GOP Embraces Norquist's 'No New Taxes' Mantra

Monday, 06 Jun 2011 12:59 PM

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When President John F. Kennedy proposed tax cuts in 1963, Republicans said the move would lead to red ink and inflation. Today, the GOP is the party of no new taxes, no matter what, and the primary architect of that view is Grover Norquist, The Washington Post reported.

The GOP has been on a three-decade, anti-tax crusade that is so powerful that House Speaker John Boehner has said that raising taxes to deal with the crushing debt and deficit is “unacceptable and a non-starter,” and all but 13 of the 288 GOP members of Congress have signed Norquist’s formal pledge not to raise taxes, the Post reported.

Grover Norquist, GOP, no new taxes
All but 13 of 288 GOP members of Congress have signed Grover Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes. (Getty Images Photo)
Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, said no Republican has voted for a major federal tax increase since 1991. A dozen governors and hundreds of state legislators have also signed on to the pledge.

GOP Sens. Tom Coburn, Mike Crapo, and Saxby Chambliss recently earned Norquist’s ire when they supported the idea of higher tax revenues to deal with the $14.3 trillion debt. Neither Republicans or Democrats would support a return to the 1970s, when those earning more than $200,000 a year faced a top rate of 70 percent. However, the top rate is now half that, and tax collections have fallen to their lowest level as a share of the economy in 60 years, the Post reported.

The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 also contributed to the decline in revenue and drove up budget deficits. “Grover’s not realistic,” former GOP Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire told the Post.

The number of people on Medicare and Social Security will double soon, and Gregg said, “Your government is inevitably going to grow. And you’re either going to have to finance that, or you’re going to end up running the country into the ditch.”

Some prominent Republicans have begun to break away from the no-tax mantra. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan dropped his support for the 2001 George W. Bush tax cuts. And Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist who served as chief economic adviser in the Reagan White House, supports the idea of ending tax breaks, the Post reported.

“When the government gives a tax credit to homeowners who buy solar energy panels, it’s just like giving them a cash subsidy to buy those panels,” Feldstein wrote in the Weekly Standard. He suggested that the value of deductions and credits be capped at 2 percent of adjusted income.

“Although government accounting rules treat the end of a tax credit or the limit of a tax deduction as a revenue increase, the economic effect is the same as a cut in spending,” he wrote. “Anyone who favors less government spending should also favor cutting tax expenditures.”

However, Norquist said equating tax breaks with spending “is a threat to the modern Republican Party’s worldview” of a much smaller government and reducing the tax drag on the economy. Eliminating tax breaks can only be done if all the proceeds are used to push tax rates “down as far as possible,” Norquist told the Post, adding that the work of reducing the national debt must be done entirely by shrinking government.

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