Coburn — the author of The Debt Bomb, a scathing and frank new book about the country’s fiscal future — will spend the summer making his pitch, to Republicans in particular, about the urgency of addressing entitlements and the tax code now, not in the middle of a fiscal crisis.
“We can build consensus,” Coburn says. The best-case scenario, he says, would be for Congress to agree to scrap the current tax code, and then rebuild parts that have wide bipartisan support, such as the deductions for charitable contributions and for primary-residence mortgages.
Sacrifices will have to be made, Coburn cautions, in order to make any deficit deal viable, especially by the end of the year. As a longtime fiscal conservative, Coburn would prefer to keep rates as low as possible. “But will Republicans have to compromise on revenue? Yes,” he says.
“The well-to-do are okay paying some more taxes as long as the taxes are going to pay down the debt, not going to grow the government,” Coburn says. Coburn hopes that if a deal includes major entitlement reforms, as well as slight revenue increases, Republicans won’t run for the hills.
That kind of talk may not please Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, but Coburn doesn’t care. At this point in the debate, he says, with the country’s finances deep in the red, becoming mired in debate about minor revenue increases misses the point.