Human Events Blog

America’s tax-hike destiny

On Monday, Fox News brought more news of Republican softening toward tax increases:

More congressional Republicans are breaking a long-standing pledge to oppose tax increases before returning to Washington on Monday to avert a looming fiscal crisis with a deal that increasingly appears impossible to reach without changes to the tax code.

The decades-old pledge from the Americans for Tax Reform group has been signed by 238 House members and 41 senators in this Congress and has essentially become inescapable for any Republican seeking statewide or national office over recent election cycles, especially in the Republican-controlled lower chamber.

New York Rep. Peter King and Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday they would break the pledge and accept tax changes to generate more revenue to curb the trillion-dollar federal deficit.

Their statements followed a similar one Thursday by Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

“I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss,” King said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. …  The world has changed, and the economic situation is different.”

Well, yes, Rep. King, the world certainly has changed.  One major way it changed is that Barack Obama spent a titanic amount of money America doesn’t have.  The mountain of debt he created has now become irresistible pressure for tax increases.  It’s the teenager-with-a-credit-card school of governance: huge balances are racked up with wild spending sprees, leaving Mom and Pop America with no choice but to take a second job when the bills come due.

That’s one reason the notion of a “balanced budget” without hard spending caps is an absurd fantasy.  Deficit spending is a win-win for Big Government acolytes.  It gives them plenty of money to buy votes and consolidate power… and when the fiscal consequences of their policies become too dire to ignore, they’ve got a better-than-average chance of grabbing even more power through tax increases.  They don’t pay a price for their profligate spending – they are more commonly rewarded for it.  It’s not hard to assemble a tough electoral coalition of government dependents and armchair class warriors to make tax increases the only “solution” palatable to voters.  They’ll give some lip service to spending cuts, but Republicans have been reliably foolish enough to make deals in which those spending cuts happen in the “out years,” i.e. never.

Another Republican who now finds it fashionable to disavow that no-new-taxes pledge is Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who told Charlie Rose in a CBS interview, “The only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve when I’m sworn in this January.”  That’s the purest, fastest, most complete rejection of campaign pledges as meaningless noise meant to win the support of foolish voters that I’ve ever heard.  Never mind anything they say during the campaign, folks.  The only thing that matters is the literal text of their oath of office… which turns out to contain a lot of “grey areas,” too.  For example, the Senate oath of office evidently doesn’t say anything about going four years without an actual budget for the federal government.

Corker also dropped this howler on Charlie Rose: “No Congress in history is more prepared to make these decisions.  The last thing we need to do right now is kick the can down the road or create some process for next year.”  On the contrary, few Congresses have felt less pressure to make a tough decision.  They’re going to pass some tax increases that will combine with Taxmageddon and the ObamaCare tax hikes to shove America into a recession, coupled with some accounting tricks and vague promises of ten-year spending reductions that will become null and void the instant the next Congress convenes.

President Obama just won re-election with a combination of baby talk about Big Bird, bayonets, and binders full of women, coupled with the ruthless assassination of his opponent’s character.  He knows he presides over a deeply un-serious electorate.  They’ll be perfectly satisfied with the standard ritual soaking of the faceless Evil Rich.  They’ll be so busy applauding the President’s soothing talk of “deficit reduction” that they’ll scarcely notice the national debt keeps increasing.

It’s clear that Republicans feel an overwhelming need to make a deal that gives Obama and the Democrats the tax increases they crave.  The GOP leadership is burning that no-new-taxes pledge to send smoke signals to the White House.  They see formidable media and electoral terrain ahead, including the fearsome drumbeat of “Republican obstructionism,” which Mitt Romney didn’t do much to combat during his presidential campaign.  The public remains largely unaware of the huge pile of pro-growth bills from the GOP House gathering dust on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s desk.  Most of the public has no idea that Reid is the one killing all these bills – they don’t know how Congress works, and the Republicans have not taken advantage of the rare media opportunity afforded by a presidential campaign to educate them.  There are polls that say more Americans blame Republicans for the “fiscal cliff,” and even Republican voters want some mixture of tax increases and spending cuts to avoid it.

This is really all just wreckage from the last battle Republicans lost, during the 2008 election.  They lost control of the “financial metldown” narrative, which really should have been a death blow to the Democrats, given that their fingerprints were all over the policies that produced the subprime mortgage meltdown.  This led to a big-spending, bailout-happy liberal President, whose irresponsibility created a burden that responsible American taxpayers will now be expected to shoulder.  Higher taxes – yes, very much including higher taxes on the Sainted Middle Class – have been our destiny for the past four years; our last chance to write a different destiny has passed.

Our best hope is that Republicans are planning to drive some hard bargains for the tax increases they have signaled their willingness to accept.  And let’s stop indulging the silly fantasy that those tax increases will come from ending a few deductions in the name of “tax simplification.”  That’s not going to provide the bloody millionaire scalps Obama needs to wave in front of his voters.  Hopefully the tax increases can be limited to actual millionaires, thus mitigating – if not completely eliminating – the economic damage, and in return fiscal conservatives are able to dismantle the machinery that builds the deadly combination of debt and dependency that has locked us into a death spiral.

And when Obama’s tax-raising deal doesn’t work, let us hope Republicans are able to unite around articulate conservative candidates who can explain precisely why.  Let no American remain confused, in 2014 and 2016, about why tax increases never pull in the promised revenue, how high taxes stifle economic growth, and how the road to the “fiscal cliff” is paved with high spending, not low taxes.

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