Republicans, call and double down Obama's deficit reduction bluff

Even while deficit reduction talks continue between the White House and congressional leaders, Democrats and Republics, pundits already are awarding victory points for President Barack Obama's challenge to do a really big deficit reduction deal.

"If not now, when?" he asked at his press conference today, when he made it appear that Republicans were backing off the kind of budgetary reform they and their Tea Party base have been demanding.

House Speaker John Boehner opened the door for Obama's ploy by earlier saying that the "big deal," expected to save some $4 trillion in 10 years, couldn't be done, and that something more modest would have to be done in order for his party to go along with a rise in the debt ceiling. Republicans are refusing to go for the big enchelad in deficit reduction because they object to ending tax loopholes for oil and gas companies and the wealthy. Republicans say this, in reality, amounts to a big tax increase.

Republicans look stupid because it looks like they are holding out for the wealthy and Big Oil. The way they can get out of this box is to go for the kind of tax reform they have always wanted: The elimination of just about all tax exemptions and subsidies for almost everyone. Get rid of the inscrutable and crushing tax code and replace it with a simpler flat or progressive tax that would produce the same amount of revenues. Then use those revenues to reduce the deficit and debt.

If not now, when? Say "now," Republicans.

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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