Mitch McConnell Cites a GOP Tax Hike Deal to Say GOP Won't Hike Taxes

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 17 2013 3:13 PM

Mitch McConnell Cites a GOP Tax Hike Deal to Say GOP Won't Hike Taxes

Mitch McConnell has a selective memory of Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill's deal on Social Security.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Man of the hour Robert Costa sits down with Mitch McConnell, and most of the early reaction to their chat seems to focus on the Senate minority leader's precognition. When did he realize the shutdown strategy would end in capitulation? July! Good on him, and good on Rand Paul for slinking out of the picture and allowing McConnell to operate without new pressure on his right.

What I take from the interview is that the coming budget conference is beginning where the last round died.

When the speaker has had conversations with the president over the last three years, they have always insisted on a $1 trillion tax increase — revenue scored by the Congressional Budget Office. That’s their demand for any major entitlement reform. But we don’t think we should have to pay a ransom to do what the country needs. And until you adjust the eligibility for entitlements to fit the demographics of our country, you can’t ever solve the problem. You can’t tax your way out of it.

The "ransom" is tax increases, now—excellent shifting of the frames. McConnell is suggesting, as Paul Ryan suggests, that the only tax reforms worth discussing are revenue-neutral or "dynamically scored," meaning tax cuts that can be interpreted as possible economy-growers. The argument is sort of undermined when McConnell says this.

Take the decision by Reagan and Tip O’Neill to raise the age of Social Security; we never went back and revisited it, and it saved Social Security for a generation. 

Wait—that's not all that happened in the Reagan/O'Neill deal! Their compromise raised the retirement age, yes, but it also raised taxes. It moved up the schedule for employer/employee tax hikes, and it made up to half of Social Security benefits taxable as income. That was the point—Democrats had to swallow entitlement cuts, while Republicans (in those pre-Norquist days) had to swallow tax increases.

While I was writing this post, I got a queasy rush of déjà vu. A quick search reminds me that McConnell said the exact same thing about Reagan/O'Neill in May of 2011, before the Budget Control Act passed.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data


The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:47 PM Ukraine’s Slow Descent Into Madness While it fights rebels in the east, Kiev is beginning to crumble from the inside.
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 3:23 PM This Is What Bette Midler Covering TLC’s “Waterfalls” Sounds Like
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.