GOP uses Obama's old deficit stands against him; Democrats say current stances are the ones that matter
— New Revenue Target. In last year's "grand bargain" negotiations, Obama sought $1.2 trillion in new tax revenues over 10 years. But he signaled he could live with the $800 billion that Boehner proposed, if it accompanied a smaller batch of spending cuts.
Now, Obama says $1.6 trillion in new revenue is needed to help tame the nation's borrowing habits. Boehner is sticking with $800 billion.
Obama's $1.6 trillion, 10-year target came from his 2013 budget proposal, which Congress quickly killed. The president rarely mentioned the $1.6 trillion goal in his re-election campaign. In fact, Republicans say he left many voters the impression that what he really cared about was achieving $800 billion, mainly by raising tax rates on the wealthy.
Democrats reject the claim. But it hasn't stopped Republicans from accusing Obama of pulling a bait-and-switch.
The president's proposal "calls for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue, twice the amount you supported during the campaign," Boehner and others said in a letter to Obama this month.
— Tax Increase Ramifications. One of Obama's most revisited comments came in August 2009, before the 2010 GOP election triumphs and when U.S. unemployment was 9.7 percent. In an interview, he seemed to raise doubts about his own push to raise taxes on the wealthy.
"The last thing you want to do is to raise taxes in the middle of a recession because that would just suck up, take more demand out of the economy and put businesses in a further hole," the president said.
Technically, the recession had ended two months earlier. But even today, with unemployment at 7.7 percent, many Republicans and some economists say it's unwise to raise taxes.
"So we're not now in an official recession — "just the worst recovery since World War II," said a recent op-ed piece in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, one of many such commentaries. "But now it's OK to raise taxes and put 'business in a further hole'?"
Boehner also must live with ghosts from the failed "grand bargain" talks of 2011. Chief among them is his willingness to generate $800 billion in new federal revenue over 10 years. Some conservatives call it overly generous.
"Speaker Boehner's $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
Democrats scoff. Their party prevailed in last month's elections, they say, so the ground has shifted in Obama's direction. For now, the Republicans can do little more than remind the president that he wasn't always so ambitious about raising new revenues.
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