Obama Aide Calls for At Least $1 Trillion in Revenue

Nancy Cook

One of the president’s top economic advisers gave more shape to the White House’s position on the fiscal cliff on Thursday, when he called for at least $1 trillion in revenue and dismissed the idea of finding that solely through the capping or limiting of tax deductions.

“You need, if you want to have a really large package, a significant package, you need to have well over a $1 trillion in revenues, and the President has put forth his budget with $1.65 trillion,” said Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council, at The Atlantic’s Washington Ideas Forum.

Sperling’s call for at least $1 trillion does signal some wiggle room on the part of the White House on revenues, since it is a departure from the roughly $1.6 trillion figure that the administration and president touted throughout the week.

On other fiscal cliff details, however, Sperling echoed the White House’s previous statements. The administration would not budge on the $250,000 tax-rate threshold, he said, nor would the administration agree to a deal that did not increase rates and relied instead on a tax trick such as limiting or capping tax deductions. The latter proposal gained some traction on the Hill this week, with Democratic Sen. Max Baucus saying he is open to exploring the idea.

“I’m very skeptical that it is going to be politically or policy-viable to believe that you can get that much revenue from high-income Americans just by capping deductions and expenditures,” Sperling said. “Even if you could get a certain portion of it, to establish the rule that rates cannot go up, and then you find that perhaps the most you can get politically is $500, $600, or $700 billion, then you have created a framework in which the rest of the revenues will come unnecessarily from middle class families.”

Sperling’s comments came roughly 24 hours before the president plans to meet with the top congressional leaders at the White House and on the heels of several days during which Republicans and Democrats staked out widely divergent views on the way the government should tackle the tax portion of the fiscal cliff.