Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ending the No-Tax Pledge

If I could make a suggestion for the next election, it would be that a concerted effort be made to oust from office any politician who has signed a pledge not to raise taxes.

You can find a list of those who have made such a pledge at Americans for Tax Reform

This is a list maintained by those who support the pledge. However, it is a list that can also be used by those who support a fair distribution of the burdens involved in ending our nation's financial predicament.

These were the people substantially responsible for the stonewalling when negotiating a debt increase in July – which, in turn, resulted in economic instability that harmed the recovery and the lowering of the American government’s credit rating.

In practice, this pledge is a wall behind which the super-wealthy are protecting their estates and making sure that the burdens that face our nation are born almost entirely by the middle and lower classes. If we want a fairer distribution of the burdens of government, then the need to tear down this wall.

For all practical purposes, a "no tax" pledge is promise to the top 1 percent that says, "Don't worry. You're safe. We're not going to do anything to you."

It is also a pledge to refuse to compromise on this point. It says, in effect, "No matter what happens - no matter what threats this country may face - your estates are safe in my hands. They will not be touched."

This combination of "No burden on the rich" and "no compromise" makes for a very strong defense for the estates of the rich - as long as it holds this lock on a significant part of the government. They make sure that the rest if us will either suffer the burdens of our current national predicament - of suffer far worse.

Of course, we must also add that many of these promise makers are also members of the top 1 percent. It is their own estates and the estates of fellow members of their social circle that they are protecting.

These are not the type of people who we need in Congress.

I want to stress that the target of this proposal is not the top 1 percent. Like any population, they represent a range of people, some more virtuous than others. My target us the signers of the no-tax pledge - an act that demonstrates either extreme arrogance, extreme ignorance, extreme unfairness, or some combination of the three.

I propose telling them, "If you signed a no-tax pledge, you have pledged to be a part of the problem - not a part of the solution. So, you're gone."

Some might object that this is an anti-Republican recommendation.

That is not the case. A candidate can still be a Republican and, at the same time, agree to a more fair distribution of the burdens of ending our current financial problems and agree that a legislator's job is to govern, not to bring government to its knees.

In fact, I would much rather see those who made this pledge ousted in a Republican primary rather than in the general election. I have a great respect for intellectually acute and concerned conservatives - the type that the Republican party nominated and I voted for in a couple of decades ago.

Ronald Reagan passed 11 tax increases in his 8 years in office. Today's Republican party would reject his candidacy with insults.

A Republican who reject this pledge has the option to say, like Reagan did, "Okay, if you are willing to go so far as to allow $3 in budget cuts for every $1 in revenue increases, then I will go so far as to allow $1 in revenue increases to get $3 in budget cuts." Somebody who takes a no-tax pledge is not permitted to accept this option. He has promised to go so far as to destroy the country if he does not get 100% of what he is asking for.

From the ethical perspective, the type of no-compromise attitude fostered by such a pledge represents extreme arrogance. I may well believe that we are better off with 100% budget cuts and 0% tax increases. And, actually, I can be sympathetic to that view. However, at the same time, I recognize that I fall somewhat short of perfect intelligence and wisdom. There are other people on the planet, just as intelligent as I am, and just as concerned about the welfare of others, who disagree with me. The wise person admits, "I do not know everything. Therefore, even though I disagree with you, I am willing to give you a voice in the decisions. After all, aren't we supposed to be working together?"

On the other hand, somebody who makes a pledge like the no-tax pledge is claiming (honestly or dishonestly) to have perfect knowledge and perfect wisdom. He is saying, "Whatever happens, whatever information I may be provided in the future, whatever arguments might be offered against my position and in favor of some alternative, whatever harms my actions or inactions may cause, I will close my eyes and ears to those considerations and vote consistently against a tax increase. "

Anybody who would do that should not sit in public office.

The first step - to be conducted within the next 12 months if it is to be conducted at all - is to tear down that wall defending the top 1% from sharing the burdens of our current national problems. We have a list of names. All that is required is the time and effort to do the work.


mojo.rhythm said...

I agree with the article.

Did you really respect Reagan though? Even after his escapades in Central America and the Iran-Contra affair?

Kristopher said...

i think all the anger at congress due to the budget crisis should be focused exclusively on anyone who signed that pledge.