If it fails either to produce something or if Congress fails to act on it, you can be sure that the President will honor his promise to veto any legislation that would extend the Bush high-income tax cuts beyond 2012, which would, of course, create nearly $1 trillion in revenue raisers when that happens.
The "it" in question is the Super Congress that will be created by the debt limit deal should it make its way out of the House and Senate. And if the Super Congress proposes tax reform that changes rates, it would obviously render the Bush tax cuts (and the threat to veto them) moot—and that's something the White House thinks would be "a good thing":
The only -- at the marginal rate level, at the income tax level, the only rates that the President has sought to return to the levels of the Clinton administration, which, by the way, was a period of the longest sustained expansion -- economic expansion in postwar American history, where 23 million jobs were created, and where rich people did very well, indeed, which is a good thing, those rates prevailed.
He thinks we should return to those rates as part of a process where everyone shares in the sacrifice necessary to get our deficits and debt under control.
Now, we may not get there because tax reform is a goal of his as well. And it is a goal shared by a lot of Republicans. And if the committee can produce tax reform that raises revenues and contributes to deficit reduction but simplifies the tax code, that would also be a good thing. But it will not result in -- and we certainly -- we certainly do not want it to result in putting added burdens on average Americans. This President’s approach has been just the opposite.
So President Obama wants the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. But that might not happen because of tax reform. And that "would also be a good thing" as long as tax reform increases revenue and doesn't "result in putting added burdens on average Americans."
In theory, that's a fine position. Basically, it says let's do tax reform that raises as much revenue as we'd raise by expiring the Bush high-income tax cuts, but let's make sure that ordinary Americans don't pay any more than they would otherwise have paid.
The problem, of course, is that we've heard this all before. In April, President Obama proposed using tax reform to raise revenue above and beyond the amount of revenue that would be raised by expiring the Bush high-income tax cuts. Now, the goalposts have been moved once again, and the Super Congress hasn't even been passed into law.
By the time it starts getting serious, you can bet your bottom dollar that the goalposts will move again: there'll be tax reform, and the CBO might even say it yields a modest bit of revenue thanks to dynamic scoring or some other budget math, but the real goal will be to take the Bush tax cuts off the table in the 2012 election and beyond. So yeah, the Bush tax cuts are here to stay, in substance if not in name.
Because revenue doesn't have anything to do with budget deficits. And we wouldn't want to have an election fought over an actual issue of substance, would we?