Republican Apostasy Update

by Jonathan Chait | March 9, 2011

Yesterday, I discussed an interesting Washington Post story, about Republican Senators apparently challenging their party's "no new revenues ever" dogma. Ramesh Ponnuru notes that the three GOP senators recently sent Grover Norquist a letter promising that "any increase in revenue generation will be the result of the pro-growth effects of lower individual and corporate tax rates for all Americans." That would seem to rule out any agreement to increase tax revenues (by non-crazy accounting methods, anyway).

Yet Carrie Budoff Brown reports that the Senators sound different now:

Coburn usually would agree. But when it comes to taming the $14 trillion debt — a challenge Coburn has called “a matter of national survival” — he won’t rule it out.
“I don’t have a bottom line. I’m open to solving our very acute problems,” Coburn said Tuesday, when asked whether he would consider raising taxes.
His GOP partners in bipartisan deficit-reduction talks, Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mike Crapo of Idaho, are with him, too. “Nobody wants to raise taxes,” Chambliss said. “I don’t want to raise taxes, and I’ve never voted for a tax increase. But it has to be in the mix for the dialogue. The discussion needs to be there.”

Someone's talking out of both sides of their mouth.

Meanwhile, Norquist continues to vouch for his failed approach:

“You can’t do it with tax increases,” Norquist said. “The only time the deficit comes down is when you refuse to raise taxes and you rein in spending."

That Republicans still maintain this is a testament to the theological hold of supply-side economics. Here is the record:

In 1981, Ronald Reagan cut taxes. Outlays did not fall. In 1990, George H.W. Bush made a deal with democrats to raise taxes and cut spending, and in 1993 Bill Clinton passed a budget doing the same. Conservatives denounced both ferociously. Outlays plunged. Then in 2001, George W. Bush cut taxes. Outlays rose.

Indeed, conservatives don't really deny the fact that spending failed to fall during Reagan's tenure, and rose under Bush. They trumpet these facts, to excuse the tax cuts from any responsibility for the deficits. But of course the tax cuts were supposed to cause spending to fall. The Republican Party is thus able to simultaneously believe that debt financed tax cuts always succeed in leading to spending cuts, and that Bush's policy of debt-financed tax cuts failed because it was accompanied by higher spending. It's one of the cult-like attributes of conservative movement thought.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/84950/republican-apostasy-update-maybe-not