The deficit ’supercommittee’ and the taxpayer pledge

It appears there’s a reason Democrats have held up Grover Norquist and his “taxpayer protection pledge” as the obstacle to all that is good and fiscally responsible in Washington. That reason? They didn’t want Republicans to call their bluff, and show there isn’t a “party of no” approach to taxes holding up a deal.

First, a bit of background about Norquist, who leads a conservative advocacy group called Americans for Tax Reform. He and ATR are famous for enforcing a pledge not to raise taxes, one signed by many Republicans with eyes for state or federal office, including dozens in Georgia.

As President Barack Obama and members of Congress have debated how to solve the budget crisis, Norquist’s name has been invoked repeatedly. Not so much by Republicans trying to explain why they can’t raise taxes, but rather by Democrats who claim the GOP won’t risk stoking Norquist’s ire.

That notion hasn’t played out at the state level, at least not in Georgia. Seventy state legislators had signed the pledge as of February 2009: All but three voted for the fiscal 2010 budget, which eliminated tax relief grants for homeowners, and 48 of them voted for the hospital bed tax last year. The percentages were actually a bit worse among those who were still pledge signatories as of last month. Yet, just one of the 70 lost in a GOP primary.

At the federal level, Democrats who decry the pledge might do as much as anyone, Norquist included, to inflate its importance. That’s a mighty curious and counterproductive thing to do, if they truly are serious about working with Republicans to close the deficit.

One day, however, Norquist’s spell — or the appearance thereof — was bound to be broken. That day came last week, when GOP members of the congressional “supercommittee,” formed as part of the debt-ceiling deal and tasked with cutting deficits by $1.2 trillion during the next decade, said they offered $500 billion in revenue increases.

Half of those increases would come from capping deductions for individual taxpayers. Republicans — and Norquist — have long insisted on offsetting such increases with lower tax rates. Generally speaking, I favor that approach, too, though I recognize that some deductions are so narrowly tailored that they could be considered subsidies buried in the tax code.

But the GOP offer included only a partial offset, putting $250 billion toward deficit reduction. (Most of the rest of the $500 billion would come from asset sales.)

Since that first report, other figures have been bandied about regarding exactly how big a tax hike is being discussed. But two things have been clear all along: First, the GOP was indeed talking about a tax hike, despite the specter of Norquist. Second, it was a more Democrat-friendly offer, in the ratio of tax hikes to spending cuts, than Obama received, and ignored, from his own bipartisan debt commission.

All in all, it was an offer that stood to tick off Republicans’ Taxed Enough Already base — even though it was also an offer made public by freshman Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, past president of the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, and previewed favorably in the Wall Street Journal by Stephen Moore, Toomey’s predecessor at the Club for Growth.

Yet, it was an offer supercommittee Democrats rejected out of hand.

For months, we’ve heard Democrats describe their supposed willingness to make cuts — reductions in future spending growth, really — to the budget-busting trio of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

All they needed, they said, were Republicans willing to meet them part of the way with tax hikes. Never mind that Speaker John Boehner agreed to hundreds of billions of dollars in tax hikes during this summer’s debt-ceiling talks, only for Obama to up the ante and ask for more.

Well, those Republicans showed up. And Democrats threatened to walk away.

Add in the gimmickry the supercommittee Democrats are trying to pass off as spending cuts, such as savings from a war in Iraq that is ending anyway, and we see the reason an anti-tax pledge caught on in the first place:

The tax hikes are always more real than the cuts.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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57 comments Add your comment

Fast and Furious Spending

November 17th, 2011
5:30 am

The tax hikes are always more real than the cuts.

Thomas-Sowell-esque in perfectly nailing the truth that Democrats won’t want anyone to know. Good observation, Kyle.

I hope conservatives win this minor battle prior to the big one next year.

Bart Abel

November 17th, 2011
5:49 am

That day came last week, when GOP members of the congressional “supercommittee,” formed as part of the debt-ceiling deal and tasked with cutting deficits by $1.2 trillion during the next decade, said they offered $500 billion in revenue increases…But the GOP offer included only a partial offset, putting $250 billion toward deficit reduction.

Supercommittee Democrats were right to reject this offer out of hand. Why? Because the offer was $250 billion in revenue increases toward deficit reduction in exchange for making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Making the Bush tax cuts permanent would increase deficits by trillions.

An offer to cut the deficit by billions in exchange for increasing the deficit by trillions should be rejected out of hand, and with such offers, its hard to take Republican claims of fiscal responsibility seriously.

Bart Abel

November 17th, 2011
6:13 am

Politico…

“Still, they (Democrats) were demanding several significant changes, including for the GOP to drop proposed benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare and calls to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts. Republicans immediately dismissed the plan as a ’step backward,’ attacking Democrats for seeking $300 billion in spending on jobs measures (which are paid for) and for opposing their plans to make the Bush tax cuts permanenthttp://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/68550.html#ixzz1dxZYCbva

Sounds like Republicans on the deficit reduction super-committee didn’t get the memo about, you know, reducing the deficits.

ByteMe

November 17th, 2011
6:32 am

Kyle tells only half the truth.

Ronnie Raygun

November 17th, 2011
7:01 am

“Seventy state legislators had signed the pledge as of February 2009: All but three voted for the fiscal 2010 budget, which eliminated tax relief grants for homeowners,”

Of course the “no new taxes” Republicans raised taxes on working people. They are only against raising taxes on the idle rich.Gotta protect those 1%er trust-fund babies.

DeborahinAthens

November 17th, 2011
7:04 am

It’s so simple. 1) Raise the normal retirement age for those born after 1970 to age 70. This gives them plenty of time to plan their retirement. 2) Get rid of the Social Security income tax ceiling. right now it is $106,000.00. These two moves would essentially fix SS. 3) Give the states a flat stipend for Medicaid. Once they use it, too bad. 4) repeal the Bush tax cuts. This would go a long way towards ending the deficit over the next 10 years. Bush was told the tax cuts would cause massive deficits and he did it anyway. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Repugs have to admit it and move on. Also, if the capital gains rates were more onerous (and I am an investor) , you would most likely see less volatility in the stock market. Before a “trader” pulled the plug on a position, he/she would think twice. 5) Beef up military spending where we need it and slash it where we don’t. Too many chicken hawks that don’t know their a#*s from their elbows are making decisions. Because of this, the real threats to our security (cyber crime, terrorists) are a growing danger. There are other very controversial things that will never even be spoken on Capital Hill, but I throw them out. 1) Pay for birth control for women living in poverty–make it mandatory if they are on welfare. Norplants would go a long way to eradicating most of drain on our ever scarcer resources. 2) Stop the rhetoric about death squads and have honest discussions about the end of life issues. We do NOT have the resources to continue this way. I read that 80% of our health care costs go to pay for people over 75. It is no longer fiscally possible to do hip replacements on 80 year old people ( and I am OLD). If you want a replacement and you can pay for it yourself…go for it. And here is another one. Taking extradinary measures to save people, babies included, that will certainly have no quality of life needs to stop. Just because we can do fantastic things doesn’t mean we should, we cannot afford it.

jt

November 17th, 2011
7:04 am

Regardless, the middle-class will continue to be ground into Washington fertilizer between the two mill-stones of taxation and inflation.
.
They will never stop seizing and spending until forced too.
.
1.2 Trillion over ten years is so insulting that its funny…………but the joke is on us.

@@

November 17th, 2011
7:21 am

The U.S. Treasury Department reported on Wednesday that as of the close of business on Tuesday the federal government’s debt had exceeded $15 trillion for the first time in the nation’s history–hitting precisely $15,033,607,255,920.32.

Given that the Census Bureau estimates there were approximately 76,089,045 families in the United States in 2010, the federal debt equals approximately $197,579 for each American family.

What I could’ve done with $197,579. It’s as though I’ve only paid the principle on my mortgage, when in fact, it was paid off long ago.

Streetracer

November 17th, 2011
7:42 am

@@:

To me at least, an interesting side note to that. In the fall of 2006, National debt was somethng around 65% of GDP. It is now around 100% (somebody with better research skills than mine can find actual numbers). Pretty good growth.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 17th, 2011
7:57 am

Bush was told the tax cuts would cause massive deficits and he did it anyway. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
———-

And yet your boy king fought to get them extended.

Streetracer

November 17th, 2011
8:06 am

Repeal the Bush tax cuts? NO!! The US already has a more progressive tax system than France or Germany, and more reliance on tax revenue than either. At least part of the solution is to repeal various loop-holes. US tax code and promulgated rules totals 72,000 pages. France? Less than 2000. See the problem?

BlahBlahBlah

November 17th, 2011
8:07 am

Tax “purity” pledges and desires for balanced budget amendments are foolish.

Streetracer

November 17th, 2011
8:08 am

“on tax revenue” should have been “on income tax revenue”.

Gramps

November 17th, 2011
8:19 am

DeborahInAthens,
In the spirit of cooperation and respect that I wish we could see in Washington, as a Conservative, I will say I largely agree with your above statement. Lots of hard choices to be made, but that is why we elected them. And everybody can get some things while everybody will have to give up some things. That is life and it’s not always fair nor kind.

If we could break their pride long enough for these politicians to see how they are destroying our nation, perhaps we could realize some actual statesmanship. Until then, we are going to see continual bickering all the way to the end of our great nation.

carlosgvv

November 17th, 2011
8:37 am

The real question is – what kind of politicians would allow themselves to be bullied into signing any pledge by someone like Norquist? Statesman is a word that does NOT come to mind.

JF McNamara

November 17th, 2011
8:39 am

Why are you wasting ink on this? Its not 3 minutes before the deadline, so you don’t know what is really going to happen. Until the brinkmanship strategy starts, they are just talking, and are not going to make a deal.

Road Scholar

November 17th, 2011
8:46 am

Deborah: Good post! Add take away the mortgage interest deductions for more than one home. Maybe even limit it based on income.

MarkV

November 17th, 2011
8:55 am

The gist of Kyle’s argument is simple, clear – and ridiculous. When some Republicans are willing to break their stupid, irresponsible pledge, the Democrats should accept any proposal the Republicans make.

joe

November 17th, 2011
9:01 am

Solution to USA’s fiscal crisis: Social Security: raise retirement age. Medicare: have not only death panels, but death camps, dammit. (and death taxes too).

I’m sick of folks gettin all this high livin for free.

ragnar danneskjold

November 17th, 2011
9:06 am

Fast and Furious got it right @ 5:30, excellent essay. Sadly democrats are wholly incapable of passing a budget, much less one that restrains spending.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 17th, 2011
9:07 am

I’m sick of folks gettin all this high livin for free.
———-

They’re not. It’s their money, not the government’s.

jconservative

November 17th, 2011
9:11 am

“And yet your boy king fought to get them extended.”

Agreed. And that was dumb, dumb, dumb.

MarkV

November 17th, 2011
9:21 am

DeborahinAthens @7:04 am: “It is no longer fiscally possible to do hip replacements on 80 year old.”

A faulty, simplistic argument. The cost of the procedure is much lower than the long-term care for the disabled – yearly savings up to ten times of the cost of the procedure have been estimated. Unless you want to argue that we should just kill the old people who need the new hip.

DannyX

November 17th, 2011
9:26 am

The Bush/Obama tax cuts don’t need to be repealed, just let them expire. The super committee should also fail to reach an agreement so the automatic cuts take place.

7 trillion dollar deficit reduction!

Go big Congress! Do nothing.

Aquagirl

November 17th, 2011
9:28 am

All they needed, they said, were Republicans willing to meet them part of the way with tax hikes

I really don’t think the Democrats had things in mind like elimination of the mortgage deduction while lowering rates for top earners and keeping the Bush tax cuts.

This Grover Norquist farce has been grinding on for years, until LAST WEEK the Republicans were sticking with cuts only. And Kyle offers this as proof they’re reasonable, sane people who can be dealt with. H3ll no.

jconservative

November 17th, 2011
9:30 am

The idea that the Republicans spent the summer fighting for a $4 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years and are now fighting for cuts of $1.2 trillion over 10 years is a joke worthy of “Saturday Night Live”. Talk about a butt kicking.

As @@ points out the national debt is now $15 trillion. How is $120 billion a year in spending cuts going to stop the growth of the deficit and pay off the national debt?

Folks we spent $454 billion for interest on the national debt in FY 2011.

I really hope the “supercommittee” fails and the automatic cuts go into effect. There are some “sacred cows” in the auto cuts that need to be bled. Besides, watching the Republicans fight to prevent the auto cuts would be wonderful entertainment.

Streetracer

November 17th, 2011
9:41 am

Some specific numbers from an opion piece in the 10/31/11 issue of Time. US receives 41% of revenue from individual income taxes (Germany – 29%; France – 21%). Top 10% of earners in US pay 45% of total revenue (Germany – 31%; France – 28%). Does anyone else see a problem with this sort of tax distribution?

JDW

November 17th, 2011
9:47 am

@Kyle…”Never mind that Speaker John Boehner agreed to hundreds of billions of dollars in tax hikes during this summer’s debt-ceiling talks, only for Obama to up the ante and ask for more.”

Now see that’s not the way I remember it. As I remember it Boehner and Obama agreed to approximately a $4 Trillion package with $1 Trillion in revenue increases and the Tea Party nixed the deal calling into question The Speaker’s ability to control his caucus.

JDW

November 17th, 2011
9:51 am

@Streetracer…”Does anyone else see a problem with this sort of tax distribution?”

Not really since you somehow forgot about the 17% to 20% VAT tax individual’s pay on everything they purchase in those countries. Sort of runs those numbers up a bit don’t ya’ think :roll:

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 17th, 2011
9:52 am

Talk about a butt kicking.
———

Why waste time proposing big cuts when the Senate and White House are controlled by liberal fascists?

Americans will finish in 2012 what they started in November 2010…returning control of the government to people who love their country.

Streetracer

November 17th, 2011
9:58 am

JDW:

But VAT’s are regressive, not progressive. That is, people with lower incomes pay a higher percentage of earnings (in total taxes) than the more affluent. Still seems to me that we have a more “progressive” tax system.

John

November 17th, 2011
9:58 am

Kyle,

Perhaps you should do a little more research….what politicians say in public and what they say and do in private are 2 different things. According to Grover Norquist as reported by The Hill…’“It’s not written down. It’s a negotiating position. It won’t pass the House or the Senate. I’ve talked to the House leadership and the Senate leadership. They’re not going to be passing any tax increases,” Norquist told The Hill on Monday.’

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/193625-norquist-gop-leaders-promised-me-no-new-taxes

getalife

November 17th, 2011
10:04 am

May God bless the patriotic American people standing up on Wall Street today.

jconservative

November 17th, 2011
10:04 am

Streetracer @ 9:41-

Good point.

We have spent the last 30 years digging our own grave. 30 years ago we decided that we could drastically increase spending and cut revenue at the same time. But the feeling was deficits are OK.
Besides the revenue cuts put money in every taxpayers pocket. And no one is going to vote against more money in their pocket.

After about 20 years we decided that was not good enough. So we increased spending even more and decreased revenue even more and created the “super deficit”.

Then we decided to fight a couple of wars and pay for those wars with borrowed money.”Hey buddy, can you spare a dime?”

So we owe $15 trillion. And we have apparently decided to pay off the debt by a modest cut in spending. We will still be creating more debt. But a tad less than previous years.

And we are told that will make everything allright.

And the great majority will fall for the line just like they have for the last 30 years.

We not only dug our own grave, we are falling into it.

joe

November 17th, 2011
10:10 am

The secret word today is cyclical growth. Growth will save everyone and things will be like they were in the fifties.

Ah, it’s gonna be great folks.

getalife

November 17th, 2011
10:24 am

Funny, while the cons cry about corruption, real Americans are protesting for two months straight trying to get our country back.

So cons, since you continue to bow down, stop crying about corruption until you join them.

Republican Back Stabbers

November 17th, 2011
10:38 am

A republican senator has found a clich in the Norquist tax pledge making it NULL AND VOID.

It is over for the republicans and Norquist – your own party has stabbed you in the back!

IS ANYONE SURPRISED?

Scooter

November 17th, 2011
10:40 am

Getalife, I hope you’re doing well.

Does it seem counter productive to advocate giving politicians ever more power over private sector wealth creation and then complain about corruption? That’s the biggest thing I don’t understand about the OWS movement.

Republican Back Stabbers

November 17th, 2011
10:40 am

@Lil’ Barry Bailout (Revised Downward) November 17th, 2011 9:52 am

Republican Back Stabbers

November 17th, 2011
10:44 am

@@Lil’ Barry Bailout (Revised Downward) November 17th, 2011 9:52 am

****************************************************************************
Lil’ Barry Bailout (Revised Downward) November 17th, 2011 5:43 am
GOOD LUCK! Don’t catch a cold!
——————–

D*mn Lil Biddy Barry you are blogging at (5:43 a.m.)?

YOU ARE OBSESSED WITH OBAMA. You must have a thing for him? MMMMmmmm.

YOU LOVE TO TALK ABOUT THAT VANILLA MAN DON’T YOU?

MMMmmmmmm

redneckbluedog

November 17th, 2011
10:47 am

I just enjoy seeing you conservatives defending Pat Toomey’s tax attack on the middle class………..:-)…It’s hilarious…The GOP bought in to that Tpary BS about cutting the deficit, so they went along with the “trigger” cuts for defense contractors….Now, they’ve decided that they don’t want to cut spending for 1/2 of their base constituency (defense contractors), nor do they want to raise taxes on the other half (the 1%)…..So..let’s just attack middle class homeowners, senior citizens, veterans, and children……I just don’t see how Republicans can get much more unpopular with the American people than they are right now….except maybe were they to take showers with boys at Penn State….UUUhhhhhh, the next time Paul Ryan or Pat Toomey has an idea, they should just do the opposite…..

Dusty

November 17th, 2011
10:54 am

Kyle has written a fine piece. I don’t want my taxes increased. Nobody sensible wants their taxes increased. No matter who pledges what about taxes, the fact remains; I don’t want higher taxes.

If Democrats want to pay more, please add a much larger sum to your tax forms than is requested. Movie stars, ballplayers, Michael Moore can lead the way. There! Don’t cha feel better?

Now congress and the President can go play golf instead of the current inhouse tiddlywinks. .

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 17th, 2011
10:55 am

getalife: May God bless the patriotic American people going to work on Wall Street today, keeping the financial engine of our country running.
———

Corrected.

Dusty

November 17th, 2011
11:02 am

Republican Back Stabber,

Please go brush your teeth and gargle. Halitosis is your problem, you and redneckbleudog.

This is a nice morning. Don’t contaminate the scene.

#occupy my desk...

November 17th, 2011
11:02 am

Yeah – we should do things the Chicago way and just use the taxpayers like an ATM machine. 500MM to Somalia, 500MM to Solyndra – the problem is not revenue folks. 15T is almost insurmountable at this point. We need to make some hard decisions, and tax increases won’t address 1% of the problem. I think the short term thinking from the left is what kills me most – do they honestly believe that we can just keep going like this? That it will somehow work itself out by adding 500BN in revenue over the next decade? Yikes.

Dusty

November 17th, 2011
11:18 am

Well, a bit of change in subject but I was reading around and someone suggested a debate between Newt and Obama. Makes me laugh. Obama would leave the stage in a huff the first rejection he encountered. Newt may have some problems but being scared is not one of them.

But Obama?? Please! He’s our president. Better to solve problems over a mug of beer than too much chitchat. Besides, I doubt that teleprompters are allowed at real debates.

Now, back to those tee-toppling taxes. Down with ‘em!!

Rafe Hollister

November 17th, 2011
11:23 am

The Libs have been harping on the Obama Tax Cuts since Dubyah got them passed, but if they are allowed to expire or are repealed there will be a massive tax hike on the working class. How do we expect the working class to yet again pay more and get less.

When you point this out to them, they say just repeal the cuts for the rich. But 85% or more of the money currently allowed to remain in private hands goes to the middle or working class, so that leaves little money from the rich to help with the deficet.

You can’t have it both ways, either we recoup the entire amount of the Obama Tax cuts, and raise significant money and apply it to the deficet, further burdening the working class; or we exempt 85% of the money and make no significant contribution to reducing the deficet.

Dusty

November 17th, 2011
11:24 am

#occupy my desk,

YES, Democrats do believe that we can keep going like this. They stick with the Dem principle that money grows on trees and should be given away freely to one and all, mostly all. .

Hang in there! Elections are coming! There’s still hope.

the red herring

November 17th, 2011
12:06 pm

it doesn’t matter how much you tax—obama and his friends will find a way to spend it all—their promised cuts will never come. the spending in washington d.c. has to stop. look at how much the debt has increased under obama in just 3 years. it is ridiculous but that’s what happens when you pay off campaign donors with kickbacks like solyndra and the others. the last years of george bush weren’t much better with a democratic congress that he let spend as they liked. we need to return many departments to the states and eliminate them from the federal government. then we need to eliminate all the fraud and abuse that they have already made public but haven’t done anything about because “to cut that would just be a drop in the bucket”—well we got in this mess by spending a lot of “drops in the bucket” so we can get out of it by eliminating those drops in the bucket. oh yeah–those congressmen and women that benefited from insider trading should be prosecuted just like other people. we can not and should not have a “ruling” class that is exempt from our laws.

Republican Back Stabbers

November 17th, 2011
12:33 pm

@Dusty November 17th, 2011 11:02 am Republican Back Stabber, Please go brush your teeth and gargle. Halitosis is your problem, you and redneckbleudog. This is a nice morning. Don’t contaminate the scene.

Kyle, why does your blog bring out the crazy low class people? It is something about your blog that attracts the scum, the trash, the low lifes, uneducated, the illiterate, the racists.

When these people do not have anything of substance to say they berate other bloggers.

When you associate with DOGS you get fleas! Not to mention the HORRIBLE SMELLLL! Whew!!!!

It STINKS UP IN HERE! Somebody open a window PLEASE!