The Corner

Beware Bipartisan Solutions

A piece in The Hill newspaper (abbreviated here) on the feud between debt commission co-chairman Alan Simpson and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist unwittingly sheds light on the immigration debate. I find myself, improbably, siding with Norquist and against Simpson, even though on immigration I’d take the opposite stance.

Their disagreement is over raising taxes vs. cutting spending, with Simpson frustrated at Norquist’s opposition to any tax increases as “standing in the way of a bipartisan solution.” Where have you heard that before? The parallel between the spending and immigration debates is nearly exact — the reason the public is so resistant to raising taxes as a solution to the deficit, and to granting amnesty as a solution to illegal immigration, is that they don’t trust the political class not to take the money (or amnesty) and run.

In other words, a large part of the electorate would grudgingly accept higher taxes or amnesty if they were confident that those unpalatable measures would actually lead to a solution, but people know they wouldn’t. Everyone understands that even those politicians who are sincere in their stated commitment to a bargain that includes future spending cuts or immigration enforcement will welsh on the deal once they get what they’re really after (tax hikes or amnesty, respectively). This is why spending cuts and immigration enforcement have to come first, and overcome all political and legal roadblocks, and be fully implemented, before there should even be a discussion of tax hikes or amnesty.


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