Is it time for the GOP to reconsider its position on tax increases?

For all practical purposes the general election campaign officially kicked off yesterday with the Romney sweep, and the President’s speech on the Ryan budget. This is likely to be the defining debate of the 2012 campaign, and the President is clearly looking to cement the image of the GOP as the party of the 1% as early as possible. Guy Benson deserves a medal for having the fortitude to respond point-by-point to the President’s remarks, which were incredibly dishonest even for him. (My temple was throbbing after reading only half-way through Obama’s speech).

But at the risk of being banished after Ed returns from vacation, I think there is one key issue where the GOP is making a tactical mistake in conceding ground to the President, and that is the insistence on ruling out any tax increases as part of a comprehensive budget reform deal. Now before you write me off as just another RINO, I’ll hold up my track record as a conservative activist against anyone. And as a successful business owner in California, I deal first-hand with the challenges of one of the nation’s most onerous tax and regulatory regimes.

But I am mystified why the GOP has adopted such a hard line when it comes to tax policy, particularly within the framework of a budget deal which would include a major re-structuring of federal entitlement programs. I get the arguments. That a pro-growth approach of lowering rates, and eliminating deductions and loopholes, would actually be the most effective means of generating revenue in the long run, by expanding the tax base. I can also appreciate that from a political perspective it makes sense to stake out an initial bargaining position as far to the right as can be reasonably defended. And the Ryan plan is reasonable, by any fair assessment, considering the enormity of the fiscal imbalances it seeks to redress.

But regardless of how effective or reasonable the plan may be, it won’t make one iota of difference without a Republican president in place to enact it. And this is the mistake I think the GOP is poised to make, in handing the President a weapon he will use over and over again between now and November. To distract the public from the seriousness of the problem, and from the fact that he has no credible plan to deal with it. That the GOP is planning yet another giveaway to the 1%, at the expense of the poor, the elderly, and the sick.

Yes, this is class warfare, yes this is partisan demagoguery…and let’s face it, there is a better than even chance that it’s going to work. Which I find particularly frustrating, because given what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to finally deal with entitlements, personally, as a member of the near-1%, I would at least grudgingly accept a moderate tax increase knowing that we’ve set the nation on a sustainable path. Further, I would gladly – enthusiastically! – support the possibility of a moderate tax increase as part of the 2012 GOP budget platform, as long as it’s clear that this would only be on the table as part of a comprehensive deal which included entitlement reform, along the lines proposed by Ryan. To not only eliminate this issue as a diversion, but also to expose the fact that the President has no credible plan for sustaining the entitlement programs short of massive, across the board tax increases.

I’m not suggesting we scrap the Ryan tax reforms, just that we consider adding a little revenue from higher wage earners, or least a placeholder to do so. Just something to allow our nominee to credibly argue that when it comes to restoring the fiscal prosperity of our nation, everything is on the table. Because frankly, it should be.

Apostasy, I know. So go ahead and let me have it in the comments, but at least consider the merits of the argument. Are we really willing to jeopardize our future freedom and prosperity over the principle that we will never, ever under any circumstances accept a tax increase? This seems like folly to me, and I shudder to think what the fiscal outlook will look like if the status quo continues for another four years.