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As Republican leaders met President Obama today to attempt to come to some agreement on raising the debt ceiling and reducing the deficit, the media has reported that Republicans are open to increasing revenue — but the details consistently seem to disprove this claim.

The New York Times reports that

“The president’s renewed efforts follow what knowledgeable officials said was an overture from [Republican House Speaker] Boehner, who met secretly with Mr. Obama last weekend, to consider as much as $1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts”

But the article then goes on to say

“At a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Boehner, of Ohio, told reporters that “everything’s on the table, except raising taxes” on the American people, but he added that a tax overhaul that would close breaks and lower rates was part of the discussion.”

The Times reporters fail to notice that closing loopholes and lowering rates, with a result that does not “raise taxes,” is a description of revenue-neutral tax reform, which obviously does nothing to help reduce the budget deficit. How is this progress in negotiations over the deficit?

Last week, the Times ran an article with the headline, “2 Republicans Open the Door to Increases in Revenue.” The article explained that Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said he was willing to close tax loopholes, but went on to say that any tax changes must be “revenue neutral,” meaning any reduction or elimination of tax loopholes must be accompanied by reductions in tax rates or some other type of tax cut so that the total amount of revenue would not increase.

The article also quoted Senator John McCain as saying he was open to some unspecified “revenue-raisers” but then also quoted him as saying, “The principle of not raising taxes is something that we campaigned on last November, and the result of the election was that the American people didn’t want their taxes raised and they wanted us to cut spending.”

In other words, the Times article is about one senator who is definitely not open to revenue increases and another who says nothing coherent at all about them.

Yesterday, the Washington Post added to the confusion by informing us that Eric Cantor, the House Republican Majority leader “signaled a new openness to raising taxes— at least for selected special interests.”

The article also quoted Cantor as saying, “But listen, we’re not for any proposal that increases taxes, and any type of discussion should be coupled with offsetting tax cuts somewhere else.”

In other words, Cantor is not open to raising taxes overall and therefore not open to raising revenue, which is the only way any tax changes would help reduce the deficit.

Republican leaders appear to be sticking to an ideological position opposing any increase in tax revenue. It’s a position that defies common sense in a country that is taxed far less than other industrial countries, and it’s a position that is opposed by large majorities of Americans in swing states. Why the press is trying to present GOP leaders as more reasonable is anyone’s guess.

Photo via Speaker Boehner Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0