Ross Kaminsky @ The American Spectator:
Apparently Rex Nutting didn’t get the memo. Nutting, a Marketwatch columnist who is the poster child for the maxim that a master’s degree doesn’t mean you actually know what you’re talking about, lists Grover Norquist eighth on his list of “10 people who led us to the ‘fiscal cliff.’” Eighth!
By listing Mr. Norquist, the President of Americans for Tax Reform and perhaps the most successful individual bulwark against higher income tax rates for two decades, behind former President George W. Bush and the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors in terms of responsibility for the “fiscal cliff,” Nutting has obviously missed the talking points that Democrats are trumpeting and useful idiots are parroting.
Sadly, by “useful idiots” I don’t mean the media, whose complicity in the growth of government is perennial, as much as I mean gullible Republicans, desperately seeking to be seen as participating in “cooperation” and “balance,” code words which mean today what they always mean: Republicans buying into Democrat proposals and getting little or nothing in return.
The biggest arrow in Grover Norquist’s quiver is the Taxpayer Protection Pledge which ATR asks candidates to sign, and which most Republicans do indeed agree to with at least superficial enthusiasm. By signing, politicians promise to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and… oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”
In the upcoming 113th Congress, there are 219 Representatives and 39 Senators who have signed the pledge. With the exception of Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ), all the signers are Republicans. Sixteen GOP House members have not signed, along with six GOP senators although at least two (Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tom Barrasso of Wyoming) are not likely to succumb to the worst of Potomac Fever.
Unfortunately, several of those who have signed are now showing indications of Gelatinous Spine Syndrome, a Republican-selective symptom of Potomac Fever which precedes total collapse of both spine and cerebrum and allows a senator to be elected in Maine. Republican senators who are walking away from their “no tax increase” pledge include not just the usual suspects such as Lindsey Graham (SC) and John McCain (AZ), but relative newcomers to such intense levels of squish, such as Bob Corker (TN) and Saxby Chambliss (GA). Even Jeff Sessions, usually more reliable than other veteran GOP senators, seems to be mistaking “the political reality of the president’s victory” for a non-existent mandate to implement highly destructive tax policy. Political epidemiologists are very worried about the spread of the disease from the Northeast into the previously resistant South.
Republican House Leadership has only been slightly better, with Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH) saying he opposes tax rate hikes, but being open to “putting revenue on the table.” And of course, we will all be persistently reminded by a helpful media that a year ago Boehner called Norquist “some random person.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA) is trying to thread the narrowest of needles, saying “When I go to the constituents that have reelected me, it is not about that pledge. It really is about trying to solve problems.” One wonders whether the air in the MSNBC studio confused Rep. Cantor; after all, what real problem can be solved by draining the private sector of much-needed capital in order to enable the spending addiction of our federal government?
I may be projecting, but is the nation not hungering for leaders who would fit ESPN commentator Jon Gruden’s description of Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid: “He does not feel pressure; he applies it”? Apparently our “leading” politicians don’t have the courage to find out.
Senator Corker, in an effort to appear to be showing leadership (“let’s hurry up and compromise!”), is proposing a bill which he expects to raise $1 trillion in revenue (over a decade) as part of a $4.5 trillion deficit reduction package. One of the keystone revenue boosters is a provision that would cap federal income tax deductions at $50,000 per year for high-income Americans.
To be sure, Corker’s plan has plenty of meritorious items, including gradually increasing the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security as well as changing the inflation measure used for many cost-of-living increases to entitlements.
But capping at such a low level the deductibility of mortgage interest and charitable contributions, just to name two big-ticket deductions for the well-heeled, is a mistake that will have several large unintended negative consequences.