Last Wednesday, speaking in reference to Grover Norquist’s tax pledge, Senator Saxby Chambliss revealed himself to be a big government statist. Then again, we always knew that.
He told a local TV station that if we hold the line on the anti-tax pledge, “then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”
This line of thought is emblematic of Republicans involved in the Gang of 6 or any other bipartisan gang. It’s not that they feel we need to compromise on taxes in order to get spending cuts. Democrats will never agree to legitimately downsize government in any compromise. It’s that they fundamentally agree with the governing model that has led to annual budgets as large as $3.7 trillion. They believe in the entitlement and welfare society; they believe in the Departments of Energy, Education, and HUD; they believe in a federal government that is unbridled by the Constitution.
To that end, big government Republicans like Chambliss believe that the only way we can balance the budget is by raising taxes. Lindsey Graham is even more agog with glee over his part in the deal. The irony is that even if we acceded to Obama’s tax increases, we would only bump up revenue by $84 billion per year. Remember that the monthly deficit for October was $120 billion. Moreover, as all the high-tax states have proven, we would only recover that revenue the first year. After that, the depressed economic growth would result in a revenue loss.
Saxby’s comments are quite instructive for conservatives as we confront a Republican Party that is committed to capitulation. This imbroglio over the fiscal cliff was never about the budget – spending or revenue. It is about the fundamental role of government in a Constitutional Republic that inherently restrains the size of government. As such, even if raising taxes on the rich would be fair (it’s not; they already pay 37% of the income taxes), and even if it would be economically prudent; it is the wrong thing to do. Any additional revenue would be used to grow the size of government at a time when it needs to be cut in half. On this core issue, Republicans like Chambliss and Graham side with Democrats. We side with the Constitution.
That’s why this has never been about Norquist and his tax pledge. If Democrats would genuinely agree to a deal that would wind down the welfare and entitlement programs and eliminate full departments of the executive branch, conservatives would reluctantly go along with some form of revenue increases. Raising taxes is unfair and counterintuitive, but if that is what it would take to get Democrats to come onboard with our efforts to shrink government, then it would be a deal worth making.
The real narrative here is that Democrats will never agree to downsize the budget in any consequential way. And with Republicans like Saxby Chambliss, why should they?