By Jessica Huseman
It’s time to face reality: Republicans are no longer in a position to force spending cuts while screaming about not raising taxes. At some point, even Grover Norquist is going to have to admit this.
“Tax Payer Protection Pledge” that Norquist has been shoving in the faces of Republicans since before the 2012 election is starting to mean less and less in a world where Republicans are getting walloped from all sides and decisively lost the 2012 election.
In summary: Republicans don’t have the necessary influence to push through a no-tax-increase policy, so it’s time to compromise or risk further embarrassment in the form of increasing irrelevance.
This pledge was actually started by Americans for Tax Reform in 1986 – not by Norquist, though it has become tightly associated with them, and calls for representatives to, first, “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses,” and, second, to “oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”
Abandoning the pledge Norquist continues to insist is relevant would actually fall in line with a majority of Republican voters. According to a CNN poll, by a 52 -44 percent margin, Republicans favor a mixture of spending cuts and tax increases to prevent the fiscal cliff instead of a deal that only includes spending cuts.
Regardless of the numbers, Norquist continues to babble on about the pledge on national television, accusing those who are turning away from it of peddling “impure thoughts.”
And, aside from the fact that such a pledge is overly broad and allows no exceptions for dire financial situations (like the fiscal cliff we are fast approaching), let’s point out the obvious: This isn’t 1986.
The economy in 1986 was driven by Reaganomics and, while it wasn’t exactly booming, it was doing just fine. Look at this bit from a New York Times article in 1986:
“The outlook for 1986 is not all bleak. We will almost certainly avoid a recession and, in fact, some modest pickup relative to the extremely weak first half is probable, reflecting several favorable factors. These include the continued softness in oil and commodity prices, which is holding down inflation, bolstering purchasing power and thus partly offsetting slow income growth; continued growth in defense spending; rising depreciation, which is boosting cash flow and preventing further weakness in capital spending, and the relatively low level of inventories in most industries, which will prevent widespread inventory liquidation.”
Now, read that paragraph again. How many of those “favorable factors” does our economy have now? The price of oil is up, our purchasing power is down (substantially from 1986, but even from 2011), defense spending is starting to go down…and on, and on, and on. Oh, and we aren’t wearing acid washed jeans, wearing spandex non-ironically or blasting Nirvana out of speakers we carry on our shoulders.
Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss was the first out of the gate to come out against the no-tax pledge. Soon following were New York Rep. Peter King and South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, who both said they would go against the pledge and OK tax changes to boost revenue to curb the deficit.
“I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss,” King said. “A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. … The world has changed, and the economic situation is different.”
But, that doesn’t mean these Republicans are rolling over.
“I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform,” Graham said on ABC’s “This Week,” noting that the only pledge that should be made when the U.S. is in trillions in debt is to “avoid becoming Greece.”
“Republicans should put revenue on the table,” he continued. “We don’t generate enough revenue.”
Other voices have perked up as well. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has questioned whether the pledge continues to be relevant in today’s economy – it isn’t – and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee has said “the yin and the yang of this is that we know there has to be revenues.”
Now, it’s time for Republicans to hop on board with the rest of the United States and come to terms with their minimized position in the U.S. government: You lost. Now compromise and move on – this is no time for pledges.