Monday, April 25, 2011

Tom Coburn takes on Grand Inquisitor Norquist

As I've said before, if the GOP is tilting toward becoming the Church of Cut My Taxes, surely Grover Norquist would be the most likely candidate for that church's Grand Inquisitorship.  Well, now Tom Coburn, of all people, has decided to publicly go after Cardinal Toquemada, er, Mr. Norquist.  Take it away, Brother Coburn!
"Which pledge is most important... the pledge to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who claims to speak for all American conservatives when, in fact, they really don't?" Coburn asked. "The fact is we have enormous urgent problems in front of us that have to be addressed and have to be addressed in a way that will get 60 votes in the Senate... and something that the president will sign."

"Where's the compromise that will save our country?" he asked. "This isn't about politics that is normal."
Dare I say, "Amen?"  And it gets better:

Both Coburn and Conrad declined to offer details of their plan but dropped a few possible clues: no middle-class tax hikes, closing offshore tax loopholes and some entitlement reforms
Obviously, this is far from a final proposal, let alone becoming law.  But it's truly encouraging to see some members of the Republican Party coming to grips with the reality that cuts alone won't solve the problem, and something has got to be done about increasing revenue.  I don't even care that Coburn is probably the most backward social conservative to be found in these United States.  Social issues can be fought over later, after the budget gets fixed, and the President needs allies in the GOP to make that happen, in order to counter know-nothing, dead-ender demagogues like Norquist.

Sullivan rejoices:
The Bush tax cuts were premised (falsely) on a large and growing surplus. I supported them as a way to prevent all that revenue being soaked up by the feds. But they were very quickly revealed as imprudent.

They were imprudent because the surplus wasn't real (it was largely a function of the tech bubble) and because the country was about to embark on two massively expensive global wars and a massive new domestic entitlement, Medicare D. They were only passed on the condition that if cicumstances evolved which revealed them to be imprudent, they would be sunsetted by now.

Like Coburn, I think we have a golden opportunity to raise necessary revenues without hiking tax rates, if we do this through tax reform. Norquist responds not by substantively defending his draconian supply-side mess of a budget proposal, but by claiming Coburn had broken a no-tax-increase pledge in 2004. Yes: 2004.

I remain a fan of Coburn's in this, if not in social policy. The real fiscal conservative is not playing ideological games right now, He's seeking a politically viable compromise on spending and taxes in which both parties will need to take their lumps. I see no other practical way to avoid the iceberg ahead.
More of this from the GOP, and I'll have to take back my complaint about the whole party becoming the Church of Cut My Taxes.  I doubt that Norquist and his ilk have lost that much power just yet, and they certainly won't go without a fight, but perhaps Tom Coburn can convince some of his colleagues to listen to reason and save the country.

As I said in the earlier post bashing Norquist, American politics used to be all about dealmaking.  Maybe this is the start of getting back to the tradition of compromise.

Of course, the tea partiers are the elephant in the room.  What happens, for instance, if pissed off Oklahoma tea-baggers decide to challenge Coburn in a primary?  That would be incredibly short-sighted politically, since Coburn's seat is his for as long as he wants it, but such action would certainly go a long way to stamping out hopes of a deal.  Similarly, the threats to challenge Boehner in a primary over his budget-shutdown-averting compromise with the President fill me with anxiety.  This is a time to make deals and be practical.  The tea party is, well, anything but practical.

So, whither the tea-baggers?

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