The Republican message in December:
House Speaker John Boehner's fiscal-cliff proposal purports to raise $1.6 trillion in revenue by "clos[ing] special-interest loopholes and deductions while lowering rates."
The Republican message in February:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats' calls for ending tax loopholes was a "poll-tested gimmick."
For months, as a way to push back against President Obama's call for higher rates on the wealthy, the GOP line was unambiguous: policymakers can close tax loopholes and end deductions, generating hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue.
And now, the GOP line is equally unambiguous, though it happens to be the exact opposite: trying to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue by closing tax loopholes and ending deductions is absurd.
So which is it?
When Republican leaders argued, as recently as last month, that there are ample sources of revenue through loopholes and deductions, were they lying? Were they exaggerating? Were they making something up in desperation, panicked by the idea of asking rich people to pay Clinton-era top rates?
Or were they sincere at the time, but have since come to believe that these tax loopholes should be left in place on purpose, denying new revenue that would lower the deficit they sometimes pretend to care about?
If I had to guess, I'd say they were simply lying before. Indeed, they were never entirely serious about closing loopholes and ending deductions as a way of generating revenue, as evidenced by the fact that they never got around to pointing specifically to any loopholes and/or deductions they'd be willing to give up.
But it brings to mind an anti-drug commercial I saw when I was a kid: From you Mitch, Dems learned about pushing poll-tested gimmicks by watching you.