We have all been reading about the “Fiscal Cliff” that we may, as a nation, fall over as of January 1, 2013. On that date the Bush-era tax cuts will expire and large reductions in defense spending and other programs will become automatic. There are other consequences too but these are the chief ones.
On the matter of the extension of tax cuts, Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over what to do to resolve this scenario so nothing is really happening now, nor likely to happen until after the election. At that point it will be in the hands of a lame-duck Congress with about six weeks to solve this problem.
In general, Senate Democrats and President Obama want to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone except those with incomes over $250,000. They say this will raise some revenue. House Republicans say that exempting those with incomes over $250,000 amounts to a tax increase for them. So how to resolve this?
Senator Patty Murray, Democrat from Washington State suggested that this could be resolved by a two-part political sleight of hand to which both parties would agree. She suggested that Part 1 would be to allow the tax cuts to expire in January as they are scheduled to do. The effect of letting them expire would be to set tax rates back to what they were in 2003 before the temporary tax cuts were put in place. This would mean higher taxes for all. Part B would immediately follow – that is, the current tax cuts would be reinstated thus decreasing the taxes that were just allowed to be increased. Why would such a political maneuver be seriously suggested? The answer is GroverNordquist.
Mr. Nordquist is the President of the non-profit Americans for Tax Reform. He is a conservative activist committed to reducing taxes. To that end he has developed and promoted the Taxpayer Protection Pledge which some 95% of all Republican Senators and Representatives signed by late 2011. 238 House Republicans and 47 Republican Senators have signed this pledge. It calls for deficit reduction without any increase in taxes.
Having signed this pledge, there is no way for Republican legislators to agree to any tax increases without going back on their word. There appears, however, to be some rethinking among some Republicans about whether such a strict line in the sand is a good idea given the current economic conditions. Senator Murray’s proposal, as ridiculous as it is, is really just a way to release Republicans from their Nordquist pledge.
What is really ridiculous, however, is that a non-elected, not well-known individual has tied the United States Congress in knots to point where no action can be taken without violating some pledge made to him. Don’t we expect our Senators and Representatives to evaluate events and come to individual decisions? How did Grover Nordquist get such influence over our representatives?