America's Tax Policy

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SEPTEMBER 10, 2007

America's Tax Policy

This is the fifth part of the debate. See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Grover,

Let me go over a few points where you seem to be offering a weak defense. First, what the public wants on taxes. Yes, polls show people would rather pay lower taxes. Polls also show people want more spending on all the big programs. The only way to resolve the contradiction is to ask people what they prefer if given a choice between the two. And here the evidence is clear: the public, including most Republicans, prefers deficit reduction, expanding health care, entitlements, and other things over tax cuts.

Your heroic tales of ballot initiatives slain is not very compelling data. Voters tend not to like ballot initiatives. Anyway, there are plenty of examples of ballot initiatives that passed. Lots and lots of towns need to pass property tax increases to fund their schools, and they do.

You say you want to cut the size of the federal government in half. Social Security, Medicare, and Defense, all of which are wildly popular, plus interest on the debt, which is mandatory, account for almost two-thirds of the federal budget. How do you plan to cut these things? With unified GOP control and a president who staked his second term on it, you couldn't even partially privatize Social Security. (Indeed, the more Bush explained it to the public, the less popular the idea became.) And you had to promise to massively expand Medicare to get elected in the first place. So please, with some detail, explain how this cutting-in-half process will work.

On Reagan, you're correct of course that he was "a flesh and blood political leader." My point is, when other flesh and blood leaders contemplate raising taxes, they're accused of betraying Reagan's legacy. My point is that your party has an idea of Reagan that Reagan himself did not adhere to. You seem to be conceding the point.

Lest we start going in circles, let me ask you about another instance in which you figure in The Big Con. In Chapter 8, I cite a 1992 article you wrote for the American Spectator predicting the nefarious schemes the Clinton administration would pull off:

Norquist wrote that Democrats in Congress "cheated. And so will a Clinton administration." How would he do it? Norquist proceeded to spin an elaborate scenario of the skulduggery that would surely follow Clinton's election: he would pad out the Senate by granting statehood to the District of Columbia and, quite likely, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. He would expand the judiciary in order to flood it with his loyalists. By changing labor law, he would "organize a 1996 war chest that could outspend the Republican campaign by a factor or ten--or more." He would dispatch bueaucrats to shake down businessmen for donations. He would allow the automatic registration of voters--"not necessarily citizens," he noted--at welfare offices and prison induction centers.

Of course, Clinton never attempted, let alone pulled off, a single one of these schemes. Does the unqualified failure of your prediction in any way change your view of Clinton, or is your worldview totally nonfalsifiable?

Yours,

Jonathan

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