Michael Barone

And there the tax rates stand. Democrats hoped that they could get Republicans to increase tax revenues in the spring in order to prevent the sequester's automatic defense spending.

But Republicans were willing to let the entire sequester go into operation, with the happy effect, from their point of view, of reducing domestic discretionary spending. They'd try to do something about defense later.

So early this summer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was willing to agree with House Speaker John Boehner to let the sequester spending cuts continue with slight modifications, without demanding tax increases in return.

Boehner was not able to keep his end of the bargain, as enough House Republicans went into Cruz control and demanded the House pass bills at first defunding, and then delaying Obamacare. Reid was understandably angry that his concession on taxes was not reciprocated. He stood firm, anticipating correctly that Boehner would accept his original offer rather than refuse to lift the debt ceiling.

The dog that didn't bark remains silent. The Washington Post Wonkblog's Ezra Klein, sometimes a signal caller for Democrats, now recommends that "Democrats should abandon taxes."

And the plain fact is that the difference between the parties on taxes is relatively minor. Cutting high rates from 50 percent to 28 percent hugely changed incentives. Cutting them or raising them within the 35 and 39.6 percent range doesn't make nearly as much difference.

Limiting deductions for high earners -- something House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan would consider -- would mean more. But those deductions, as Klein notes, would hurt Democrats in high-tax states like New York and California.

Conventional wisdom has it that Republicans lost big on the shutdown showdown. But they kept the sequester and took taxes off the table -- pretty good accomplishments for a party that controls only one branch of Congress.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM