When it comes to political hot points in conservative political circles in Nevada, the Grover Norquist/Americans for Tax Reform “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” may be the most singularly significant. It has become, for some, THE litmus test for who a “real” conservative is and isn’t. But is that fair? Does the pledge make sense politically, policy-wise, or philosophically?
This blog was conceived specifically to answer questions like that, and now – with several Republican primary races pitting Pledge-signers against non-Pledge signers (both arguing over who the “true conservative” is) – is as good a time as any to explore this issue.
This is often painted as a “pragmatist vs. purist” argument – but I think that is too glib, especially for something as complicated as tax policy. And it lets both signers and non-signers off the hook when it comes to truly understanding – and explaining to their constituents! – the complex budget bills they’re considering.
I’m going to explore this on multiple fronts and in multiple posts to follow, but the bottom line is this – the Pledge is an un-serious document, poorly tailored to promote sound, conservative economic policy.
On the federal level, it has allowed (and indeed encouraged) Republicans to rack up unconscionable debt while bragging about “keeping taxes low” – all the while taxing our children and grandchildren into oblivion. In states like Nevada where our Constitution putatively requires budgets to be balanced, the Pledge encourages budgetary shell games, gimmicks, and out-and-out theft from local government entities (who ironically are then forced to raise taxes). Locally, in a small state where politics is personal, the Pledge and its ethically challenged local pusher has become an unnecessary and costly point of division among our GOP lawmakers. It should be rejected by any true Conservative leader who is serious about building winning coalitions able to address many of the systemic problems our state and our nation faces.
The purpose of the Pledge has been to “Starve the Beast” – but The Beast is as gluttonous as ever. The Pledge has been a failure, both politically and as policy.
Having said all this, most of the arguments against the Pledge are actually incredibly lame, and warrant their own responses. The maximization of individual liberty and economic prosperity depends – generally speaking – on limited tax rates. This is not a post written to encourage politicians to simply raise taxes every time they lack the courage to actually decrease the size of government (as is necessary) or to tackle systemic, unsustainable time bombs like our unfunded public employee retirement obligations.
As a nation, we are broker than any nation has ever been in the history of the planet. As a state, we are in frightening fiscal shape as a result of decades of shortsightedness. Conservative policies are needed to right the ship (if it’s not too late to be righted), but they must be policies and solutions based on a solid, principled foundation of good economics and a reverence for individual liberty, not sound bites or brainless political kabuki. This post isn’t to encourage Republicans to forget their conservative principles; rather it’s to free them from the political tyranny of a Pledge that has done far more harm than good to effective, conservative, and sustainable governance in Nevada.
This is Part One of a multi-post argument on this topic. Here’s a list of what’s to come:
- Defining Terms
- Just What is the Ideal, Official “Conservative Tax Rate”?
- Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin, and Brian Sandoval – No Good Dirty Tax Hiking RINOs?
- Debt as Tax – Why the Tax Pledge Lets Our Biggest Tax Hikers Off the Hook
- The Pledge as Contract – Why “Simple” Combines Infinite Flexibility with Absurd Rigidity
- How the Pledge Encourages Theft From Local Governments – And Higher Local Taxes
- The Politics of the Pledge – How the Pledge Makes Republicans Irrelevant and/or Pushes Them To the Left
- If the Goal Is to Cut Spending, Why Not Just Pledge to Cut Spending?
- Where are the Proposed Budgets from Pledge Signers?
- Follow the Money – Who Actually Profits From the Pledge?
- The Lame Arguments Against the Pledge
- Reclaiming Conservatism – a Pledge I’d Like to See
As always, the comments section is open if you disagree throughout.