Grover Norquist, a right-wing propagandist who is pushing the no taxes/starve the government/redistribution to the owners and managers of multinationals agenda, seems to define anything as a tax increase if it involves 'his people' paying more. Cutting subsidies for the poor-- Social Security benefits, medicare, medicaid, unemployment--those aren't tax increases. But cutting tax expenditures in the Code that function the same way as subsidies for the wealthy--those are tax increases in Norquist's anti-tax book.
Look, folks. Everybody thinks that some government spending is wasteful, we just don't agree on which things. And Nobody really likes to pay taxes--we'd all rather spend money on ourselves, our families, even our favorite charities than not have it to dispense ourselves. But when you get down to it, there is no such thing as a good society that doesn't have a workable tax collection system and a workable social consensus that trusts government, relies on government representatives to make the mostly difficult decisions about spending and tax collection, and pays taxes willingly because there are so many good things that taxes support that we cannot do for ourselves as individuals and can only do acting collectively through government--like public transportation, public schools, food safety, water safety, environmental protection, natural resource protection, parks, and similar public infrastructure.
So we need taxes. And then we need a fair way to collect them. Getting rid of subsidies in the tax code that coddle one group unreasonably--i.e., with no commensurate gain for the public good--is a good idea. Talking about it as a "tax increase" is a bad idea, because it increases tax fairness to get rid of it.
Norquist calls all such things tax increases because his propaganda machine wants Americans to think poorly of their government and think poorly of taxes. When that happens, it is easier for the elite at the top (owners and managers of most of the financial assets and wealth), to gain control of the system and pass more and more tax cuts (and tax expenditure subsidies) favoring themselves, while eliminating more and more of the social programs that take the edge off brutal vcapitalism and render democracy possible in a mostly capitalist economy.
Tom Coburn is at least challenging his own party to recognize this truth about elimination of tax expenditures. Eliminating a tax break shouldn't be viewed as a tax increase, even among die-hard right-wingers sworn to keep taxes low for arbitrary or proven wrong reasons.
Read Rubin's article on "Chicken Breeders Face Tax-Cut Hawks in Senate Ethanol Showdown, June 14, 2011, Bloomberg.net. Note that S 782 was defeated by a 40-59 vote. See Senate Rejects Bid to Kill Ethanol Tax Break, Bloomberg.net, June 14, 2011.