Yesterday, President Obama’s debt commission held its second public meeting, as it works to come up with a recommendation for Congress to vote on by December. And evidently the right-wing is extremely concerned that the commission will propose some tax increases, because it is pushing Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to preemptively rule tax increases off the table. Hatch is slated to become the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member next year, so he will have significant input over any tax bill that makes it way before Congress.
And Hatch, who is sprinting ever further to the right in the face of a potential 2012 primary challenge from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), played right along:
“Everybody knows I’m a tax cutter and not a tax increaser, so the odds are that I probably couldn’t support something that would increase taxes, especially given the amount of spending going on,” said Hatch.
“We’d like to get a commitment from all Republicans on the Finance panel to oppose new taxes,” said Andrew Roth, vice president for government affairs for the far right-wing, anti-tax crusading Club for Growth. “It would be political suicide for Orrin Hatch to not do so.”
As Ali Frick pointed out, this shows that “conservatives don’t actually want to take action to reduce the deficit.” Indeed, it’s just one more indication of the pure deficit peacockery that is prevalent on the right, wherein there is much consternation and fearmongering about deficits, but responsible solutions for addressing them are dismissed out of hand.
It’s the simple truth that the country’s long-term deficits cannot be brought down without a reasonable mix of spending cuts and tax increases. As Michael Linden and Michael Ettlinger found, excepting debt obligations and benefits for current Social Security beneficiaries, the entire rest of the budget would have to be cut by almost 30 percent to eliminate the deficit by 2014. That’s 30 percent of everything: defense, child care, veteran’s benefits, you name it.
And there are Republicans out there who get it: just none of them have to face the wrath of the Club for Growth. Former GOP Senator Alan Simpson, who co-chairs the deficit commission, has “dismissed claims from Republicans that reining in deficits would be easy or accomplished with spending cuts alone.” “To say that all we have to do is take care of waste, fraud and abuse, and foreign aid is a like a sparrow’s belch in the midst of typhoon,” he said. “That is nothing, less than one percent of the budget.”
Former GOP Senator Pete Domenici, meanwhile has said, “I’m sorry that some Republicans think otherwise, but I was there [in the Senate] a long time, and I don’t think you can do spending alone…It’s got to be a package, and — to my way of thinking — it’s got to have taxes on the table.” Former Reagan official Bruce Bartlett put it this way:
Every serious budget analyst — I mean every — knows that revenues must be part of the solution to our deficit problem. We can debate how much and what form higher revenues will take, but the idea that we can or even should embark on serious deficit reduction with no tax increase whatsoever is grossly immature and unworthy of consideration.
Yet that’s exactly what the far right is pushing, with Hatch’s tacit approval.