Since the beginning of the tax debate, we made sure to refer to the GOP tax pledge as their pledge to constituents, not Grover Norquist. The media has made Norquist out to be some kind of puppet master in the background preventing Republicans from raising taxes. But the truth is that the pledge was never about Norquist or his organization. It represented an affirmation to their constituents that Republicans understood the proper role of government and recognized that current revenues are more than what’s needed to run a constitutionally-sanctioned government.
The reason why it’s important to realize this is because there are many problems with Norquist. He is squishy on many other issues outside of tax policy. In fact, he gave his blessing to the disastrous debt ceiling deal of 2011. Now, he has announced his plans to abjure the one principle he always stood for – not raising taxes. He has bought into the Boehner narrative that their plan to raise taxes for the first time in over two decades is actually a tax cut. Here is the statement released by Americans for Tax Reform:
ATR has consistently maintained that individual Members of Congress make a pledge to their constituents to oppose and vote against tax increases. The House this week will vote on a tax bill. This legislation—popularly known as “Plan B”–permanently prevents a tax increase on families making less than $1 million per year. Republicans supporting this bill are this week affirming to their constituents in writing that this bill—the sole purpose of which is to prevent tax increases—is consistent with the pledge they made to them. In ATR’s analysis, it is extremely difficult—if not impossible—to fault these Republicans’ assertion.
In particular, in this Congress the House has already voted twice to prevent any tax increases on any American. When viewed with this in mind, and considering this tax bill contains no tax increases of any kind—in fact, it permanently prevents them—matters become more clear. Having finally seen actual legislation in writing, ATR is now able to make its determination about a legislative proposal related to the fiscal cliff. ATR will not consider a vote for this measure a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
This statement is outrageous and stupefying. Here are a few things to consider:
There is also a broader point that is being overlooked. This is not about the less than 1% who will see their taxes rise, as supporters of Boehner have suggested. This is about the past and the future. Republicans have gone for two decades without raising taxes. By supporting this bill, which won’t even be the final capitulation and will never become law, Republicans will pave the road for endless tax increases. Once they publicly buy into Obama’s premise, it’s all over. He can demand a balanced approach to the debt ceiling as well, and on some superficial level, it will poll well with the public. And once you raise taxes on those over $1 million, and ultimately, those over $400-500k as part of the final deal, why not raise taxes on those earning more than 200k? Why not raise the gasoline tax? Bill Shuster, the Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is already on record as supporting a gas tax increase.
The bottom line is that Republicans have already publicly agreed to the premise that we need d more revenue and that the first source of that revenue should come from the rich. This vote will remove the dyke that is standing between us and a torrent of tax increases, and vitiate everything the pledge was designed to do.
This was never about Grover, ATR, the rich, or the Bush tax cuts. This is about fundamentally deracinating the last strong principle of the modern day Republican Party in an attempt to inexorably grow the size of government. In that sense, this vote will serve as the most egregious violation of the tax pledge of all time.
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