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White House Won’t Rule Out Tax Hike

Bush once vowed Congress will raise taxes ‘over my dead body’

At the regular briefing for White House reporters on December 8, I asked Snow whether he was ruling out a tax increase. “I’m not ruling it up, and I’m not ruling it down,” Snow said, “because you know that, 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 had initially 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.

Un-Squirreling It

At first, Snow did not give a direct answer. “What the President believes in, and he’s talked about it before, the President believes in cutting taxes,” he 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—“

At this point, 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 that, as you and I have seen in the past, definitions of these things can be very, very squirrelly. And I would just rather not get locked into a debate about it. Let’s wait and see what happens.”

Almost as an afterthought, Snow added: “You know the President’s record when it comes to taxes, and he’s a tax-cutter.”

Four days later, I made another attempt to get Snow to rule out a tax increase. After an hour-long briefing in which almost all of the questions focused on Iraq, Snow called on me and I recalled the previous session in which he said there were “squirrelly” ways of defining a tax increase.

“Could we ‘un-squirrel’ it?” I asked. “Does the administration rule out lifting the income cap on payroll taxes?”

“John, I am not in a position to talk about what—when we are ready to announce a policy on Social Security, I will be happy to do it,” he said. “This also falls into the internal deliberation rule, which is, many things are discussed, many are offered, few are chosen. The President will announce which policies are chosen.”

Snow’s answers on both occasions are light years removed from Bush’s own statement on a tax increase five years ago. On Jan. 5, 2002, at an event in California, Bush pointed out that the Democrats wanted to raise taxes, but that he would stop them. “Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes,” he said.

But on Feb. 16, 2005, as Bush was making his pitch to reform Social Security, the New Haven (Conn.) Register reported that he told a group of regional newspaper editors that he would not rule out increasing the amount of income subject to 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 at the time.

Based on Tony Snow’s recent words, a potential tax hike may be on the table in Bush’s final two years in office.

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Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on HumanEvents.com. Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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