Ordinary People to Politicians on Taxes: Grow Up, Already!
Here’s an encouraging article in this morning’s (Friday’s) Washington Post, about the conversations politicians are having with their constituents back at home this summer. Seems that Republicans are getting scolded, and Democrats are feeling a little less wimpy these days, on the topic of tax policy’s role in deficit reduction (emphasis added):
SANDWICH, Ill. — On Wednesday morning, as his tinted black bus pulled into Randy Hultgren’s congressional district, President Obama told residents that Republicans like Hultgren must be willing to raise taxes to reduce the deficit.
A few hours and 90 miles away, Hultgren’s own constituents had picked up the message, repeatedly hectoring the freshman congressman at a town hall meeting to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
“We have clear information that … tax cuts, especially to the super rich, has not increased any more jobs,” one man told him. “I want to know under what conditions you would be willing to consider increasing taxes, especially on those who can afford it? ”
“I just have one question for you tonight,” said another. “Did you sign Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes?” — referring to the promise that has been signed by most congressional Republicans, including Hultgren.
“Don’t you have the confidence in your own ability in Congress to make up your own mind? You need Grover Norquist to tell you?” the man continued.
The article makes a similar point to one I made in this blog post for the Concord Coalition. At Concord we believe there’s nothing that will work better to steer tax policy in a better direction than ordinary Americans telling their politicians to “grow up” about taxes. (Join our mini “movement”–explained in our video–if you want to learn and do more.) And it’s not just the Republicans held to the “no new taxes” pledge who need to grow up about it, by the way. The Democrats are still living in a bit of a fairy tale about tax policy in thinking that we only need to consider tax increases on (very) rich households and on certain types of not-so-highly-regarded (as well as very rich) corporations.
There’s “growing up” on entitlement reform that’s needed, too–”not gonna lie” (to use one of my 14-year-old daughter’s favorite expressions). Any “grand bargain” would have to involve some plans to improve Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as well as to reform the tax system. But I think the time is right for tax reform to go first, especially given the lack of taxes in the first round of the debt limit deal, the relative mechanical and economic ease of raising revenue versus cutting entitlements or other spending within the first ten years (to which the $1.5 trillion deficit reduction target applies), and the clamor of the American public (even from some of those really rich people who would surely pay higher taxes) for policymakers to just raise revenue.