'No Option but to Raise Taxes,' Say All the 'Budget Veterans' Selected by NYT's Jackie Calmes

New York Times White House reporter Jackie Calmes on Saturday once again nodded along to the wisdom of the liberal priorities of the Obama administration and its supporters, this time as they're pushing the necessity of raising taxes: "As a Debt Battle Looms, Budget Veterans See No Option but to Raise Taxes." It depends on which "budget veterans" you talk to, of course, and Calmes seems only to talk to those who favor tax hikes.

President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress made history of sorts last year when they agreed to a 10-year plan to reduce annual deficits with spending cuts and no tax increases. Mr. Obama vows not to let it happen again.


While the Republicans largely prevailed last year, this time the Obama administration believes it has the greater leverage. The pain of the reductions is being felt as House Republicans advance the annual spending bills; already they have proposed to raise the spending caps for the military, and they are squabbling over domestic programs.

Calmes found a renegade Reagan official to support the call for tax hikes.

But veterans of past budget wars say that discretionary spending for domestic programs, which make up just 15 percent of the federal budget, cannot continue to bear the brunt without significant implications for government services. “They’ve gone way past fat and are cutting into muscle,” said Bruce R. Bartlett, who was a Treasury official in the Reagan administration.

Nor, these people say, would the public support the deeper reductions that would have to be made in programs like Medicare if taxes are not part of the mix.

Calmes interviewed five Democrats and moderate Republicans to make her case for tax increases, while dismissing the anti-tax argument in a single sentence excerpted from a speech by House Speaker John Boehner. At least she's using the direct term "tax increases" instead of her usual weasel-wording of raising "revenues."

Barry Anderson, a former deputy director of the White House and Congressional budget offices, said, “Eventually you’re going to have to increase taxes across the board” -- not just for the wealthy -- “by at least a third.”


Tax increases were part of nearly every significant deficit-reduction measure of the 1980s and 1990s, including the 1982, 1984 and 1987 packages signed by Ronald Reagan, the 1990 accord under George H.W. Bush and Mr. Clinton’s 1993 measure. The exception was a deal in 1997, though by that agreement Congressional Republicans ratified Mr. Clinton’s 1993 tax increases that they had vowed to repeal.

Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, [Jacob] Lew, participated in most of those deals, as an aide to House Democratic leaders and then as Mr. Clinton’s budget director.

“The history of dealing with big problems like this is, almost in every case, it’s been a balanced package” of taxes and cuts in both discretionary and entitlement spending, Mr. Lew said. “So it’s not like it is some radical Democratic position.”