Re: A Rude Question

by Michael James Barton

Michael, your question is a good one; let me attempt to answer it.

When it comes to taxes, the reality seems to play out like this: 1) Overspending leads to a deficit/debt problem; 2) An offer is made to cut spending and increase taxes in what is hailed as a great compromise to solve the deficit/debt problem; 3) Taxes go up but the spending always increases and we are back at step (1) with a deficit/debt problem for the continuation of the endless loop.

Enter the taxpayer pledge. In general, a candidate pledging to voters that he won’t vote for something as significant as increasing taxes is a defensible proposition, given this history of what happens after these tax compromises go into effect. Voters feel that they have more than an empty campaign promise in the form of the pledge to them, and there is still plenty of room for negotiating since the pledge says no net tax increases. If politicians really cared about a compromise then the tax increase would include cutting taxes elsewhere or major permanent spending cuts that are included in the bill itself rather than some vague, theoretical hope to cut spending in the future, somewhere. But doing that would mean Congress would have to publicly agree on what exact spending cuts occur and by how much, which of course they are loath to do (especially since any real solution here will almost certainly involve entitlements).

As Fred Thompson has pointed out, there are some elected officials that are basically a Post It note with “raise taxes” written on it. Just as it seems that the planet’s every natural problem can be blamed on global cooling global warming climate change, in some corners it seems that at the heart of every solution is more taxation. Voters wishing to stop this vicious cycle have found the pledge to be better than words in the air when holding their elected officials’ to their promises.