Editorial: Compromise necessary for deficit reduction deal
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 21:11
For decades, signing on to Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge was a virtual requirement for running for Congress as a Republican. For any politician hoping to win a seat in a conservative district, denouncing the pledge was political suicide.
Wondering who Grover Norquist is, or what this pledge of his says? Norquist is a lobbyist in Washington, DC. He runs an organization called Americans for Tax Reform, which advocates for elected officials to pledge 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.” Simply put, they make politicians pledge to never increase government revenues. With the federal budget facing automatic spending cuts and tax hikes unless Congress reaches an agreement, such an absolutist position is unacceptable.
While unknown to many voters, Americans for Tax Reform has been quite successful. As of the 2012 election, 39 senators and 219 House members have endorsed it. 218 of the House’s 435 voting members constitutes a majority. Because of this, it looked unlikely that Congress would be able to pass any fiscal cliff agreement that included revenue increases.
However, things may be changing. Over the past few days, many prominent Republicans have denounced the pledge, saying that everything needs to be on the table for Congress to reach a deal. Sen. Bob Corker, (R – Tennessee), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R – Georgia ), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – South Carolina), Rep. Peter King (R – New York), and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R – Virginia) have all come out against the pledge. Others, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R – Alabama) and Speaker Boehner (R – Ohio), have hinted at being open to cutting deductions as part of a deal.
We applaud the brave elected officials who are stepping away from the extreme Taxpayer Protection Pledge. In our system of government, compromise is necessary, and staking out absolutist positions hurts the entire country. We would similarly denounce a pledge stating that elected officials will never agree to any spending cuts, and are grateful that no such pledge has caught on.
In order to avoid the fiscal cliff’s automatic cuts, Congress needs to pass a bill including $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Rather than be composed entirely of spending cuts or tax increases, any agreement should include a smart combination of the two. This does not necessarily require increasing tax rates, as tax revenues can be increased through other methods such as capping deductions.
It is good to see politicians distancing themselves from extreme positions and being willing to compromise. We sincerely hope that more of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge’s signatories denounce the document, and commit themselves to avoiding the fiscal cliff.