David Brooks to White House: Please Obama, Don’t Hurt ‘Em!

Speaker of the House John Boehner during a press conference in the U.S. Capitol building Nov. 9, 2012

Photograph by Allison Shelley/Getty Images.

Further evidence that John Boehner is bluffing on taxes comes from today’s David Brooks column in which the conservative columnist concedes that Boehner will fold:

Obama could probably triumph in a short-term confrontation, pushing through higher tax rates on the rich that wouldn’t even produce enough revenue to cover a tenth of the deficit. But he’d sow such bitterness that it would be the last thing he’d pass for the rest of his term. The Republican House majority isn’t going to magically disappear.

The problem here is that Brooks hasn’t appropriately considered his priors. It’s true that if Obama forces tax hikes on the rich that the odds of comprehensive immigration reform or a meaningful carbon pricing bill are extremely low. But the odds of those things happening are extremely low one way or the other. The Republican House majority isn’t going to magically disappear!

But if you go back to before the election, it was always the case that Obama’s second term agenda was going to be tax hikes and implementation of his health care bill. Anything else is a bonus. The failure to get more done on immigration is a shame. The failure to get more done on climate change is a shame. Personally, those are my top two issues not health care. And the fact is that the psychological dynamics of House Republicans are hard to predict. Will they feel embittered by defeat on taxes or will they feel chastened? It’s difficult to say. The only thing that’s not difficult to say is that they probably won’t agree to action one way or another. But Obama can win on taxes if he wants to.