When a Tax Hike Isn't a Tax Hike
4:58 PM, Nov 29, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
In the imagination of liberals and, hence, the mainstream media, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform is the great Republican bogeyman preventing Congress from coming to a reasonable (read: liberal) deal on taxes and spending. So reporters have been busy the past couple weeks asking Republicans whether they would be willing to violate their Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Some Republicans, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, and Rep. Peter King, have played along, saying that, yes, they'd be willing to break the pledge as part of a deal to reform entitlements and rein in spending. But when it comes to the pledge, the real question isn't whether Republicans are willing to break it--it's whether the pledge actually applies in the context of the fiscal cliff.
The fact is that at the start of the year all of the tax cuts first enacted under President Bush and extended in 2010, as well as the payroll tax cut of 2010, will expire for all taxpayers. So is preventing the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for people making less than $250,000 (or some other amount) the same thing as raising taxes on those making more than $250,000?
“I don’t see that as a violation of my pledge,” Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole told Politico. “I think we ought to take the 98 percent deal right now,” Cole said of extending income tax rates for families making less than $250,000. “It doesn’t mean I agree with raising the top 2. I don’t.”
While discussing the expiring Bush tax cuts in a 2011 interview with the Washington Post, Grover Norquist himself acknowledged that "not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase." But Norquist quickly clarified that extending tax rates for some is in fact a tax hike. During a recent interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Norquist reiterated that any deal that doesn't maintain the current income tax cuts for everyone is a tax hike:
So it's settled then: Not continuing a tax cut is a tax increase--except, for some reason, when it comes to the payroll tax cut of 2010. Americans for Tax Reform has not responded to emails inquiring whether it opposes the expiration of the payroll tax cut. But during a November 27, 2011 appearance on Meet the Press, Norquist said it was okay to let the payroll tax cut expire:
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