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Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Republicans are making a lot of noise about being willing to violate Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge, but if you take a moment to think through what they mean by violating that pledge, it starts to become clear that we'd be better off if they didn't violate it.

Take Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), for example:

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has joined a handful of prominent Republican lawmakers willing to break their pledge to oppose all tax increases.

“I’m not obligated on the pledge,” Corker told CBS’s Charlie Rose on Monday morning. “I made Tennesseans aware, I was just elected, the only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve, when I’m sworn in this January.”

At the same time, Corker has proposed his own fiscal cliff deal that caps deductions but does not raise tax rates. Norquist’s pledge bars any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits without a matching tax cut.

The thing you have to remember is that under current law, tax rates automatically go up on everybody starting January 1, 2013. Congress could choose to extend tax cuts past that point, but if they don't do anything, rates are going up. That means tax rates will increase without anybody being asked to take a vote that would violate Grover Norquist's precious pledge. The law is already in place. Norquist's pledge is irrelevant.

The immediate question is whether to extend tax cuts on all income below $250,000. That wouldn't be a tax hike on the wealthy—it would be a tax cut for everybody, relative to current law. Even the wealthy would benefit. Democrats support these tax cuts. Republicans say they do, but so far haven't been willing to vote in favor of the Senate legislation extending them, even though President Obama says he would sign it right away.

The reason Republicans are making noise now about violating Norquist's tax pledge is that they are trying to convince Democrats and the White House to extend all tax cuts, including those on income over $250,000. Failing that, they want to create the appearance of being reasonable, which they hope would justify holding middle-class tax cuts hostage.

But even though they are offering to violate Norquist's tax pledge, the deal that Republicans are offering in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is actually worse than just letting those tax cuts expire. Basically, Republicans are saying that if we just keep tax rates as is, then they will promise to support limiting some deductions and therefore raising some revenue. Oh yeah, and they also say they'll only agree to make that promise in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. But even if they keep that promise (which they won't)—or agreed to drop their demands to eviscerate the social safety net (another thing they won't do)—in all likelihood any loopholes they close will just result in new loopholes being created elsewhere in the tax code (or old ones being exploited).

That might result in a year or two of more revenue, but even though it would represent a violation of the Norquist pledge, it would be worse than if we just let the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000 expire. Ironically, that wouldn't be a violation of the Norquist pledge—because it's what is set to happen under current law. Don't get me wrong, I'm not endorsing Grover Norquist here, but given the options on the table, we'd be better off if Republicans didn't violate the Norquist pledge. We need to raise tax revenue, and the simplest way to get it done is by maintaining current law on tax rates for income over $250,000.

Bottom line: the most efficient way to raise tax revenue is for Republicans to follow the Norquist pledge. This is one case where doing nothing is doing the right thing.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Geronimo! Wheee nt (11+ / 0-)

    The 1st Amendment gives you the right to say stupid things, the 1st Amendment doesn't guarantee a paycheck to say stupid things.

    by JML9999 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:05:11 AM PST

  •  We should introduce our own tax pledge. (18+ / 0-)
    I hereby swear to support increasing millionaire and billionaire taxes every year until public education, public transportation, and public healthcare in every square inch of the United States of America are the best in the world.

    "They fear this man. They know he will see farther than they, and he will bind them with ancient logics." -The stoner guy in The Cabin in the Woods

    by Troubadour on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:07:32 AM PST

    •  Well said! (10+ / 0-)

      I'm sick and tired of the repubs waving their Grover Norquist's pledge around like the Maoist did with Mao's "little red book." It is blind ideology and it will destroy this nation just as Mao almost did in China.

    •  Haven't the republicans already voted to raise (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, ellefarr

      taxes, by signing the "fiscal cliff" law in the first place?  I believe almost every one of them signed it, so, there's that then.

      95% of all life forms that once existed on earth are now extinct. It is only a matter of time until the Republicans follow suit.

      by PRRedlin on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:38:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was when they pushed through the BushTaxCuts (0+ / 0-)

        in the first place that we went off the cliff, and for a while, it wasn't that noticeable.  The bad part of cliffdiving isn't the jump or the decent, it's the landing. We hit and bounced off a ledge in '08 and suddenly everyone noticed that we were headed down. Obama got the wheel and we landed without the fireball crash, now we've been driving back up the windy little cliffside track with the GOP dropping boulders in the way.
        The only thing that falls off the cliff in January is the GOP's advantage. They lose their hostages, lose their leverage.
        What we're approaching is a Bluff.

        If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

        by CwV on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:10:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The GOP's advantage is not the only thing (0+ / 0-)

          that falls off the cliff in January.

          These are the programs that take hits if we fall off the fiscal cliff:

          *  the end of last year’s temporary payroll tax cuts (resulting in a 2% tax increase for workers)
          *  the end of certain tax breaks for businesses
          *  shifts in the alternative minimum tax that would take a larger bite
          *  the end of the tax cuts from 2001-2003
          *  the beginning of taxes related to President Obama’s health care law
          *  cuts in over 1,000 government programs - including the defense budget
          As Wikipedia explains it:
          *  Expiration of the Bush tax cuts extended by President Obama in the Tax Relief,
           Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010;
          *  Across-the-board spending cuts ("sequestration") to most discretionary programs as directed by the Budget Control Act of 2011;
          *  Reversion of the Alternative Minimum Tax thresholds to their 2000 tax year levels;
          *  Expiration of measures delaying the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate from going into effect (the "doc fix"), most recently extended by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (MCTRJCA);
          *  Expiration of the 2% Social Security payroll tax cut, most recently extended by MCTRJCA;
          *  Expiration of federal unemployment benefits, most recently extended by MCTRJCA and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
          Anger at the Republicans will not solve this; Democrats voted for this mess too.

          "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

          by SueDe on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:29:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Is Lyin' Ryan praying to Ceiling Cat? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Krush, RUNDOWN

    I ♥ President Obama. ~ Yes, we did. Again.
    NOW: Hands off SocSec, Medicare and Medicaid. NO Grand Bargain.
    Rich pay a bit more. DoD take a bit less. End war on Afghanistan sooner.

    by OleHippieChick on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:15:26 AM PST

  •  I think a key point to make... (5+ / 0-)

    is that Republicans have already voted to increase tax rates, by voting for the current law (and the original Bush-era one).

    GOP Agenda: Repeal 20th Century.

    by NormAl1792 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:16:09 AM PST

  •  I have never understood (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener, Nicci August

    who Grover Norquist is or why he should hold the entire Republican party in thrall.

    Or, for that matter, why the entire party seems to be controlled by two chubby, pasty-faced white men.

    Norquist is of no real importance in the world, only in his own fevered imagination.

    Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why. -- Hunter S. Thompson

    by Mnemosyne on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:19:21 AM PST

    •  I see it as a kind of hysteria - he could borrow (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mnemosyne

      some kind of religious concept of (pledge, covenant, etc.) and misapply it.

      He's really all about marketing.  He worked to define the brand (GOP = no taxes), convinced people that George Bush, Sr. lost re-election because he raised taxes, and the scared a lot of pols into joining his fraternity.

      The pledge is like a fraternity hazing ritual, and nothing else.

      •  yes, but it is indicative (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        of the lemming mentality of the GOP that they would so blindly follow a mediocre marketing guy like that. Not to mention what it says about the US media that none have called him out as the charlatan he is.

        Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why. -- Hunter S. Thompson

        by Mnemosyne on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:29:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Time for Grover and Rove to take a short trip... (0+ / 0-)

      ...in a small airplane.

  •  The House has a total (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, ferg, Brooke In Seattle

    of 3 weeks with 3 1/2 work days per week remaining to the end of the term.  Nothing will get done unless the Democrats go into dumbass mode.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:21:21 AM PST

  •  The key thing is (0+ / 0-)

    Will either Norquist or the constituent remember this moment when it's November 2014? The latter most likely won't.

  •  Republicans want to raise taxes (6+ / 0-)

    The talk of eliminating deductions is a way to raise taxes on the middle class. In much the same way, Republicans still oppose Obama's payroll tax cut, and Norquist never complained when they said they wanted to get rid of it.

    Somehow they've sold themselves as the anti-tax party, which is ridiculous. They just want all the taxes paid by little people.

  •  Whaaaaaaat? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nicci August

    Since when do we care if Norquist's pledge is violated?

    I don't pander.

    Enagaged activism wins elections. 100 million words on liberal/progressive websites gets beat by one new GOP voter casting their vote.

    by Nebraska68847Dem on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:26:44 AM PST

    •  Exactly. (0+ / 0-)

      They've consistently valued their pledge to a single private citizen over their pledge to their country and their constituency.  Let them pour barbeque sauce over that pledge and eat it for all that I care.

      "...you never quite know where you are with him. He's the sort of chap who follows you into a revolving door and comes out in front." ~Yes, Minister

      by Nicci August on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:33:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well said. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nicci August

        Something we all have to remember is to resist the temptation to honor their comments with a reply.

        When your child says something stoopit... don't elevate it to a level of significance by engaging it.
        Let it die on the ground floundering of it's own lack of oxygen.

        I respect the OP of the thread/diary, but I am entirely enraged that the notion was even "recognized" and "worthy" of discussion amongst adults.

        Enagaged activism wins elections. 100 million words on liberal/progressive websites gets beat by one new GOP voter casting their vote.

        by Nebraska68847Dem on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:51:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Yes they do, at least by any honest measure (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener

    I know politicians don't tend to care about that, and it's one reason why they are held in such low regard by the public.

    Frankly, Republicans will be much better served if they acknowledge that they are, indeed, breaking the pledge.  Better still, to acknowledge that elections have consequences and that Democrats are making them do it.

    Democrats are prepared to cooperate nicely by  offering up continuation of Bush tax cuts for all but the well-to-do, and, frankly, not exactly hitting those folks very hard, either.

    Republicans can claim to fight the good fight in spirit, by getting what they could, acknowledge reality, and tell folks who don't like it: Well, then -- do something about all those Democrats getting elected.

    Outside of a few idiots, the end result will be much better for them. And, honestly, if the last election demonstrated anything, it showed that you can only get so far on the backs of a few idiots.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:27:39 AM PST

    •  And Dems lost on the framing - they should (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dinotrac, AllanTBG

      have said.

      The Bush tax cuts were passed when there was a budget surplus.  Congress WISELY passed them with an expiration date.  We can't afford them anymore.

      But we can afford to give everyone a tax cut on their first $250,000 of earned income.

      The immediate question is whether to extend tax cuts on all income below $250,000. That wouldn't be a tax hike on the wealthy—it would be a tax cut for everybody, relative to current law. Even the wealthy would benefit. Democrats support these tax cuts. Republicans say they do, but so far haven't been willing to vote in favor of the Senate legislation extending them, even though President Obama says he would sign it right away.
  •  Republicans doing the right thing? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skyounkin, a2nite

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You actually think that they will? The same people who routinely try to destroy the country for spite? My country right or further right? Do the ethically correct things that are the best  course of action for the nation as a whole? Seriously?

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!

  •  The first sentence is an oxymoron. (0+ / 0-)

    If Republicans had the will to "think through" policy we wouldn't be having this discussion in the first place.

    What is called "conservatism" today is a religious faith that rejects reason.

    Our reason is quite satisfied ... if we can find a few arguments that will do to recite in case our credulity is criticized... Our faith is faith in someone else's faith, and in the greatest matters this is most the case. - William James

    by radical empiricist on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:43:54 AM PST

  •  Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! (0+ / 0-)

    Have these guys cleared their ideas with Rush Limbaugh? He's still head of the party, isn't he?

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:44:45 AM PST

  •  Sound and Fury, Poison Pills, and Tea Partiers (0+ / 0-)

    All this GOP "defiance" of "St. Grover" comes, as you noted with poison pills  such as raising only  middle class taxes, some vague future promises of fixing loopholes, which probably won't go anywhere, and gutting Social Security, if you listen to Lindsey Graham, as part of any deal. To quote the Bard of Avon, "It's all sound and fury, signifying nothing." And the Tea Partiers are apoplectic that far-right Saxby Chambliss has the "nerve" to attack icon Grover. Should Grover "primary" Chambliss, and make him the next victim of "Mad Tea Party Disease," following Dick Lugar, Dems. should have a moderate candidate ready to play Cong., now Sen.-elect Joe Donnelly's role in Ga. We could then possibly snag a Senate seat in a tough 2014  cycle against the likes of Tom Price or Karenthis, "destroy Susan G. Komen" Handel. For more on Chambliss, Grover, and all the GOP loonies, read      

  •  Frankly, I don't care about their stupid pledge. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brooke In Seattle

    Their first "pledge" is to the people they represent - then to the nation (which would also hurt their constituents if the government fails).

    Sick of hearing about Norquits, and seeing his face.

    He should not even be in the discussion, nor the subject of appeasement.

    Do these "pledges" have the names of the majorities of voters (or just Grover's name?).

    Stuff his pledge, his ideology, and his opinions.

    Let the GOP primary itself into oblivion.

    If not us ... who? If not here ... where? If not now ... when?

    by RUNDOWN on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:49:59 AM PST

  •  hopefully, Democratic leaders won't buy it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSPS owl, Brooke In Seattle

    they should have learned their lesson with Republicans and their insincerity.

    I'm a blue drop in a red bucket.

    by blue drop on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:51:59 AM PST

  •  Grover's power comes from the money he offers... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AllanTBG

    ...for election campaigns.

    We know how Karl Rove's campaigns did.

    How did Grover's campaigns do?  Does he have make-or-break election power?  Because if his money doesn't get people elected, why should they listen to him?

    But if it does...then Republicans are being reasonable to conform to the client's wishes.  If you've been bought, you should stay bought.  It's the only decent thing to do.

  •  They value a pledge to a lobbyist (0+ / 0-)

    representing 1% interests more than representing the people who elected them.  I don't know how anyone could vote for someone who signed the pledge-- like Ryan and Romney.

    After this election when all the Citizens United money failed to elect Romney, maybe these Republicans aren't as scared of Norquist's threats.  His reply, calling Sen Corker a "tax increaser" is funny.  

    I'm glad this might make the mainstream news.

  •  I don't think anybody is honestly bargaining here, (0+ / 0-)

    The GOP is saying they are willing, but in small print, only if their standard demands are met, the few serious Republicans can't get through the reactionary/TeaBag barrage anyway, so it's all for posture. They want the Dems to look like the obstructionists, the Dems don't want to be seen as stalling, so they are frantically posturing seriousness on the "Fiscal Cliff". The danger is if they actually DO do something before the end of the session, the possibility of a cave-in is high.
    Wait until the next Congress is sworn in on Jan 3.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:25:38 AM PST

  •  Norquist is about as relevant (0+ / 0-)

    to any political discussion as dinosaur shit is to creationism.

    Time to move on.

    "There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result." - Winston Churchill

    by Dingodude on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:01:24 AM PST

  •  The pledge needs to be positioned by the media -- (0+ / 0-)

    As what it  truly  is - hostage taking by an unelected special interest group which has  no legitimate governing authority.

    I call it extortion - that may be a little extreme for the MSM but the above classification is non-rhetorical

    FYI - the bluedog thing is about my dog ... I'm a liberal left winger and proud of it.

    by bluedogsd on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:09:47 AM PST

  •  The only pledge they are obligated to is the (0+ / 0-)

    Constitution.

    How did Grover Norquist, the non economist and a second rate tax hack become so important to the republicans. I think it is just a cop out on the part of republicans to blame the hack Norquist for their own bad ideas on taxation.

  •  Totally agreed, but everybody better start (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brooke In Seattle

    contacting their Congresspeople, Senators, and the White House, because I'm hearing too darned much about "entitlement reform," even from spokespeople you'd think would be on our side.  What is it about people when they get to go on television a lot?  I think to some of these "commentators," when they start to rake in the bucks, thinking about losing $1000 or so because of "entitlement reform" means very little.  When you've got plenty, $1000 can seem like nothing.  But most people don't have plenty, and unless we hold the line against cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and insist that the wealthy pay their fair share, life will get more and more insecure for everyone who's not wealthy.  Let's insist on really turning that direction around.  Push both Democrats and Republicans on it.

  •  i am so tired of these poopheads. n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  pledge, what pledge (0+ / 0-)

    are these guys in junior high or in the us congress, act like adults gop i know its hard but try anyway.

  •  Depends on how you define "Right Thing" (0+ / 0-)

    Noun?

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 04:04:48 PM PST

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