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A Solidly Republican House Crashes Down on Grover Norquist

6:54 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

At this point all I can do is laugh when I think about how some of my friends on the far right were naive as to think that sensible Republicans in Congress had failed to heed the message of the 2012 election and the current political realities borne therefrom. The latest development in the fiscal cliff drama show to what degree some on the right have regained their senses and moved back to the center, in the direction of much needed compromise. Quoting political commentator Jennifer Steinhauer: “Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late Tuesday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs. The measure, brought to the House floor less than 24 hours after its passage in the Senate, was approved 257 to 167, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in voting to allow income taxes to rise for the first time in two decades, in this case for the highest-earning Americans…The decision by Republican leaders to allow the vote came despite widespread scorn among House Republicans for the bill, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in the early hours of New Year’s Day. They were unhappy that it did not include significant spending cuts in health and other social programs, which they say are essential to any long-term solution to the nation’s debt.” Clearly and unequivocally the resolution of the fiscal cliff represents a major defeat for Grover Norquist and his Tea Party allies as well as a significant victory for president Obama.

And what of those Republican Congressman who voted to let tax rates rise? Remember how often we’ve been told that almost every Republican in the House had signed Grover Norquist’s “No Tax Pledge.” Quoting Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Habberman: “…given the lopsided Senate vote in favor of the tax-hiking measure, as well as the 85 GOP House members who voted yes, members of the GOP have violated the party’s no-new-taxes orthodoxy for the first time in two decades. It’s a significant concession in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s November defeat and a potentially existential moment for a party that has prided itself on a defiant and dogmatic dislike of tax increases. What remains to be seen is whether that is merely a tactical retreat — bowing to the unique circumstances of the fiscal cliff — or a more meaningful cave-in on the part of Republicans who believe that their anti-tax platform has become politically unsustainable, particularly after a presidential cycle in which the party found itself caricatured as the puppets of the rich and powerful.” Perhaps it was the fact that a large majority of Republican Senators had voted for a tax hike that finally drove home the political reality to the 85 Republican Congressional legislators who decided to follow suit. Why even such staunch conservatives as Congressman Paul Ryan and Senators Patrick J. Toomey and Tom Coburn voted in favor of raising taxes. The fact that, in the face of a growing fiscal crisis, that Republicans voted to raise revenue via tax hikes, should come as no surprise as 2012 election exit polling showed 75% of the voters supported said increases, including a large minority of those who voted for Mitt Romney. Fox News contributor and prominent conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer opined: “This is a complete surrender on everything” and “a rout.” Not surprisingly, Norquist himself appeared on the cable circuit claiming to Anderson Cooper, among others, that the “deal was technically not a pledge violation”, but then what would you expect to hear from a guy who just went off of his own political cliff.

Many on the right have been seen to try to spin this defeat as a tactical maneuver that takes taxes off the table thereby enabling the G.O.P. to be more hard-nosed in dealing with the debt ceiling / spending cuts debate that we’ll be revisiting in a few months. But this too may amount to nothing but wishful thinking. Again quoting Burns and Habberman: “The president’s party, meanwhile, has no intention of easing up on a GOP they believe is in serious disarray. And while Republicans take heart from the hope that they’ll have more leverage in the next showdown, emboldened Democrats say the demand for “balanced” deficit reduction — meaning both spending cuts and new taxes — remains a challenge for their foes. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who advised the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, called the fiscal cliff deal “a band-aid on a serious wound” for Republicans. “The sane wing of the Republican Party recognized the GOP was playing a losing hand badly on taxes in a way that was deeply damaging to the Republican brand,” Garin said. “The Republicans will find themselves in a similar mess going forward if they insist on entitlement cuts while resisting new revenues from closing loopholes and tax breaks for those at the top.”

In the final analysis, when the spin and the political posturing is put aside there is one simple fact that comes through as the dust settles in the aftermath of the fiscal cliff and that is that Barack Obama has just cashed in on some major political capital and the sensible conservatives knew he had it to use and fully intended to use it. Obama ran, in part, on solving the fiscal crisis by raising taxes on the richest among us and won. America had two clear choices to pick from and they didn’t pick the conservative version. Much has been made of the fact that the G.O.P. had held onto the House but they only did so as a result of redistricting. In terms of absolute votes cast for those running for Congress, across the nation as a whole, “Democratic candidates for Congress won 1.1 million more votes than Republicans, according to a tally of the popular vote kept by David Wasserman, the House editor of The Cook Political Report.” The Republican leadership in Congress knows that winning as a result of map making means a lot less politically than does winning by popular appeal and presently the G.O.P. ranks near the low end of its historic popularity. More importantly, the American people have demanded compromise and they indicated that they are clearly fed up with Tea Party obstruction on Capitol Hill. This had to be a motivating factor for Republicans as it is they, not Obama and the Democrats who would have been blamed for the country’s sliding back into a recession. In the end President Obama wound up giving less in the way of concessions than he would have just two weeks ago when he bargained with John Boehner in search of a deal and dramatically less than he would have back in 2011 when he and the Speaker were on the verge of a “Grand Bargain.” Such is the measure of the political shift that has taken place since the Tea Party victories in 2010 and Obama’s re-election this past November.

Steven J. Gulitti
1/2/2013

Sources:
Jennifer Steinhauer: “Divided House Passes Tax Deal in End to Latest Fiscal Standoff”; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/us/politics/house-takes-on-fiscal-cliff.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ref=todayspaper

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor Split On Fiscal Cliff Deal”; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/john-boehner-eric-cantor_n_2395593.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=010213&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureTitle&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei: “BEHIND THE CURTAIN — Why the GOP caved: The politics are horrible on the backside of the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/playbook/

“Tea party backers swallow a bitter pill in ‘cliff’ bill”; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cliff-bill-is-a-bitter-pill-for-houses-tea-party-adherents-to-swallow/2013/01/01/5345286e-544d-11e2-8e84-e933f677fe68_story.html

“GOP anti-tax policy goes over the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/gop-anti-tax-policy-goes-over-the-cliff-85657.html

Charles Krauthammer: “Cliff deal a ‘rout”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/krauthammer-cliff-deal-surrender-85656.html?ml=po_r

“Why President Obama, Mitch McConnell took the deal”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/why-mcconnell-obama-took-the-deal-85655.html#ixzz2Gr6BLtPZ

“Obama hails tax bill, warns GOP not to pick fight on debt ceiling”; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/275123-obama-hail-cliff-deal-but-warns-gop-on-debt-ceiling

“How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House”; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/us/po

The Growing Revolt Against Grover Norquist

1:57 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Grover Norquist - Caricature

Grover Norquist - Caricature

Two weeks ago I penned a short piece titled “Grover Norquist Collateral Casualty of 2012?” where I broached the question of whether or not Norquist would become a casualty as a result of the coming fiscal cliff negotiations and where I said, “…look for Grover Norquist to politically take a major hit in the resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis.” The way things are playing out I think that we can pretty much assume that Norquist is already taking on water and his support and influence seems to be fading with each passing day. Let’s review a few recent developments, staring with this:”Grover Norquist: Washington Enemy No. 1 :The man who enforces the no-new-taxes pledge is under fire like never before. Why he still expects Republicans will hold the line”; To wit: “Republicans are facing an avalanche of pressure from the White House, the media and even many on Wall Street to abandon their antitax principles to avoid a “fiscal cliff…The pressure on Republicans to repudiate this oath has never been as intense as it is now. Mr. Obama is claiming a voter mandate to raise taxes, while the media and liberals are declaring that the days of “Norquistism,” as they derisively call it, are over. A New York Times story this week claimed that more Republicans are ready to violate the pledge. After the 2011 debt-ceiling debacle, the election losses and the prospect of getting blamed for going over the fiscal cliff, the conventional wisdom is that the GOP has no choice but to fold…I remind Mr. Norquist that the election exit polls show that voters, for the first time in two decades, favor higher taxes on the rich.”

In the Senate, several prominent Republicans have already broken ranks with Norquist publicly, Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans — Republicans should put revenue on the table…We’re this far in debt. We don’t generate enough revenue. Capping deductions will help generate revenue. Raising tax rates will hurt job creation…So I agree with Grover, we shouldn’t raise rates. But, I think Grover is wrong when it comes to [saying] we can’t cap deductions and buy down debt…I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs, but I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.” Tom Coburn (R-OK): “I’m all for the very wealthy paying more taxes…Senate Republicans — and many House Republicans — have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s strict interpretation of his own pledge, a reading that requires them to defend every loophole and spending program hidden in the tax code…As a result, rather than forcing Republicans to bow to him, Mr. Norquist is the one who is increasingly isolated politically.” John McCain (R-AZ) said Sunday, “that he would support limiting deductions.” Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) who said last week that “the pledge is outdated and unhelpful for reducing the national debt…I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.” Bob Corker (R-TN): “I’m not obligated on the pledge…I made Tennesseans aware, I was just elected, the only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve, when I’m sworn in this January.” The senior Republican Senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander said that the only oath he’s taken is his oath of office.” Regarding taxes Alexander said’ “I think Republicans have done plenty of talking about revenues on the table…We’re ready. It’s time for the president to step up.”

Of even greater significance is the fact that the defections have now moved beyond the Senate, where Republicans are in the minority, to the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Even fiscal hawk Eric Cantor (R-VA) has publicly distanced himself from Norquist, “When I go to the constituents that have reelected me, it is not about that pledge…It really is about trying to solve problems.” While Cantor, like Graham isn’t a fan of raising the tax rates he is unequivocally in favor of increasing revenues and he doesn’t necessarily tie that to matching adjustments in deductions as required by the Norquist pledge. Peter King (R-NY) said, “everything should be on the table in negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff.” Jeff Flake (R-AZ): “The only pledge I’d sign is a pledge to sign no more pledges…We’ve got to ensure that we go back and represent our constituents in a way — I believe in limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility. I don’t want higher taxes. But no more pledges.” Quoting the political magazine “The Hill” on the comments of Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK): “Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a respected party strategist and former chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, became the most prominent House Republican to suggest that the GOP do what has long been unthinkable within the party: lock in the George W. Bush-era tax rates for annual incomes up to $250,000 without simultaneously extending them for top earners.” Diane White (R-TN): “I answer to my constituents, not to a pledge.”
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Grover Norquist Collateral Casualty of 2012?

9:34 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In light of the election post mortems taking place among conservatives, perhaps no one is more delusional, with the exception of Karl Rove, than Grover Norquist. Norquist, a high priest of limited government, is having nothing to do with the reality borne of Mitt Romney’s defeat. Rather than to see in that defeat the rejection of four years of anti-government attacks and ideas, Norquist would have us believe that Tuesday night’s results have simply “confirmed the status quo of the 2010 election.” That’s an odd way of thinking about the election when one considers the fact that the entire contest was framed as a choice between two different paths for America and that roughly 60 percent of Americans agreed with president Obama’s views on taxes. If you read the National Review piece, written by Jim Geraghty the morning after, you would more likely believe that the Republican victory of 2010 was the anomaly and as such hardly represents the status quo. If Norquist’s political and economic arguments had taken hold, as many on the right believe they had, then Romney and the Republicans would have won by a landslide. Hence the notion that what we have here is a “confirmation” of the recent past is nothing more than a salve for bruised and disconsolate conservative egos. That said, while we may all be focused with laser like attention on the upcoming fiscal cliff, I fully expect to see Grover Norquist among the collateral casualties littering the political landscape in the aftermath of 2012.

Grover Norquist is famous for the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” which obligates its signatories to “oppose increases in marginal income tax rates for individuals and businesses, as well as net reductions or eliminations of deductions and credits without a matching reduced tax rate.” In the abstract the pledge might seem a sound and reasonable approach to taxation, in reality it has little utility in the current economic and political environment and therein lays a fundamental problem for Norquist. In light of the looming fiscal cliff, with its necessity of raising revenues, coming as it has in the wake of Barack Obama’s victory, the likelihood that Norquist’s ideas will be adhered to are remote at best. Added to that reality is the fact that Americans want their entitlements to remain essentially intact while business leaders are now open to increasing revenues through tax reform. It is of particular significance that responsible business leaders see a need for increased revenues as they should normally be Norquist’s natural allies. To wit: “On Thursday morning, more than 80 executives of leading American corporations signed a statement calling for a deficit reduction compromise that would “include comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit.” Several members of the group, which includes highly paid chief executives of financial and industrial corporations who will stand to pay more if President Obama succeeds in his effort to raise taxes on the wealthy, then helped ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to draw attention to their coalition, Fix the Debt… But the business leaders’ position also contradicts the stand of Mitt Romney and other Republicans, who say that all tax increases are “job killers,” that the federal budget can be balanced with spending cuts alone and that any overhaul of the tax code should be “revenue neutral,” neither raising nor lowering the government’s total tax collection. “To say that you can solve this without increases in taxes is ludicrous,” said David M. Cote, the chief executive of Honeywell, a Republican and a member of Mr. Obama’s Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission in 2010. “Most wealthy people get it.” The underlying change in tone is clearly evident when even a stalwart critic of the Obama administration, the NeoCon Bill Kristol noted on Fox News “It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.”

In what can only be seen as a further weakening of Norquist’s anti-tax appeal is the fact that many of the Republican members of Congress who originally signed the pledge have by now distanced themselves from it. Those who have not have suffered politically: “While not all races have been called, at least 55 Republican House incumbents or candidates who signed the pledge — and 24 Republican Senators or hopefuls — lost on Tuesday. Linda McMahon (R-CT), Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), Treasurer Josh Mandel (R-OH), Secretary of State Charles Summers (R-ME), former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) all signed the pledge and were attacked by their Democrats opponents in face-to-face debates over the issue. All five were defeated in their Senate bids. State Sen. Tony Strickland (R-CA), Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL), State Sen. Richard Tisei (R-MA), and Rep. Frank Guita (R-NH) were also attacked by their House race opponents in debates for signing the pledge in this campaign or in the past. All four were also defeated. In fact, of the fifteen-plus House Republican incumbents who apparently lost re-election, every single one had signed Norquist’s pledge.” In another indication of the changing mood on taxes, a senior aide to one House Republican leader said, off the record, “The president won, and the tax cuts are ending, whether we like it or not. So we have to figure out how to deal with it.” Beyond this weakening in the commitment to the no tax pledge among individual members of Congress there is a renewed interest in the “Grand Bargain” on the part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight”. These senators, who in the summer of 2011 had crafted a deficit compromise that was a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts, are already meeting to discuss the way forward. When considering the work of the “Gang of Eight” the operative word is compromise, something that the American people have overwhelmingly endorsed and one which Norquist and his followers have opposed. In the words of Tom Friedman who wrote a compelling article as to why Obama was reelected: “The country is starved for practical, bipartisan cooperation, and it will reward politicians who deliver it and punish those who don’t.” Grover Norquist are you listening or are you content with being on the wrong side of this issue?

Speaker of the House John Boehner has already signaled his willingness to compromise on fiscal reform to the point of raising revenues by eliminating loopholes as part of overall tax reform. While he may oppose raising marginal tax rates, and it’s not certain that he will prevail, Boehner’s willingness to increase revenues overall is a direct blow to Norquist’s anti-tax pledge which eschews any idea of revenue increases unless those are offset by further corresponding reduced tax rates. That said it would also appear that the results of 2012 have strengthen Boehner’s hand in dealing with the Tea Party crowd in the House. Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, detailed the setbacks suffered by the G.O.P. in this election and concluded that considering all of the Tea Party induced setbacks: “Tuesday wasn’t exactly a repudiation of the Tea Party, and the public’s rejection of Tea Party extremism on social issues doesn’t automatically translate into rejection of its doctrinaire economics. But the election may have been enough of a slap in the face to cause Tea Partiers to rethink their overall strategy of intransigence. And to give Boehner and whatever moderate voices are left in the GOP some leverage over the crazies in their midst.” Apparently a significant number of House Republicans are already coming around to Boehner’s way of thinking as is indicated a recent New York Times article, “Boehner Tells House G.O.P. to Fall in Line”, referenced below. Ironically, if not almost comically, Grover Norquist himself seems to have sobered up to the new political realities stemming from the reelection of Barack Obama. He is now on the public record as saying “I’m for additional revenue. I’m not for tax increases.” But Norquist is also banking on the hope that any increase in revenues will be offset by a corresponding reduction in overall tax rates thereby conforming to his tax pledge philosophy. If that doesn’t happen then his pledge will have seen to have been violated by House Republicans. Seeing as House Republicans has evidenced much less in the way of loyalty to the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” look for Grover Norquist to politically take a major hit in the resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis.

In the upcoming deficit reduction fight, Barack Obama presently holds most of the tactical advantages. For one, a central theme of his reelection campaign was tax fairness and it is he who won the election not the advocates of limited government. In staking out his position the president said: “I’m not wedded to every detail of my plan. I’m open to compromise. But I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced…and on Tuesday night, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach.” Secondly, Obama and the Democrats can force House Republicans into a compromise by using the fiscal cliff as leverage, threatening to allow higher tax rates and spending cuts to go into effect on January 1st and thereafter proposing tax cuts for the majority of Americans. Republicans will be put in the position of opposing tax relief for the bulk of the taxpayers in the event that they don’t agree to compromise with the Democrats. The last time we went to the brink of a fiscal cliff, it was the Republicans, not Obama and the Democrats who paid the price politically. This time the damage to Republicans can only be worse, particularly as the electorate demands bi-partisan compromise as noted above. Conservatives have their backs to the wall on this issue for other reasons as well. Several studies have come out and have “found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory…The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.” The gravity of such a finding and its threat to Congressional Republicans is underlined by the fact that their leadership on Capitol Hill had the report withdrawn. Moreover, two recent reports from the Congressional Budget Office also bode ill for Republicans. One shows that the deficit can’t be reduced by spending cuts alone and that “significant deficit reduction is likely to require a combination of policies”; i.e. both spending cuts and revenue increases. The second details the damage that will be done if we go off the fiscal cliff: “According to CBO’s projections, if all of that fiscal tightening occurs, real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) will drop by 0.5 percent in 2013 (as measured by the change from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013)—reflecting a decline in the first half of the year and renewed growth at a modest pace later in the year. That contraction of the economy will cause employment to decline and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.”

From a political standpoint I hardly think that the Republican Party wants to be blamed for sending the economy back into recession and unemployment back over 9 percent and therein lays another advantage that favors the president. The bottom line is this, politically and tactically the president holds a better hand of cards than do his adversaries. With their most powerful card being politically unpopular continued obstruction they really don’t have a very powerful hand to play after all. The weakness of the Republican hand is particularly relevant as the upcoming fiscal negotiations will take place at the same time the G.O.P. is undergoing a period of deep soul searching as to why they lost an election that they theoretically should have won and to what degree Republican obstruction on Capitol Hill contributed to that defeat. That said look for Grover Norquist to be found among the collateral casualties that will result from a deficit reduction deal. There’s a better than average likelihood that Norquist and Co, are going to be going over their own political cliff and that his ideas will become less and less compelling as we move forward as a nation.

Steven J. Gulitti

11/11/12

Sources:

How Stand the Correlation of Forces in American Politics?; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/grover-norquist/republican-house-obama-reelection_b_2088071.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=110812&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Jim Geraghty: And Now, the Most Depressing Morning Jolt Ever; http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/332940/not-less-painful-day-goes

Grover Norquist; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grover_Norquist

Business Leaders Urge Deficit Deal Even With More Taxes; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/us/politics/business-leaders-urge-deficit-deal-even-with-more-taxes.html

White House Plans Public Appeal on Deficit; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324894104578113022312251756.html?mod=ITP_pageone_1

More Republicans Rejecting Grover Norquist’s ‘No Tax Increases Ever’ Pledge; http://crooksandliars.com/blue-texan/more-republicans-rejecting-grover-norqu

GOP rookies buck Grover Norquist; http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0512/76470.html

How Grover Norquist’s Radical Anti-Tax Pledge Sunk Top Tier Republican Senate Candidates; http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/11/07/1159241/grover-norquist-pledge-albatross-vulnerable-candidates/?mobile=nc

Axelrod calls Boehner ‘encouraging’ ahead of ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/267257-axelrod-obama-campaign-never-doubted-victory

The Looming Compromise on Revenues; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2011/07/08/the_looming_compromise_on_revenues

Tom Friedman: Hope and Change: Part 2; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/07/opinion/friedman-hope-and-change-part-two.html?_r=1

Obama must lead effort to avoid fiscal cliff: Boehner; http://news.yahoo.com/obama-must-lead-effort-avoid-fiscal-cliff-top-164653450–business.html

Obama, Boehner Open to Budget Bargain; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324439804578108971200674876.html?mod=WSJ_Election_LEFTSecondStories

The Fever and the Cliff; http://thepage.time.com/2012/11/09/the-fever-and-the-cliff/?xid=newsletter-thepagebymarkhalperin

Robert Reich: Why John Boehner May Have More Leverage Over the Tea Partiers in Congress; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/boehner-fiscal-cliff-negotiations_b_2093390.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=110912&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Boehner Tells House G.O.P. to Fall in Line; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/us/politics/boehner-tells-house-gop-to-fall-in-line.html?ref=todayspaper

Norquist OK with Boehner tax stance; http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/domestic-taxes/267211-norquist-okay-with-boehner-tax-stance

Pressure Rises on Fiscal Crisis; http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324894104578107363250113122.html?mod=WSJPRO_hpp_LEFTTopStories

Sen. Murray: Dems would let Bush-era rates expire before taking ‘unfair deal’; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/267253-sen-murray-dems-would-let-bush-era-rates-expire-before-taking-unfair-deal

Congress Sees Rising Urgency on Fiscal Deal; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/09/us/politics/congress-sees-rising-urgency-on-fiscal-deal.html

Nonpartisan Tax Report Withdrawn After G.O.P. Protest; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/business/questions-raised-on-withdrawal-of-congressional-research-services-report-on-tax-rates.html

C.B.O. Choices for Deficit Reduction; http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43692

C.B.O. Economic Effects of Policies Contributing to Fiscal Tightening in 2013; http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43694

Obama, Boehner Open to Budget Bargain; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324439804578108971200674876.html?mod=WSJ_Election_LEFTSecondStories

Conservatives at a Dead End?

1:02 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Election day has finally arrived and to true conservatives the final outcome will probably be nothing more than a mixed blessing at best. First and foremost Mitt Romney is hardly a rock ribbed conservative, not if you base your assessment of him on his political track record. He has migrated politically from a Northeastern liberal Republican to a faux “severe conservative” and then back to the center as the political winds have necessitated. Just look at his political maneuvering in the post primary run up to today. He may have disavowed the “Etch-a-Sketch” comments of Eric Fehnstrom but he has surely followed just that strategy, even to the point of largely agreeing with the foreign policies of Barack Obama as evidenced in the third presidential debate. In short there’s little reason to believe that Mitt Romney is anything but a shrewd political charlatan.

For conservatives whatever happens tonight there will still be several nagging questions to address. For one, what became of the “conservative counterrevolution of 2010″? In the wake of the widespread Republican by-election victories we were treated to all manner of editorials and op-eds, both written and on talk radio and Fox News about how America had seen through and rejected the “Socialism” of Barack Obama, returning to a more conservative political mindset. I however always believed that 2010 represented more of a protest vote than anything significant in the way of a fundamental shift in the political paradigm. Support for the notion that 2010 amounts to a protest vote rather than a fundamental shift in the American political landscape can be seen in the decline in popularity of the Tea Party Movement, the increased frustration on the part of the public with Republican Party obstruction in Congress and the increasing numbers of Republicans who have distanced themselves from Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge. Neither does Norquist’s idea that “all that we need is a Republican president with enough digits to sign what’s put before him” appear to resonate very well with the voting public. While more people identify as conservatives than identify as liberals, the net number of those who identify as conservatives is roughly around one third of the American public. If conservative thoughts had really taken hold you would see the numbers of people identifying as conservatives being north of 50% and the presidential race would look a lot different than it does today. Likewise the conservative attacks on Obama’s handling of the economy and posture as a world leader have failed to register with a majority of Americans. If they had Mitt Romney would be ahead by at least 6 to 10 percentage points rather than trailing within the statistical margin of error.

The myth that America is a “center right country” has been faithfully kept alive in the warrens of conservative media but as the polling numbers show on the day of the election, there’s no reason to believe that that idea has anymore validity today than in did in 2008 when Dick Morris claimed the same thing on the weekend before the election saying that: “Republicans were coming home and John McCain would win the election.” If there was anything in the way of a true conservative counterrevolution then where were the true conservative leaders during the Republican primary process? Out of the length and breadth of the conservative movement not a single viable candidate arose to challenge Barack Obama, instead Mitt Romney merely waited out the self destruction of one flawed conservative challenger after another till he was the last man standing. Quoting political commentator Steve Bogden: “Normally, you have a competitive primary. This year, it was an ongoing audition for whoever was going to be the anti-Romney. Almost everybody had their surge, but there were no credible challengers. Cain? Ging­rich? Santorum? Romney didn’t have to ‘win’ this year. He just waited for everyone else to lose.”

If Mitt Romney is lucky enough to win tonight it will be a squeaker and being the shrewd politician that he is he will continue to drift around the center no matter the tone of his rehtoric. He’ll have no other choice if he hopes to be reelected in 2016 and that bodes ill for conservatives who will be hoping that he pushes their agenda forward. I seriously doubt that Romney would ever subscribe to Grover Norquist’s notion that he should be a rubber stamp for a Tea Party Congress. I doubt that Romney sees Norquist and his anti-tax movement as anything more than a political sideshow to the big show of governing. If Barack Obama is lucky enough to win this evening I fully expect to see the usual crisis of confidence reemerge among conservatives when they beat each other up over the idea that “every time we nominate a candidate who moves to the center we lose.” The great irony of this debate is that if they did nominate a far right conservative, and why didn’t they, they would lose anyway. Like the Romney-Ryan economic plan the math just doesn’t add up for conservatives. For all of the bluff and bluster that one hears on Fox, Limbaugh, and across the entire spectrum of right-wing media about the American people being fundamentally conservative it just ain’t so. If it were true we wouldn’t be in essentially a dead heat and Romney would be way out in front. However in spite of four years of a visceral anti-Obama diatribe on the right, a lackluster economy and a threatening world scene there just aren’t enough conservative votes out there to make it happen.

Steven J. Gulitti
11/6/12

Mitt Romney: Conservative Trojan Horse or Political Chameleon?

11:16 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Romney caricature

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

What became of Mitt Romney the “severe conservative” who so assured the American right earlier this year that he had long since slipped his moorings to a moderate political past in Massachusetts? Surely a “severely conservative” Mitt Romney wasn’t the guy who showed up to debate Barack Obama on the 3rd of October. Apparently this “pivot to the center” was widely observed but not universally accepted:

Jonathan Chait:

Tonight’s debate saw the return of the Mitt Romney who ran for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. He was obsessive about portraying himself as a moderate, using every possible opening or ambiguity — and, when necessary, making them up — to shove his way to the center. Why he did not attempt to restore this pose earlier, I cannot say. Maybe he can only do it in debates. Or maybe conservatives had to reach a point of absolute desperation over his prospects before they would give him the ideological space. In any case, he dodged almost every point in the right wing canon in a way that seemed to catch Obama off guard.

Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote of the contrast between the rhetoric of the Republican primaries and Romney the debater:

The G.O.P. did its best to appear unattractive. It had trouble talking the language of compassion. It seemed to regard reasonable political compromise as an act of dishonor. It offered little for struggling Americans except that government would leave them alone…on Wednesday night, Romney finally emerged from the fog. He broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself…Far from being an individualistic, social Darwinist, Romney spoke comfortably about compassion and shared destinies…Far from wanting to eviscerate government and railing about government dependency, Romney talked about how to make government programs work better…Far from being an unthinking deregulator, Romney declared, ‘Regulation is essential’ … Most important, Romney did something no other mainstream Republican has had the guts to do. Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity.

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

This move to the center, there’s no complaint from conservatives. Is it that they are so eager to defeat President Obama that they, right now, say, anything that works is okay with them?

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat:

What Romney executed on Wednesday night was not just a simple pivot to the center, as much of the post-debate analysis suggested. Pivot he certainly did — stressing bipartisanship and touting his record as the moderate governor of a liberal state, backing away from the more implausible spending cuts implied by his budget promises, explicitly breaking with the idea that upper-bracket tax cuts can be a self-financing free lunch.

Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin:

Is the ‘new’ Mitt Romney going to be on offer through Election Day, or might he backslide?

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:

Read the rest of this entry →

Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength vs Grover Norquist

7:41 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

By now you’ve probably heard of the organization called Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength. They are patriotic Americans who know that they have accumulated the wealth that they have as a result of the uniqueness of the American system and they now want folks like themselves to help the system in its hour of crisis. Patriotic Millionaires has advocated that “the highest earners should pay 39.6 percent in taxes, up from the current 35 percent.”

Recently six of them sat down with America’s anti-tax guru grover Norquist for a discussion on taxes and the role of government. Here’s an excerpt: “[Norquist] raised an issue we get all the time which is, ‘Well there’s nothing stopping you guys from paying higher taxes, just send a check to the government!’ And this to me is frankly an absurd position; I don’t consider it to be a very serious argument. Government is not a charity and we can’t rely on voluntary contributions from people to support the things that government does. And I also said to him, ‘Look would you be willing to sign a pledge where you’re willing to forgo all the benefits that government provides? Are you willing to sign a pledge that says you don’t want the U.S. military to protect you? That you will refuse to contact the police if somebody steals from you? That you will refuse to contact the fire department if your house is on fire? Because that’s the equivalent! Why should you get a free ride? Why should you benefit from my willingness to support the government? Let’s do it together.’ And he said, ‘If I don’t have to pay any taxes for it, I would forgo all those things!’ To which my response was, ‘Well there’s an easy way to do that, move to Somalia!’ And his argument was, ‘Somalia doesn’t suffer from too little government, it suffers from too much government.’ I don’t even begin to understand what that means, but again there’s only so much you can go into in these conversations.”

As it turns out many Republican lawmakers are abandoning Norquist and his “No Tax Pledge” as they get down to seriously dealing with this country’s fiscal crisis. The conservative organ NewsMax points out: “Republican House members are increasingly separating themselves from Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform, the interest group he leads. Specifically they’re disconnecting from ATR’s pledge to oppose any tax increase, The Hill reports.” Quoting Ohio Congressman Steven LaTourette, He said he didn’t even recall joining the pledge until Norquist’s group found the original document earlier this year. And he doesn’t view it as a permanent commitment. “My driver’s license expires. The milk in my refrigerator expires. My gym membership expires, and I find the website to be a little deceptive,” Moreover: “Republican Reps. Howard Coble of North Carolina, Pete King of New York, and Lee Terry of Nebraska, told The Hill they signed the pledge more than 10 years ago, but not for the current Congress. They were among 40 House Republicans who signed a letter to the super committee last week urging a grand bargain including more tax revenue, entitlement reform, and spending cuts.”

I think at this point its more than apparent that Grover Norquist and his “No Tax Pledge” will have to bend to the winds of political necessity, either that or they’ll be broken and left by the side of the road on the march to fiscal reform in America.

Sources:

Patriotic Millionaires To Grover Norquist: ‘Move To Somalia’; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/17/patriotic-millionaires-grover-norquist-somalia_n_1098473.html?ref=politics

House GOP To Norquist: Our Tax Pledge Expired; http://www.newsmax.com/InsideCover/norquist-tax-pledge-gop/2011/11/09/id/417423

House GOP To Norquist: Our Tax Pledge Expired; http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2805082/posts

Sense vs. Nonsense in Debt Ceiling Debate

6:39 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

As the potential defaulting on our national debt looms ever larger and comes ever closer, there is a rising chorus of responsible conservatives who are speaking up so as to drown out the radicals on the far right who think that default is not a serious problem. For one thing, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has reiterated its opposition to default in a recent piece, “Default Is Not An Option – Spread the Word” The USCC has stated unequivocally: “failure to raise the debt ceiling would have calamitous results. It would halt government operations, make our debt and deficit situation worse, debase the value of the dollar and threaten its status as the world’s reserve currency, and hamper U.S. growth and job creation.” Based on the fact that debt, deficit, growth and job creation are all topics in the forefront of the conservative agenda, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to allow the federal government to default if the conservative agenda would be setback as a result. Responsible conservatives know this and now they are taking their argument to the public so as to forestall any calamity that would result from the recklessness of the far right.

A second development that is worth noting is that the “Gang of Six”, those senators who have been working with the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction committee proposals has gained another member, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and its proceedings appear to have garnered increased interest on Capitol Hill. Quoting Senator Kent Conrad: “Any debt deal would resemble the “Gang of Six” plan.” The “Gang of Six” proposals are a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases and they stand in sharp contrast to the ultra conservative Cut, Cap and Balance bill that’s going nowhere on Capitol Hill. While Tea Party backed Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) said of Cut, Cap and Balance: “And we want to make very clear, this isn’t just the best plan on the table for addressing the debt limit; this is the only plan”; Speaker of the House, John Boehner, acted immediately to put Lee’s comments into perspective. Boehner said: “Oh, I’m sure we have got some members who believe that, but I do not believe that would be anywhere close to the majority. At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to act.” With these comments, Boehner is signaling a more reasonable approach to addressing the dual problems of deficits and revenues. Boehner is also very much aware of the fact that while there may be a sizable default caucus among the Tea Party crowd in the House, there is a very small claque of Senators on the far right who are beholden to the same views. Based on the fact that Jack Lew, the head of the Office of Management and Budget testified at the bipartisan debt reduction caucus today and reiterated the fact that whatever the final plan is, it would have to include some form of revenue increase, is it any wonder that John Boehner is charting a more practical course?

Why reality is even starting to dawn on anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist. Norquist has begun to equivocate on whether or not allowing the Bush era tax breaks to expire amounts to a tax hike. Norquist’s equivocation is an element of particular irony as it is Norquist who developed the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” which disavows any increase in federal revenue from increased taxes or the elimination of tax breaks and the closing of loopholes. Norquist’s about face on Bush era tax cuts is a major setback for the “starve the beast crowd” on the far right and represents a major departure from his previous no compromise approach to taxes and spending. That’s something that won’t go unnoticed in the political world and something that is a defacto admission of the need to raise revenues in order to address the deficit.

Thus in the final analysis, as we grind on towards August and the potential of a default, the voices of common sense are growing ever louder and more persuasive and the anti revenue zealots are seeing their chances of dealing with the deficit through drastic cuts alone slip away with each passing hour and each passing day. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) likened the far right radicals in the House to being on an “iceberg that is melting into the ocean” and in need of a life line so as to save themselves from political irrelevance. In the end, those who thought they could come to Washington and refuse to compromise will find themselves on the wrong side of history with their political futures all the more uncertain going forward.

SJG

7/22/11

Sources:

Default Is Not An Option – Spread the Word

http://www.chamberpost.com/2011/07/default-is-not-an-option-%e2%80%93-spread-the-word/

4 ways a debt default would hurt America

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-07-13-debt-limit-default-effects_n.htm

Conrad: Any Debt Deal Would Resemble ‘Gang of 6′ Plan

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec11/debt_07-21.html

Grover Norquist: Ending Bush Tax Cuts Not A Tax Hike

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/21/grover-norquist-bush-tax-cuts-tax-hike_n_905624.html

12:38 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Against the backdrop of heightened political rhetoric among conservatives about not being willing to raise tax revenues as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling, there is a growing acknowledgement among many Republicans in Washington as to the ultimate need to increase revenues. While many on Capitol Hill continue to parrot conservative talking points about not increasing tax revenues, the political leadership within the G.O.P. and outside the Republican Party is sounding more and more amenable to some form of raising revenue, even if it is structured as tax reform.

In an interview that came in under the radar following the collapse of the debt talks chaired by Vice President Biden, Republican insider and former congressman Vin Weber appeared on the PBS News Hour to discuss the emerging cracks in Republican opposition to raising taxes to curb the deficit. This controversy is clearly evident in the ongoing public spate between Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) over what actually constitutes a tax revenue increase and the necessity of increasing revenues. Weber stated of Republicans engaged in deficit negotiations: “And I think, if they’re allowed to define, on their own terms, what constitutes a tax increase that opens the door to a broad tax reform that might broaden the base by closing loopholes and eliminating deductions and credits and exemptions, probably coupled with a reduction in top rates to spur economic growth, but resulting in a net tax increase.” As you may recall, Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform had circulated a Taxpayer Protection Pledge to conservative politicians for their signature ahead of the 2010 elections which many, particularly members of the Tea Party, signed. The Pledge includes the following wording “ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and…TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.” Thus the pledge, a document of the utmost importance on the far right, not only prohibits tax increases; it opposes any effort to raise revenue through the elimination of loopholes, deductions and credits “unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

In the time that has elapsed since Weber’s PBS interview Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) has approached the White House with a proposal for $ 1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. According to White house officials, “Mr. Boehner suggested that he was open to the possibility of $1 trillion or more in new revenue that would be generated by addressing tax issues already raised in the talks, like killing breaks for the oil and gas industry, eliminating ethanol subsidies and ending preferential treatment for corporate jets. But those changes would fall far short of the revenue goal, and the source of the rest of the money would, under what they described as Mr. Boehner’s proposal, be decided by Congress through a review of tax law changes. One official said some revenue could be generated by allowing Bush-era tax cuts for affluent Americans to expire at the end of 2012, which would produce hundreds of billions of dollars, though those savings would be offset by the costs of retaining lower rates for those below the income threshold.” Eric Cantor (R-VA), who had walked out of the Biden talks and who has previously been a staunch opponent of raising revenues was quoted on PBS on July 6 as saying that he was willing to talk about closing loopholes and his fellow Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) likewise was quoted on the same program, “I’m open to tax reform. We need to do it broadly… Everybody’s going to have to contribute to it in one way or another.” Why even Tea Party backed Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) was on the news this evening saying that he was not necessarily opposed to raising revenues as long as it didn’t involve an increase in tax rates.

There is one other factor to consider in this whole discussion and that’s the current opinion of the American people. The latest Pew Research Polling on the subject: “Public Wants Changes in Entitlements, Not Changes in Benefits; GOP Divided Over Benefit Reductions”, reveals an American public that on a two to one basis feels that keeping entitlements the way they are is more important than reducing the deficit. Likewise similar levels of support are evident for other issues such as Medicare cost responsibilities and whether or not poor people should have their Medicaid benefits taken away. In fact if you go inside the numbers what you see is that even less affluent Republicans are now opposed to reductions in entitlements. While the political class and its attendant punditry are embroiled in discussing what to cut and where to raise revenues, the American people, even though they know that some type of reform is required, have expressed an emphatic desire to leave their benefits largely unchanged. Thus the Republican leadership in Washington has to maneuver between a public that wants it’s entitlements left alone, a Tea Party faction that has yet to understand that compromise is part of governing and the prospect of throwing our economy and the world economy along with it, into the tailspin that would result if we were actually to default on our Treasury obligations by failing to raise the debt ceiling.

The bottom line on the issue of raising revenues as part and parcel of a debt deal is that opposing such measures is a lose-lose proposition. Republicans came to power in the House in 2010 with the idea that getting the debt under control was one of the most important issues facing the nation today. Few reputable economists have taken the position that the debt could be reduced by spending cuts alone, thus revenue increases of some sort are required. To forgo increased revenue is to fail in the effort to reduce the debt, which for the G.O.P. is a loser. However, to consider revenue increases after having campaigned on no new tax increases of any type is a loser as well and as such any debt deal compromise that includes revenue increases can only be seen as a setback for the Republican Party. But beyond the fortunes of the Republican leadership are those of the Tea Party movement. Any debt deal that contains a significant increase in federal revenues can only be seen as a major setback for the Tea Party movement as well seeing as opposition to increased federal revenue has been a major reason behind the movement since its arrival on the political landscape.

Steven J. Gulitti
7/7/11

Sources:

Sen. Cornyn to Obama: Take Tax Increases Off the Table: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec11/budget_07-05.html

Cracks Emerge in Republican Opposition to Raising Taxes to Curb Deficit: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june11/goptaxes_06-24.html

Americans For Tax Reform: Taxpayer Protection Pledge;

http://www.atr.org/taxpayer-protection-pledge

Obama to Push for Wider Deal With G.O.P. on Deficit Cuts; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/us/politics/07fiscal.html?emc=eta1

Lawmakers Remain Divided on Deficit Fundamentals as Deadline Draws Closer; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec11/deficit_07-06.html

Public Wants Changes in Entitlements, Not Changes in Benefits; GOP Divided Over Benefit Reductions;http://people-press.org/2011/07/07/public-wants-changes-in-entitlements-not-change-in-benefits/

Boehner Must Navigate Rocky Road to a Budget; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/us/politics/25fiscal.html?emc=eta1

The Tea Party, Taxes and Spending Cuts‏

10:48 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

A key goal of the Tea Party movement is the reduction of the national debt and thus the size of government via spending cuts. However, it is highly unlikely that the federal deficit can be reduced through spending cuts alone. That said if the Tea Party movement harbors such a fundamental opposition to tax increases and revenue enhancements and those measures are required in order to effect the deficit reduction they hope to achieve, how can the movement can ever hope to be successful.

It was a perquisite that those seeking Tea Party support in the 2010 elections for the House and Senate sign a statement stating that they would never raise taxes or eliminate tax breaks in attempt to reduce the federal deficit. This may prove a pledge that cannot be kept for those who ultimately want to lower the deficit. Two of the three major deficit reduction panels, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chaired by, Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, co-chaired by former CBO Director Alice Rivlin and retired Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), have both included revenue enhancements as part of deficit reduction. Quoting political reporter Jackie Calmes: “The sponsors of the plans say that the scale of the nation’s fiscal problem is too great to resolve without both raising taxes and cutting projected spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, all popular entitlement programs.” It is these recommendations that are at the center of the bipartisan discussion currently underway in the Senate. While those on the far right will continue to insist that the deficit can be reduced by spending cuts alone, the political reality is that the discussion in Washington has now moved beyond that argument and the facts reveal that there is some degree of bipartisan support for revenue enhancements in any deficit reduction package.

A growing minority within the G.O.P. is also making the case that the projected debt is too big to handle simply by cutting spending. In the run up to the 2010 elections, Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) observed: “Everything has got to be on the table for discussion… “there are a lot of things people are going to have to be educated about, on the spending side as well as the revenue side.” Chambliss is now one of the “Gang of Six” senators involved in negotiations as to how to implement the deficit reduction panel’s proposals. Since the panels findings have made it into the discussion on deficit reduction, Chambliss stated, “We’ve got to have an increase in revenues to be able to retire this debt.” Chambliss appearing on CNN in April said, “Now, if we don’t want to pay the debt back, then we could just not worry about the revenues. But the fact is we’ve got a $14 trillion debt staring us in the face, and revenues have to be on the table if we’re serious about attacking that debt.” Tom Coburn (R-OK), who had been a “Gang of Six” member, has parted company with those who rule out revenue enhancements. Appearing on Meet the Press in April Coburn said that increasing revenues may be required in order to address the deficit issue and in an NPR piece, he indicated that the solution to the deficit problem may involve tax increases. Coburn’s stance has touched off an internecine feud within the ranks of conservatives as well. Grover Norquist of the Americans for Tax Reform, the creators of the anti-tax pledge, criticized Coburn on his change of heart as it relates to tax increases. Coburn in responding to a question on Meet the Press has in turn dismissed Norquist and his organization as being nothing more than just another anti-tax lobbying group: “Which pledge is most important, David, The pledge to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States? Or a pledge from a special interest group who claims to speak for all of American conservatives, when in fact they really don’t?”

Now, even though he seems to have temporarily left the Gang of Six, Coburn continues to point to the need for revenue enhancements. To wit: “But look, realistically we cannot solve our problems unless we generate growth in this country, and the only way we’re going to do that is back off on a lot of regulations, create a tax structure that’s going to cause investment to happen, and get dynamic returns that actually increase the revenues coming to the federal government. We can’t do it all by eliminating large sections and duplicate spending and waste. We can do a large portion of it, but there has to be some revenue component to that, and anybody that says that’s not the case, I think they’re just wrong and they’re not thinking about the long-term health of our country.”  James Thurber, an expert on congressional affairs at American University points out: “It’s significant that both Chambliss and Coburn see increased revenues as part of the solution to chronic deficits… This is the beginning of a crack, which may allow for a deal, Thurber says. “Norquist will try to stop it, and it will be a major confrontation between the Republican senators and Norquist.” Thus while the hot rhetoric flies back and forth on the political street, in the chambers of the Senate, all manner of measures are being considered in deficit reduction strategy sessions.

It’s not only practical politicians on the right who have abandoned the idea that the deficit could be addressed by spending cuts alone, conservative sources outside the Beltway are weighing in on the need for revenue enhancements as well. Quoting David Stockman: “It is obvious that the nation’s desperate fiscal condition requires higher taxes on the middle class, not just the richest 2 percent. Likewise, entitlement reform requires means-testing the giant Social Security and Medicare programs, not merely squeezing the far smaller safety net in areas like Medicaid and food stamps.” The Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel pointed out that the ideas contained in Paul Ryan’s budget plans will actually lead to tax increases due to Ryan’s faulty math and unrealistic assumptions as to what can be done and how. In addition, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation makes the following observation: “Overall, this feed the beast question is the core question that conservatives must answer before taking a position on the role of tax hikes in solving the long-term budget problem. If feed the beast isn’t a problem at all, but you still hold deep to your no tax hike position so as to support fiscal insolvency which would trigger enormous tax hikes, your position is so illogical that you don’t deserve to be part of the debate.” Martin Feldstein, former Reagan Economic Advisor, made the following observation, “Reducing the budget deficit and stopping the explosion of our national debt will require more tax revenue as well as reduced government spending. But the need for more revenue needn’t mean higher tax rates. As the bipartisan fiscal commission appointed by President Obamastressed last year tax revenues can be increased substantially by limiting the deductions, credits and exclusions that are essentially government spending by another name.” Likewise, even the conservative National Journal says that revenue increases have to realistically be on the table.

Are there still those among the newly elected Tea Party caucuses that are insisting on reducing the national debt and the size of government but spending cuts alone, of course there are but their actual influence is now hardly the force it was once thought to be. What is important to note is that these people will not have the final say in the ultimate policy outcome. I predict the scenario will play out as follows. The Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives will continue to clamor for drastic cuts in spending and no increase in taxes or revenues and Speaker Boehner will continue to parrot that line right up until the last minute upon which he will take his proposals to the Senate only to have them rejected. Thereafter, Boehner will return to the House, just as he did during the Continuing Resolution debates, where he will inform the Tea Party crowd that what they had hoped to accomplish is not in the cards politically. Like the situation related to the Continuing Resolution, the final product will be the result of compromise not political extremism and that compromise will be tempered by the fact that the Democrats control the Senate and Obama wields the veto pen. Thus, the only choice that the House Tea Party Caucus will have available to it will be a solution that is quite different from the philosophy of its core beliefs. The ultimate result will be that those who came to Washington with the idea that they could reduce the deficit and size of government by spending cuts alone will be in for a rude awakening sooner rather than later. There is no way that can be seen as good news for the Tea Party. After all, if you cannot come through on one of the single most important planks in your platform, what can you do? Therein lies what could be the single greatest threat to the continued existence of the Tea Party. If you cannot even remotely accomplish that which you set out to achieve, why would anyone continue to be attracted to your core philosophy or vote for your candidates? Hence, the ultimate fallout from this great debate before us on raising the national debt limit and the concomitant discussions related to taxes and spending may very well be the end of the beginning for the Tea Party movement as a force in American politics.

 
 
Steven J. Gulitti
May 23, 2011
 
 
 
Sources:
 
 
Can Deficit Reduction Panels Get Congress’ Attention
 
Obama Deficit Panel Gets Some Competition
 
Jackie Calmes: Deficit Panels Go Where Politicians Won’t
 
‘Gang of Six’ may solve U.S. debt mess
 
On Deficit Proposals, a Failure of Will and Not Ideas
 
Meet the Press – Showdown Over Spending, Room for Compromise?
 
NPR: Conservative Heavyweights Trade Jabs Over Taxes
 
Sen. Coburn: Americans for Tax Reform a Special Interest
 
One-on-One with Senator Tom Coburn
 
Raise Taxes, but Not Tax Rates
 
David Stockman: The Bipartisan March to Fiscal Madness
 
David Wessel: New Proposal Hits Old Hurdles of Budget Math
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703806304576245023533534178.html
 
Tax Foundation: Should Conservatives Favor Tax Hikes to Solve Long-Term Budget Gap? An Outline to Answering the Question