Obama has zero interest in lowering tax rates. He just got through raising them at the fiscal cliff and has made perfectly clear ever since that he fully intends to keep raising taxes. His only interest in eliminating loopholes is to raise more cash for the Treasury — not to use them to lower rates.

That’s not tax reform. That’s a naked, old-fashioned tax increase.

Hence Republican message No. 3: The sequester is one thing, real tax reform quite another. The sequester is for cutting. The only question is whether it will be done automatically and indiscriminately — or whether the president will offer an alternative set of cuts.

Then we can take up real tax reform. Reprise the landmark Reagan-Tip O’Neill-Bill Bradley tax reform of 1986, a revenue-neutral spur to economic growth and efficiency, and a blow for fairness for those not powerful enough to manipulate the tax code.

The country needs tax reform. But first it needs to rein in out-of-control spending.