It’s another week in Washington, and another story is out containing a plethora of quotes from Republicans who are willing to “put revenues on the table.” Here are some quotes from today’s article in Politico:
“Nobody wants to raise taxes, but the question is can you lower tax rates, lower loopholes and deductions and apply that to debt reduction? I think the answer is yes,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “If our position is every time you eliminated deductions and exemptions, all of it has to go to bring down rates, how do you pay off the debt?” […]
Added Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.): “My impression is if you brought rates down, did real meaningful tax reform, the additional revenue would not be a deal-killer for many.”
Others suggested that it’s time for their party to show more willingness to deal on the tax issue.
“I think it’s the type of platform that we have to look at: It looks at spending; it looks at revenues; it looks at entitlements,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
“I think there are revenues that are available out there that we ought to be taking a look at,” such as tax breaks for oil companies, said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).
Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine moderate, said she believes “the demands of the deficit require us to look at both sides of the ledger, both the spending side and the revenue side.”
What a heartburn! With the exception of Susan Collins, these senators are considered to be members in good standing within the Republican conference.
Lindsey Graham wants to know how you pay off the deficit without using the tax code to raise some revenue? It’s comments like this that reveal just how little many Republicans in the Senate have in common with conservatives. It’s not about the deficit; it’s about the size of government and its deleterious effects on our freedom and prosperity. The EPA, for example, only eats up about $8.5 billion a year, a paltry sum relative to other major expenditures. We will not balance the budget by eliminating the EPA alone. However, that $8.5 billion in direct taxpayer support is used to promulgate laws and regulations that remove hundreds of billions from taxpayers in the form of lower wages, costlier products, and market distortions. These government agencies, programs, and mandates also destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs. The same thing applies to the NLRB and many agencies within the Department of Energy and Interior
Nonetheless, if we eliminated all of the harmful and unconstitutional discretionary agencies and programs while enacting free market entitlement reform, the budget would balance. A number of proposals have been offered to balance the budget within 5-10 years, most recently, the Lee and Paul budget plans. In fact, they balanced the budget alongside pro-growth tax reform.
Yet, Lindsey Graham is correct in his assertion that we can’t balance the budget without raising revenue – if the budget reflects his governing philosophy. Obviously, Graham is a strong believer in the current structure of government. That’s why he (and the others mentioned above) voted against the Lee and Paul budgets. Yes, we will never balance the budget without raising revenue, if we desire to maintain the welfare and nanny-state. Then again, the ultimate desideratum of conservatism is not to balance the budget; it is to restore government to its constitutional size. The balanced budgets will naturally follow such reform.
The debate within the party is not reflective of a divergence in opinion over tax policy. It ultimately boils down to the role of government. We believe that government needs to be fundamentally downsized. By extension, we oppose any new revenue because the current level of revenue is sufficient to sustain a constitutional government. Moreover, an increase in revenues will be used to fuel the growth of government. Many Republicans support the current structure of government. They merely desire to terminate “waste, fraud, and abuse.” It’s no surprise that they are enticed into the “balanced approach” in order to balance a budget that reflects their view of government.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project