Economics, Taxes and Spending

4 reasons Americans for Tax Reform’s pledge might be in trouble

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore (Flickr) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore (Flickr) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The political world is abuzz with talk of Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform’s downfall. Publicly, Norquist expresses confidence that the pledge’s signatories will hold firm. As he is wont to say, this isn’t his first rodeo — and people have been calling for the end of the pledge for a very long time without success. He recently told BuzzFeed that, “we went through all of 2011” hearing how the debt ceiling would mean “the pledge was going to be broken,” which of course it was not. And there are strong reasons to suspect that Norquist and ATR will emerge from this latest bout unscathed once again.

But there are also reasons to think that this time is different. Here are 4 reasons why ATR’s pledge might be toast.

  1. The election. It’s a truism that “elections have consequences,” and 2012 was no different. President Obama won reelection convincingly while explicitly campaigning on a promise to raise taxes on the wealthy. While the concept of an electoral “mandate” is a slippery one, if it is possible to get one, Obama has it on the issue of taxes. Moreover, fresh off victories in both houses of Congress, congressional Democrats aren’t likely to feel like compromising, either.
  2. The polls. A large majority of Americans want Congress to solve the fiscal cliff through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. A recent CNN poll reaffirms this feeling, with 67% in favor of a solution which includes tax increases. That’s a pretty clear majority.
  3. The blame. That same CNN poll found that 45% of Americans would blame congressional Republicans for a failure to avert the fiscal cliff while only 34% would blame President Obama. A Pew poll taken right after the election found an even worse result for Republicans, with 53% saying they would blame Republicans in Congress and only 29% President Obama. Given the fiscal cliff’s enormous impact on our economy (it’s likely to tip us into a recession), being blamed for it is not something Republicans want to deal with.
  4. The moment. When Norquist says that this isn’t his first rodeo, that’s very true—he’s been running ATR for a long, long time with great success. But the nation has never been in as dire financial straits as it is right now. Given the enormity of our fiscal challenges and the consequences should we fail to address them, it’s safe to say that the paradigm has shifted in ways that simply didn’t hold true prior to the Great Recession. Put another way, the gargantuan nature of our problems will force lawmakers to consider policies which they never would have embraced in the good years. Tax hikes are one of these.

None of this is to say that Republicans will vote en masse to raise taxes. A whopping 93% of House Republicans have signed Norquist’s pledge and all GOP lawmakers look back on George H.W. Bush’s “read my lips” lesson from 1992 with fear. But after having narrowed the GOP majority in the House and expanded their majority in the Senate, Democrats won’t need to pick all that many Republicans off in order to get their way. We may see a similar scenario to the Bush tax cuts, when Republicans were able to win over a few Democrats to get that policy over the finish line.

As a final note, check out this tweet from Erick Erickson, a prominent conservative activist.

15 thoughts on “4 reasons Americans for Tax Reform’s pledge might be in trouble

  1. It must be fun being a Democrat. Time after time Republicans fall for the “if you raise taxes, then we’ll reduce spending” ploy. But spending just goes up and up. It’s like being Lucy with the football and watching Charlie Brown fall on his butt every time.

  2. Good post I agree, and I would add a fifth point, that the Bush Tax Cuts which have been in place for some time are widely recognized to having contributed to the un-manageability of existing federal budget deficits, and that to resolve the issue both tax revenues and budget cuts will be required.
    Further that the GOP by refusing to raise taxes on the wealthy have put themselves on the wrong side of the issue with the public.
    At one time, a decade ago, the GOP could argue that lower taxes on the wealthy will spur job creation, but history has proved that argument wrong, hence the public is no longer convinced by that argument and showed their will in the recent election.
    The public decided that Republicans were being unreasonable in the fight over raising the budget deficit last year, and this publicly held view about the un-reasonableness of Republicans on the issue of taxes also allowed Obama to run with the promise of raising taxes and win his re-election.

      • You make a futile point. When will the US government be able to stop spending? Not in any foreseeable future.

        But what the Federal government spends on is important and is in play in our ongoing political life.

        Democrats want less spending on pointless wars started by the lying Bush administration, Romney and GOP candidates promised more continuation of the war spending policies the public on balance does not want.

        Democrats want less spending on every weapons systems dreamt up, particularly systems the Pentagon does not want, while Republicans promised a huge increase in weapons and defense spending.

        Democrats want more money from taxes on people and corporations who can afford it, Republicans advanced the proven fallacy that lower taxes on the wealthy is an aid to job creation.

        Democrats by in large won their elections, while Republicans who expected to win the White House and control of the Senate, lost. Democrats even won seats in the House of Representatives, and all of these wins came at a time when in terms of the cycle, Republicans had fewer vulnerabilities in terms of the seats that were up for election.

        So your side lost, your view that spending is solely the problem and that the entire fix can be done with spending cuts lost.

        • You make a futile point. When will the US government be able to stop spending? Not in any foreseeable future.

          It will stop spending when the bond market has finally had enough and foreigners will no longer put up with monetization of debt. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for Americans most central banks are playing the same game as the Fed and want to see their currencies destroyed faster than the USD. That may buy some time but in the end savers and the middle class will be destroyed by the spending policies that Democrats and Republicans support.

        • Yes, our side lost. Reality never has polled very well. I used to ask my kids to choose between doing homework or going out for ice cream. Ice Cream won every time.

          • Yes, our side lost….

            When you have a choice between a Hitler and a Stalin nobody wins. I suspect that Americans are about to find that out.

        • The “war” spending was never as great as Democrats advertised – and the war is real (Benghazi and Obama’s CYA campaign showed that), not some concoction of Bush.

          Virtually all government spending is on entitlements – all of which are already bankrupt, all of which the Democrats have tenaciously fought for. And the futility of their fight is becoming more obvious.

          The fact remains increasing taxes decreases revenue because it’s NOT government’s money to begin with. When they cut taxes revenue went up – always.

          • The “war” spending was never as great as Democrats advertised – and the war is real (Benghazi and Obama’s CYA campaign showed that), not some concoction of Bush.

            Given the fact that when we add up the money used by DoD, VA, CIA, DHS, military aid, off balance sheet war funding, etc, you find it adding up to around half of the tax revenues that come in how can you argue that the spending is not as “great as Democrats advertised.” You could argue that Democrats are underestimating the extent of the expenditures but I do not believe that is the argument that you are trying to make.

            Virtually all government spending is on entitlements – all of which are already bankrupt, all of which the Democrats have tenaciously fought for. And the futility of their fight is becoming more obvious.

            But as I pointed out above, that is clearly not the case.

            The fact remains increasing taxes decreases revenue because it’s NOT government’s money to begin with. When they cut taxes revenue went up – always.

            That may be true but there is no way that you can argue to continue wasteful military spending when the US spends more than the next dozen or so nations combined.

  3. LOL…The GOP has decided that it has to give in to pressure and forget about principles yet again. But wasn’t that the reason why it lost the election in the first place? Romney was chosen because it wanted someone who could defeat Obama rather than someone who could use logic and reason to lay out a principled stand that would resonate with voters. The way I see it, the GOP stands at a very dangerous place at this moment in history. If it takes a stand it will get slagged by the lefty press and the principled libertarians who will point out that the positions the party has taken are not consistent with fiscal prudence.

    • Romney in fact did lay out a plan that resonated with voters – it’s why the Mainstream Media admitted he won the debates. The Democrats won the election solely by an unexpected (even by Democrats) slacker vote.

      • Romney had no cuts in his plan. The spending went up. The ‘cuts’ were only from the baseline budget and had nothing to do with the actual spending. Romney argued for more military spending and more war. That is why the independents went to Obama; the GOP made him look like the peace candidate.

        This is the problem with AEI and most of its readers. They are military Keynesians who talk a good game but turn their back on the principles that they talk about. Both parties deserve to disappear but for some reason the GOP is closer to the abyss than the Democrats. Given the fact that the ancestors of the GOP, the Federalists and the Whigs both went the way of the dodo that would not be as big a surprise as many would think.

  4. Grover,you are a sick egocentric racist tool.what gives you the ability to see in the future? What is a your salary?Reagan was a for the right wing. he was a sick old man long before his condition became public knowledge.

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