Dear Congressman

 

Sunday’s replay of the Grover Norquist 60 Minutes piece above highlighted for me (again!) the recalcitrance of Republicans generally to accept any tax increase no matter the reason or purpose. Compromise cannot be countenanced and Republicans are supposed to brand themselves as the Party that will never raise your taxes, no matter what. 

As a consequence, I was spurred to write the following to my Congressman. 

Dear Congressman:

I see that you have signed “the Pledge” advocated by Americans for Tax Reform, the Grover Norquist group.  As you know, this so-called “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” is designed to commit an elected official or candidate for public office “to oppose [and vote against/veto] any efforts to increase taxes.” As you also know, those who are deemed to have violated the Pledge can expect lots of publicity to surround their having done so as well as a well-financed primary challenge from a candidate who emphasizes the Pledge.  You cannot take such threats lightly.  Indeed, despite some recent claims of weakness, Mr. Norquist is often thought to be the most important person in Republican Party politics.

However, as a firm believer in limited government and as someone who dislikes paying taxes as much as anyone, I still encourage you to announce that you have rescinded your commitment to the Pledge.  Your current commitment makes not raising taxes your primary duty and obligation.  Instead, I think that your primary obligations should be those contained in your oath of office: to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  I hope these seminal obligations will not require tax increases, but if and when they do, I want you — we need you — to support them for the good of the country and the sake of the Constitution.

Most obviously, if the United States were attacked, our defense might require more resources than our tax code currently allows.  For example, World War II cost enormous amounts of money and required significant tax increases, but they were absolutely necessary.  Consistent with that which is in the news currently, your Pledge never to support new revenues, under any circumstances, is inconsistent with what may be necessary to deal with our current debt and deficit crisis. I don’t see how this crisis can be solved without them.  But even if I were wrong, to rule them out beforehand is simply unacceptable because this challenge is so great.

Some may think that the Pledge implicitly allows for additional taxes in the event of real emergency, such as (perhaps) foreign attack.  However, ATR takes great pains to emphasize that no such exception is allowed.

“There are no exceptions to the Pledge. Tax-and-spend politicians often use ’emergencies’ to justify increasing taxes. In the unfortunate event of a real crisis or natural disaster, the legislator should propose spending cuts in other areas to finance the emergency response.”
 
While I agree that politicians can and often do make dubious “emergency” claims in an effort to justify tax increases, since no provision for actual emergency is provided, the Constitution must take precedence and your Pledge should be disclaimed. You need to make a decision as to which is your top priority, Grover Norquist or the Constitution.  Which is it going to be?
 
Sincerely,
 
Robert P. Seawright 

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