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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Norquist Veto

Bruce Bartlett explains who is really leading the Republican Party on budget issues:

Grover Norquist Vetoes Both Deficit Reduction and Tax Reform, by Bruce Bartlett: According to a report in The Hill newspaper, Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist has received assurances from Republican leaders in Congress that under no circumstances will they vote for any tax increase, either as part of deficit reduction or tax reform. Apparently, the only permissible deficit reduction is spending cuts and the only permissible tax reform is tax cuts. Given that Grover has succeeded in getting all but a small handful of Republicans to sign his no-new-taxes pledge, he essentially controls tax policy by being the sole arbiter of what constitutes a violation of the pledge and what does not. And given the power of the Tea Party to upset incumbent Republicans in primaries when they are viewed as insufficiently loyal to its agenda, it would take a very confident and courageous Republican to risk being accused of violating Grover's pledge whether he or she signed it or not, since it would guarantee primary opposition from a well financed Tea Party candidate -- the Club for Growth will see to that.
Whatever one thinks about the best way to achieve deficit reduction or tax reform, such rigidity is not conducive to action on either front. Indeed, the idea that every provision of the tax code that lowers revenues must be preserved is the opposite of tax reform. But this appears to be Grover's position. I questioned him myself on this point a few weeks ago. I asked him if he would name a single provision of the tax code that is unjustified and deserving of abolition as part of a revenue-neutral tax reform that would also lower tax rates. Grover was unwilling to name one. ... I also questioned a number of other Republican tax experts who were involved in tax reform in the 1980s, and not one would endorse any actual reforms beyond rate cuts.
This is, of course, not the way Ronald Reagan did it. He proposed actual reforms in 1985 that raised revenues to offset tax rate cuts. So did Jack Kemp and Bob Kasten, whose tax reform legislation got the ball rolling. Although ATR was established for the purpose of continuing this work, in practice it would oppose legislation identical to the 1986 tax reform because every actual reform would be condemned as an impermissible tax increase, a violation of the pledge, and grounds for a primary challenge.

Let me couple this with another post from the CG&G site, this one by Stan Collender:

The Tea Party and Me: A Very True Story, by Stan Collender: ...Several weeks ago I had the extraordinary opportunity to personally see the tea party in action when I spoke at the first meeting of the tea party caucus in the House of Representatives. ... I had been invited by tea party favorite Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) ... to speak on the debt ceiling...
I didn’t actually count, but my recollection is that 15-20 members of Congress attended along with staff and other tea party supporters. ... I ... talked for about 25 minutes about the debt ceiling...
But I was just the opening act. The other three speakers were the tea party chairs from three states – Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida – and each one instructed the House members who were in the room what they expected them to do on budget issues.
Actually, “instructed is not strong enough; what they said to the members is best described as nonnegotiable demands. They insisted that no one vote for that first extension of the CR unless it included a provision defunding healthcare reform (they called it “Obamacare’). They also unequivocally insisted that no one vote to increase the debt ceiling. And, they were absolutely adamant that the spending cuts in the continuing resolution that the House members were so proud of were insignificant and that entitlements had to be tackled immediately.
One of the more interesting exchanges occurred when one of the House members who was there asked the tea party chairs if they really had expected them to have reformed Medicare in the first six weeks of the session. Another was when one of the members complained about having been booed at a national tea party meeting that had just been held.
But the most interesting exchange came when the tea party state chairs openly threatened the reelection of the tea party supporting members of Congress who attended. This was anything but subtle. One of the chairs specifically pointed at the members and told them that the tea party had elected them and would run someone against them in the next election if they didn’t vote as expected. ...

As I keep saying, this isn't really about deficit reduction. This is an ideologically based attack on government programs in the name of deficit reduction ("entitlements had to be tackled immediately"), and an attempt to lower taxes on the wealthy in the name of economic growth (and when they can get away with it, the false claim that a cut in taxes will help with the deficit).

    Posted by on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 09:09 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Politics, Taxes | Permalink  Comments (59)


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