Saturday, March 12, 2011

GOP Tax Pledge Firm

The Associated Press reports

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned on Friday that GOP senators will not vote to increase the government's borrowing limit unless President Barack Obama agrees to rein in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, laying down a high-stakes marker just weeks before the debt ceiling is reached.

In an interview with The Associated Press, McConnell complained that Obama has refused his offers — both public and private — to work on a bipartisan plan to tackle the nation's massive benefit programs, which threaten to overwhelm the budget in coming years.

"There will be no entitlement reform without President Obama," McConnell said. "It cannot be done without him, will not be done without him."

Obama did not address the long-term financial problems of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the 2012 budget proposal he released in February, saying it will take time to create the political environment necessary for Democrats and Republicans to negotiate in good faith on such difficult long-term issues.

But at a news conference Friday, Obama said he and Congress should address the nation's long-term fiscal condition and programs such as Medicaid and Medicare — after lawmakers complete a deal on spending for the current fiscal year. Obama said any long-term agreement would have to be bipartisan and also would require tackling defense spending and taxes.

A long-term agreement probably would be bipartisan, in the Obama mold; would not likely involve reducing defense spending significantly; and would not involve taxes, at least in the manner of raising them, helping to reduce the long-term debt. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and originator of the "drown government in the bathtub" goal, was recently interviewed by Ezra Klein. When Klein asked why Norquist wouldn't have GOP candidates sign a spending pledge as well as a tax pledge, Norquist replied

Twenty-five years ago, I created the Taxpayer Protection Pledge at the federal level. Then I brought it to the state and local level. About 97 percent of the Republicans in the House and 85 percent in the Senate have signed on, and the number of candidates who have taken the pledge is even higher. It’s become a party position.

Asked by Klein about the support of the President's bipartisan debt commission for large spending cuts and small revenue increases, Norquist responded

The reason it won’t happen is that the Republicans have taken the pledge and made a promise to their constituents that they won’t increases taxes. And I’ve talked to the guys in the House and Senate. They tell me it won’t happen. And even Coburn, Chambliss and Crapo wrote a letter to me that said, “If and when there is a legislative proposal to be presented to the American people, we look forward to again working with you and all interested parties to support a proposal where any increase in revenue generation will be a result of the pro-growth effects of lower individual and corporate taxes.”

Besides aiding corporate America, the Repub Party stands for one thing: reducing income taxes. And given that campaign rhetoric pledging to allow businesses to pollute the air, poison the food supply, and gamble with the public's money to destroy the mortgage market is not the ticket to electoral success, the GOP will continue to pledge to the American people that it will not raise taxes. President Obama may want to take the high bipartisan road pushing a mixture of spending cuts and tax increases, but Republicans will sign on to the first part.

Klein observes

It's not about reducing the deficit. If it was, then the tax deal wouldn't have passed in December, entitlements would've been in the mix from the beginning, tax expenditures and defense spending would be on the table, etc. Nor is it about cutting spending. If it was, then the cuts wouldn't be limited to 12 percent of the budget. Rather, it's about cutting non-defense discretionary spending.

Barack Obama can persist in playing the adult in the room and, given the quality of GOP presidential hopefuls, may be reelected. But Republicans will not go along with a tax increase and if the President insists on considerable cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, his party will take a tumble.

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