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Republican Candidates Completely Walk Away from Balanced Approach
“Just making sure everyone at home and everyone here knows that they all raised their hands. They’re all saying that they feel so strongly about not raising taxes that a 10 [spending cuts] to one [tax revenues] deal, they would walk away from,” Fox News host Bret Baier confirmed for the audience at the first Iowa Republican Primary debate.
With a simple raising of hands, the debate revealed that the entire Republican field would reject any sort of compromise measure that included revenue increases, even if such a compromise heavily favored spending cuts. Even a deal raising just one dollar in revenue for ten dollars in spending cuts is now off the table for the Republican candidates.
This no-compromise approach on taxes demonstrates that ultimately the winner of Thursday night’s Republican debate is Grover Norquist, whose no-tax pledge has become an absolute requirement which every Republican presidential candidate must religiously abide.
Republican Candidates Run Away from Previous Compromises
Not only did the candidates promise to not increase any taxes in the future, many of them ran away from their own record of raising taxes in the past.
During the debate, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York asked former Governors Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and Representative Michele Bachmann in turn about specific times that they had voted for or signed some form of a (gasp!) tax increase.
Each in turn, attempted to explain away their former support for the tax increases. Bachmann blamed Pawlenty for forcing her into a box, saying that she had to vote for the tax increase in order to support abortion restrictions. Pawlenty emphasized his high ratings from the CATO Institute and said that he regretted the cigarette fee he had agreed to in order to end a government shutdown. Romney did not dispute the specific incident brought up from his record, but he emphasized that he decreased taxes overall and that he had managed to get Massachusetts’s credit rating to be increased.
None of the candidates were willing to stand up and defend the core truth at issue: responsible lawmakers are sometimes required to make compromises based on the realities they face.
Each of these Republican candidates was forced at some point to make the responsible decision to vote for tax increases and defy Norquist’s absolutist pledge.
Jon Huntsman Wrong on Flat Tax, Herman Cain Still Wrong on Repatriation
Although touting one’s opposition to any tax increase was the theme of the night, a couple candidates advocated their own problematic approaches to tax reform.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman lauded his creation of a flat tax in Utah, saying that such an approach is “exactly what needs to happen in this country.” As Citizens for Tax Justice has noted before however, Huntsman’s flat tax made the state’s tax system even more regressive and lost an unexpectedly large amount of revenue, making it a case study of bad tax policy.
For his part, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza Herman Cain had a moment of surprising candor when discussing the proposed repatriation holiday. When pressed on the failure of the 2004 repatriation holiday to create jobs, Cain admitted that he was “not concerned” with what actually happens to offshore corporate profits repatriated under the holiday, so long as the are back in the US. In other words, he does not care whether corporate tax breaks lead to job creation.
As we noted during the last debate, what Cain fails to realize is that a permanent or even temporary tax holiday on repatriated profits would ultimately incentivize companies to move more of their investment and jobs offshore.
Check out a complete transcript of the debate here