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Charles Krauthammer: Call Obama's bluff on the sequester

Published: February 8, 2013
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Obama is trying to sell his “balanced” approach with a linguistic sleight-of-hand. He insists on calling his proposed tax hikes — through eliminating deductions and exemptions — “tax reform.”

It's not. Tax reform, as defined even by the White House's own webpage on the subject, begins with lowering tax rates. It then makes up the lost revenue by closing loopholes.

Real tax reform is revenue neutral. It's a way to clean the tax code by eliminating unfair, inefficient and market-distorting loopholes on the one hand while lowering rates to stimulate economic growth on the other.

Obama has zero interest in lowering tax rates. He just got through raising them at the fiscal cliff and has made perfectly clear ever since that he fully intends to keep raising taxes. His only interest in eliminating loopholes is to raise more cash for the Treasury -- not to use them to lower rates.

That's not tax reform. That's a naked, old-fashioned tax increase.

Hence Republican message No. 3: The sequester is one thing, real tax reform quite another. The sequester is for cutting. The only question is whether it will be done automatically and indiscriminately — or whether the president will offer an alternative set of cuts.

Then we can take up real tax reform. Reprise the landmark Reagan-Tip O'Neill-Bill Bradley tax reform of 1986, a revenue-neutral spur to economic growth and efficiency, and to fairness for those not powerful enough to manipulate the tax code.

The country needs tax reform. But first it needs to rein in out-of-control spending. To succeed in doing that, Republicans must remain united under one demand: cuts with no taxes — or we will let the sequester go into effect.

The morning after, they should sit down with Obama for negotiations on real tax reform as recommended by the president's own Simpson-Bowles commission: broaden the base, lower the rates.

Any time, any place. Geneva, perhaps? The skiing is good. Skeet shooting too.

Charles Krauthammer's email address is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP