With President Obama’s reelection, Republican members of Congress have had to come to terms with the fact that at least a part of his economic plan includes raising taxes. In recent years, the very thought of increased taxation of any kind seemed particularly abhorrent to GOP adherents (nevermind the fact that all this “closing the loopholes” business we’ve heard so much about was basically a de facto tax hike..but I digress).
For most Republicans, it seemed irrevocable party doctrine that taxes not be raised in any fashion. At all. Some of this has to do with lobbyist Grover Norquist and his organization Americans for Tax Reform. According to our friends at Wikipedia, “Prior to the November 2012 election, 238 of 242 House Republicans and 41 out of 47 Senate Republicans had signed ATR’s ‘Taxpayer Protection Pledge’, in which the pledger promises to ‘oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.'” Those are impressive numbers.
Since the election, however, there have been cracks in this unified front, as some Republicans are adjusting themselves to the twin realities of a second Obama term, deep domestic economic issues. Both parties put forward their ideas on taxation and spending during the campaign, and one side lost. Deals, it seems, are coming.
I have two thoughts on this state of affairs:
- I have no doubt that some will accuse those Republicans who are changing their minds of either flip-flopping or opportunism. It is unfortunate, I think, that we love criticizing politicians for altering their position. For what it is worth, I believe that changing your mind isn’t a bad thing at all. In many cases, doing so can be a great virtue and a sign of deep-seated maturity and willingness to do the right thing despite how difficult a break from the past might be. If the needs of the day are such that going back on a former position is the only way to do the right thing, then by all means we ought to do it. Even if we will look silly for doing so. Even if we will be criticized.
- For a long time I have marveled on the sometimes intransigence of both parties to make needed changes. They can each, it seems, be doctrinaire in their own way. Republicans have been more rigid in recent years with their refusal to raise taxes, but many Democrats and/or progressive leaders can at times seem equally unwilling to consider any substantial cuts in the American domestic budget (remember the fury over Big Bird?) Within a family household, this would be like earning an insufficient income while expecting to be able to buy more things. That’s silly. To be conservative and wise in a family budget means to carefully trim and manage your spending, but also to make sure that you are making a sustainable amount. Failure to do either or–worse–an embrace of both would lead to ruin. I know that large-scale economics may work very differently…but still, doesn’t that just make sense?
With a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic President, we will hopefully see helpful compromises from both sides in coming weeks. Honest pragmatic leadership is needed…and I think that we are moving towards a deal. If we are lucky, the decisions made might just be the wisest course and not merely the most politically expedient. We will see.