Meeting with reporters today, Eric Cantor continued to define what tax changes are and are not acceptable for Republicans in some possible debt deal.
"If the president wants to talk loopholes," he said, "we'll be glad to talk loopholes. We've said all along that preferences in the code isn't something that helps economic growth overall." To be clear, he was talking about all manner of loopholes, not the politically-vulnerable ones that the president has been attacking. "Those talking points associated with corporate jets and loopholes are just that. They're talking points. They're not substantive."
Were we hearing the leader step away from Norquistian orthodoxy on tax breaks? No. The tax pledge-taker's answer to the question of scrapping tax breaks is that they must be scrapped in exchange for lower tax rates. That's how tax reform worked in 1986; that's how Ron Wyden and others want to do it as soon as possible. But the current crisis is about cutting the debt. And Cantor made it clear: It was not acceptable for the debt to be reduced with revenue raised from tax hikes. The Democrats' "shared sacrifice" call was a non-starter.
"Why would you want to raise taxes in a sputtering economy?" asked Cantor. "Any discussion about loopholes must be offset by tax cuts. We're not for increasing revenue."