On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter from over 100 major CEOs apparently calling for tax hikes in an effort to reduce the deficit.
Almost immediately, the letter was cited as proof that any position which did not accept the idea of tax increases as a prime vehicle to decrease the debt was indefensible.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board, has taken a different interpretation in its editorial: CEOs to the Tax Rescue? Liberals Confuse a Pro-Growth Plea With a Tax-Rate Hike:
Two words: game, change. On Thursday a 100-strong group of major business leaders did a Warren Buffett and endorsed a big tax hike, even if it means they'll have to pay more themselves. The support of this CEO lobby could break the Republican dead-enders who oppose all taxes and finally clear the way for a glorious bargain of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit.
If you've seen this news story, don't worry. It's all a fantasy, albeit one that appeals to certain political types, who are reading their own priorities into the latest CEO petition on debt and taxes. The reality is that the chief executives who this week signed on to a "core set of principles" on budget reform are more than anything else scorching President Obama's lack of leadership. ...The CEOs favor a framework that would "stabilize the debt as a share of the economy, and put it on a downward path." ... The CEOs also want to "reform Medicare and Medicaid" and do more to control national health spending. ... Only then—as a condition of structural entitlement reform, including Social Security—do the CEOs back "comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers the rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit." Note that reference to tax reform and lower rates, not the standard Beltway trade of certain tax increases for the promise of spending cuts that never happen.The folks who are treating this as an extraordinary political breakthrough have apparently come down with a case of Romnesia, to borrow the President's coinage: Mitt Romney has been running on exactly such a tax reform for nearly a year, using exactly those principles....What the CEOs we know really want is faster economic growth, the policies to promote it, and a Washington political class that can pass those policies. The politicos claiming that this rather anodyne CEO debt proclamation will make it easier for Mr. Obama to "raise taxes" are the same ones who merely want him to raise taxes.
Hat Tip (Tax Prof.)