White House economic advisor Austan Goolsbee today left the door open to consideration of a value-added tax (VAT) if recommended by the White House deficit commission.
Coming a day after White House spokesman Robert Gibbs would only say a VAT is not currently being considered, Goolsbee repeatedly refused to permanently rule out VAT consideration. The deficit commission is expected to report to the President later this year.
The exchange took place on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, with Goolsbee refusing six consecutive opportunities to permanently close the door on a VAT:
MARK HALPERIN: Will the President ever consider tax reform that will involve a VAT? Would he ever consider it?
(Refusal #1) GOOLSBEE: Look, we are not, the report -- and I’m not sure where it came from cause it’s not anything I saw -- was that they were contemplating a VAT, that is not true. We have stood up this bipartisan fiscal commission, which as I understand it is considering a whole bunch of things.
HALPERIN: But would he ever consider..
(Refusal #2) GOOLSBEE: He’s going to consider whatever comes out of that fiscal commission.
HALPERIN: So if they recommend a VAT, he would consider it?
(Refusal #3) GOOLSBEE: I’m not going to get into a linguistic game about it.
HALPERIN: Well it’s not a linguistic game.
(Refusal #4) GOOLSBEE: He’s looking to see what comes out of the fiscal commission. He’s going to look at it.
HALPERIN: We had a President for eight years who said ‘no new taxes, we’re not going to raise taxes’. This President said ‘no taxes on the middle class’. Arguably there are taxes in the healthcare bill that will hit the middle class. So again, a VAT would be a big change in America. Would he consider it, if the commission recommends it, would he consider it?
(Refusal #5) GOOLSBEE: As you know, the President cut taxes for 95 percent of the workers in the stimulus. Many many billions of dollars. The President is committed to this bipartisan fiscal commission process and he’s going to seriously consider all the things that they put forward and he’s going to look at them. It doesn’t mean he’s supporting a VAT. We haven’t even contemplated a VAT.
HALPERIN: But if they recommend it, it’s not something he’d rule out?
(Refusal #6) GOOLSBEE: I’m not going to get into a hypothetical thing about it. He’s committed to a bipartisan fiscal commission.
Goolsbee’s refusal to permanently rule out a VAT may explain President Obama’s recent attempts to alter the terms of his central campaign promise – a promise that no family making less than $250,000 per year would see “any form of tax increase”.
Twice in the past ten days, Obama has claimed his pledge applied only to income taxes. In his April 10 Weekly Radio Address, Obama said:
“And one thing we have not done is raise income taxes on families making less than $250,000. That’s another promise we’ve kept.”
In a speech on the evening of April 15, Obama repeated the truncated promise:
“And one thing we haven’t done is raise income taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year -- another promise that we kept.”