But here’s the rub. If Republicans voted for “Plan B” on Thursday, many conservative activists would have attacked them for agreeing to raise taxes. But after January 1st, once taxes go up, Republicans could strike a deal with Obama that would raise revenue by double or triple the amount of “Plan B,” and it wouldn’t be seen as breaking their promise. In other words, this whole debate is being driven not by whether conservatives could get a better deal before or after the new year, but by the technicality that the same piece of legislation that would be construed as a tax hike on Dec. 31 would be considered a tax cut on January 1.
This is short-sighted. Conservatives should be dictated not by such technicalities, but by trying to keep taxes as low as possible for as many people as possible under difficult circumstances. To start with the most obvious reason, conservatives want Americans to keep more of their earnings, rather than giving more money to government. From a longer-term policy perspective, they should want the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline revenue projections to come out of this fight as low as possible, so future tax reform can be based around a lower revenue target.
I had a friendly exchange with Hugh Hewitt about this on Twitter last night, and when I made the point that policy outcomes – specifically, limiting the dollar value of tax increases – should be more important than the technicality of when a vote is held, he replied, “Have to disagree. The key is honoring your campaign commitments on taxes, spending and especially Defense.”