For the record, I am not a big fan of signing pledges. It may sound grand to include oneself in opposing this or that policy by signing a pledge, but extenuating circumstances can, and do, arise. This is a fact of life and it has a a habit of raising its ugly head, when you least need it to appear. As we are seeing in Washington, Grover Norquist’s “no new tax” pledge is getting in the way of any possible compromise that may be brokered between the Republicans and Democrats on how to avoid the fiscal cliff we are facing at the beginning of 2013.
A couple of quick points I want to make. First, I am firmly against raising taxes. Far too often, raising taxes is used as the first line of defense against any fiscal calamity our country may be facing. It should be the last thing in our arsenal. Second, I do believe we need to consider all our options, in any efforts we make to find a compromise and reduce or eliminate the chances we have of going off the fiscal cliff. That just makes sense, both as a member of either of the two political parties involved, and as someone who wants to see America turn itself away from fiscal disaster.
Several GOP lawmakers are beginning to realize a compromise must be reached and they are publicly breaking with Grover Norquist and saying they will consider breaking the tax pledge, if conditions are right and a compromise can be reached. Three of the most high-profile Republicans are Senators Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham and Representative Peter King.
(Fox News) 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.”
The New York congressman said he was opposed to tax increases but that “everything should be on the table” when President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid try to broker a deal.
“I’m not going to prejudge it, and I’m just saying we should not be taking ironclad positions,” King added. “I have faith that John Boehner can put together a good package.”
In theory, I agree with what these Republicans are saying. We do live in a different environment, both fiscally and politically. Anyone who believes we can change our path without some form of compromise is deluding themselves. That said, I want to quote more of what Senator Lindsey Graham has been saying, some of which is troubling to me.
Graham has suggested earlier that he would be open to changes in taxes but repeated Sunday only if Democrats are willing to cut federal spending by scaling back entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
“I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
He also said the only pledge that should be made when the country is trillions in debt is to “avoid becoming Greece.”
“Republicans should put revenue on the table,” he continued. “We don’t generate enough revenue.”
However, Graham said he agrees with pledge champion Grover Norquist that tax rates should not be increases and instead suggested generating revenue through capping tax deductions.
I agree with everything in the quote, except for where he says we do not generate enough revenue. I wholeheartedly reject the idea that the fiscal troubles we are in are directly related to the federal government not having enough revenue. What we have is a spending problem, not a revenue problem. I believe it is a mistake for us to go into any negotiations with that premise. It puts us at a disadvantage from the start and will make it very difficult to achieve the only thing that is going to fix our fiscal problems, long-term. We have to address our spending problems. A note to Democrats, that means we have to cut spending in real dollars, today. Not over a ten-year period, but today. Raising more revenue now, either by raising taxes or by reforming the tax code, and cutting spending in the future is not my idea of a compromise that the GOP should be interested in.