Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tax Adultery

I'm in Washington D.C. right now and so watching MSNBC and Fox News carries a very different significance when your hotel is within walking distance from the Capitol. The Presidential race is heating up now, but something that caught my eye earlier today really interested me. It was about a ongoing spat between tax avenger and government revenue denier Grover Norquist and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, most famous for attacking environmental science and putting phantom holds on bills in the Senate in order to stall and drag down legislation. The issue itself doesn't really matter to me, although I will place the op-ed from the New York Times that was the immediate cause of the spat. What really interested me was the random, bizarre yan na'aburido response that Norquist gave when he was trying to illustrate the dimensions of the fight. In addition to the quote below he also suggested that the Oklahoma Senator had "gone native" or was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

I'll paste it here and then the op-ed afterwards. Buente sina hao muna'klaruyi hao hafa i sinangangan-na gi este:

 “It is like a couple that is having a fight and one of them tries to drag a third party in. Like the preacher who gave a speech last week against adultery. ‘Hey, this is your fault!’  ‘No, no, no! You promised her you would behave, you didn’t promise me. You explain to her why you get to make decisions on adultery.’ ”


Norquist’s Phantom Army

WHEN the antitax lobbyist Grover G. Norquist made a visit to Capitol Hill recently, leading Democrats welcomed the chance to build up their favorite boogeyman. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said Mr. Norquist has “the entire Republican party in the palm of his hand.” A spokeswoman for Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said Mr. Norquist — who is famous for getting lawmakers to pledge not to support tax hikes or deficit reduction that is paired with revenue increases — was coming to give the G.O.P. its “marching orders.” 

But this story is utterly false. 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. While most Republicans do, of course, oppose tax increases, they are hardly the mindless robots Democrats say they are.
What the narrative does, however, is let Democrats off the hook. If they can make out Republicans as uncompromising ideologues, they can continue refusing to offer detailed plans to reform entitlement programs. That is the real obstacle to a grand bargain on spending, not Mr. Norquist’s pledge. 

Consider the evidence: I recently proposed amendments to end tax earmarks for movie producers and the ethanol industry. Mr. Norquist charged that those measures would be tax hikes unless paired with dollar-for-dollar rate reductions. And yet all but six of the 41 Senate Republicans who had signed his pledge voted for my amendments. 

Those 35 Republican pledge-violators are hardly soft on taxes. Rather, they understand that the tax code is riddled with special-interest provisions that are merely spending by another name. If asked to eliminate earmarks for things like Nascar, the tackle-box industry or Eskimo whaling captains — all of which are actual tax “breaks” — most of my colleagues would be embarrassed to demand dollar-for-dollar rate reductions, and rightly so. 

As a result, rather than forcing Republicans to bow to him, Mr. Norquist is the one who is increasingly isolated politically. For instance, while his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, was calling my ethanol amendment a tax hike, the Club for Growth, which is far more influential among conservative lawmakers, endorsed my amendment outright

What’s more, my colleagues have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s demand that Republicans walk away from any grand bargain on the deficit that includes even a penny of new revenue. Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, who calls Mr. Norquist “some random person,” offered to trade revenue increases for entitlement reform in talks with the White House last summer. Republicans on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform made a similar offer, as did Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, during last year’s deficit supercommittee negotiations. My colleagues, by and large, know that doing nothing to confront our fiscal challenges would mean an automatic tax increase and a cut to entitlement programs. 

The problem with the pledge is that it is powerless to prevent future automatic tax increases and has failed to restrain past spending. The “starve the beast” strategy to shrink the size of the federal government by cutting revenue but not spending was a disaster. Every dollar we borrow is a tax increase on the next generation. 

And in a debt crisis, higher interest rates and the debasement of our currency would be additional tax hikes. In that sense, no one is doing more to violate the spirit of the pledge than Mr. Norquist himself, who is asking Republicans to reject the very type of agreement that could prevent future tax increases. 

What unifies Republicans is not Mr. Norquist’s tortured definition of tax purity but the idea of a Reagan- or Kennedy-style tax reform that lowers rates and broadens the tax base by getting rid of loopholes and deductions. It’s true that Republicans would prefer to lower rates as much as possible, and it’s true that Republicans believe smart tax reform will generate more, not less, revenue for the federal government. But Republicans would not walk away from a grand bargain on entitlements and tax reform that would devote a penny of revenue to deficit reduction instead of rate reduction.
Free-market conservatives have repeatedly given openings to Democrats that they have chosen to ignore. The president, for instance, knows that his calls to raise taxes on earnings over $250,000, which follows his gimmicky Buffett Rule, is a nonstarter unless paired with fundamental tax and entitlement reform. 

The majority of Democrats and Republicans understand the severity of our economic challenges. They know they have to put everything on the table and make hard choices. Legislators who would rather foster political boogeymen only delay those critical reforms. 

Tom Coburn is a Republican senator from Oklahoma and the author of “The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America.”

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