White House Won’t Rule Out Tax Hike

John Gizzi of Human Events

White House spokesman Tony Snow this afternoon declined to rule out a tax increase in President Bush’s final two years in office.

When I directly asked Snow whether he was ruling out a tax increase, he said: “I’m not ruling it up and I’m not ruling it down, because you know what, as you and I have seen in the past, definitions of these things can be very squirrelly.”

Citing reports that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has not closed the door on raising taxes as part of a deal with congressional Democrats to reform Social Security, I asked Snow if President Bush would rule out raising taxes, including lifting the cap on the income subject to payroll taxes or lifting the marginal income tax rates.

Snow did not initially give a direct answer. “What the President believes in, and he’s talked about it before, the President believes in cutting taxes,” Snow said. “He also believes in addressing the long-term problems we face with entitlements, both Medicare and Social Security. Having not been party to Secretary Paulson’s discussions, I’m not going to be in any position to characterize what’s going on. But I think you know as well as I do that the President is a tax cutter and he also wants to address Social Security and he believes that we ought to be able to have market incentives in there so that future generations are going to be able to take advantage—“

I followed up: “So you are ruling out a tax increase? Or you’re not?”

“No, I’m not,” said Snow. “I’m not commenting either way. I’m not ruling it up and I’m not ruling it down, because you know what, as you and I have seen in the past, definitions of these things can be very squirrelly. And I would just rather not get locked into a debate about it. Let’s wait and see what happens.”

“You know the President’s record when it comes to taxes, and he’s a tax cutter,” said Snow.

At a January 5, 2002, event in California, pointing out that the Democrats wanted to raise taxes, Bush said: “Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes!” But on February 16, 2005, when Bush was making his initial push for Social Security reform, the New Haven Register reported that he told a group of regional newspapers that he would not rule out increasing the level of income subject to the payroll taxes as part of a reform deal. At the time, Bush tried to distinguish between raising the payroll tax “rate” and raising the amount of income the tax is levied against. “The one thing I’m not open-minded about is raising the payroll tax rate. And all the other issues go on the table,” Bush said then.

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