored over time, and parties rightfully distrust each other. … So sequencing becomes important. …
Opponents of bloated government don’t trust politicians to make cuts if extra revenues are in the offing. Neither, sensibly, do many voters. But if you make dramatic cuts, demonstrate you’ve sweated out the fat — and there’s still a deficit, you’ve got a shot at getting a tax increase through. Cuts First! (emphasis original)
In the ellipses I included, Kaus (who opposed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in last year’s Democratic primary in California) draws an analogy to immigration reform: Because strict border enforcement didn’t follow the 1986 amnesty, amnesty opponents don’t trust the feds to get it right unless enforcement comes first this time. Similarly, with few exceptions, tax increases have been used more as an excuse to increase spending even further rather than to balance the budget with commensurate spending cuts.
The problem he outlines is clear: Congress can’t be trusted to do the right thing with additional revenue if it can’t bring itself to cut $200 billion a year in order to borrow an additional $1.3 trillion a year (and actually, it may be higher than that — suddenly, the Los Angeles Times is calling the debt-ceiling request $2.4 trillion rather than “just” $2 trillion).
So, yes, sequencing is important.
– By Kyle Wingfield