Jeb Bush The Latest Republican To Repudiate The Norquist Pledge

Jeb Bush is the latest Republican to eschew GOP tax orthodoxy.

Jeb Bush has become the latest Republican to speak out against his party’s orthodoxy on taxes, symbolized most perfectly by the pledge pushed by Grover Norquist of Americans For Tax Reform:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, often floated as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney, said he would favor slight tax increases in return for large cuts in spending – a compromise unpopular with many in his own party.

His comments came as Democratic lawmakers grilled Bush during his testimony before the House Budget Committee for a hearing titled, “Removing The Barriers To Free Enterprise And Economic Growth.”

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, presented a scenario to Bush, asking if he would accept a deficit reduction deal that included one dollar of new taxes for every ten dollars of spending cuts.

The same question was asked last summer at a GOP presidential debate. All eight candidates on stage, including Romney, said they would oppose such an agreement.

Bush, however, suggested he was open to the idea on Friday.

“Ten to one?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Doggett replied.

“Yeah, this will prove I am not running for anything,” he said. “If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we are going to have ten dollars of spending cuts for one dollar of revenue enhancement – put me in coach.”

(…)

Bush said he also disagreed with popular pledges authored by Washington anti-tax heavyweight Grover Norquist and his group, Americans for Tax Reform.

“I ran for office three times. The pledge was presented to me three times. I never signed the pledge. I cut taxes every year I was governor,” Bush said.

Romney signed the latest version of the pledge last year, along with several Republican presidential candidates at the time, in what was seen as a litmus test of fiscal conservative values.

Bush, however, countered the premise of the pledge on Friday.

“I don’t believe you outsource your principles and convictions to people. I respect Grover’s political involvement. He has it every right to do it, but I never signed any pledge,” Bush said.

Suzy Khimm contends that Bush didn’t really go that far off the GOP reservation:

[D]espite his apparent heresies, Bush made it clear during his testimony that he was essentially united with Republicans in Congress on taxes. He said he was willing to close tax breaks and loopholes that unfairly advantaged some industries and not others–but only in return for lowering tax rates over all, which is exactly the position that House Speaker John Boehner affirmed two weeks ago.

He emphasized what he called the necessity of extending all the George W. Bush tax cuts to avoid “a massive tax increase” that would hurt the economy. That’s precisely the demand that Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and other Republicans made during the failed supercommittee negotiations, proposing the elimination of certain tax deductions and write-offs in exchange for permanently extending the Bush tax cuts. And while Jeb Bush broke from the GOP presidential field in accepting the “10-to1” proposal for deficit reduction—$10 in spending cuts for every $1 in revenue—Congressional Republicans such as Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee have agreed to the same.

(…)

That’s more than, say, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) has been willing to offer so far in terms of the particulars of a potential tax overhaul. But, ultimately, there’s not much, if any, daylight between Jeb Bush’s position on taxes and that of his GOP colleagues in Washington.

That may be true, but at the very least, this should remove once and for all any doubt that Bush is prevaricating when he says he’s not interested in being Romney’s running mate. By separating himself from the GOP orthodoxy on taxes, Bush has essentially made himself an impossible choice for Romney to make.

As for the substance of his comments, there’s really not much there that I can disagree with. I’ve said numerous times before that any comprehensive budget deal that truly attempts to deal with both the short and long term problems with the budget will have to bring everything to the table, including taxes. The idea situation, of course, would be some form of comprehensive tax reform that concentrates on reducing deductions, exclusions, tax credits, and other loopholes. Do that, and we’ll be able to actually reduce rates and still bring more revenue into Federal coffers. The other advantage of this kind of tax reform is that it would eliminate the economy-distorting effects of all the special tax deals that have been thrown into the Tax Code over the years. Of course, it won’t be easy to accomplish this politically, and we probably won’t be able to get rid of all the bad things in the code, but we could at least get rid of some of them. It’s been 26 years since we had major tax reform in this country, and we’re long, long overdue. It’s not going to happen, though, as long as the Republican Party continues to cling to its idiotic tax orthodoxy we’re not going to get any of it done.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Taxes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. superdestroyer says:

    Jeb Bush is very good are representing the big government, big debt, cheap labor Republicans. The Bush Clan has added trillions to the national debt and is the one of the major reasons that the U.S. is headed to being a one-party-state.

    The Bush Clan has never managed to make siginficant budget cuts in 12 years in office and I see no reason that Jeb would be any different. His plan ins tax increases now and budget cuts later. Of course, later never comes and there are always reasons to keep taxing, borrowing, and spending.

  2. Explain to me how a long term fiscal plan can pass Congress if taxes are not on the table.

    It’s called political reality.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There is no such thing as a long term plan as far as the budget goes. Each Congress should be evaluated on how much it taxes in its term, how much it spends during its term, and how much it adds to the national debt.

    The way to make Americans rational is to raise taxes until their is no deficit and them tell the Americans that the only way to lower their taxes is to cut programs dollar for dollar. That will make 90% of taxpayers supporters of smaller government, few public servants, and rational governance.

    Planning for the long term is just not planning at all. It is postponing and letting others deal with the program.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The idea situation, of course, would be some form of comprehensive tax reform that concentrates on reducing deductions, exclusions, tax credits, and other loopholes.

    I’ll bet a years salary that none of the loopholes they close affect corporations.

  5. steve says:

    “Neither Reagan nor the Bush Clan has ever managed to make siginficant budget cuts in 20 years in office and I see no reason that Jeb would be any different.”

    FTFY.

    Steve

  6. grumpy realist says:

    @superdestroyer: The problem is that the smaller and weaker the government, the more that you are likely to have corrupt systems. Look around the world and please pick out a country that has the level of government you think optimal. Then look at how strong the legal system is. I bet not very much!

    The reason I can’t believe in Libertarianism is because there is no country in the world in history that has had a complex economy and minimal government. Libertarians mutter about the 1880s in the US, ignoring a) the huge land give-away done by the US Government b) the many levels of tariffs, and c) such very un-Libertarian systems as couverture, lack of voting rights for women, child labor, and so forth. Before Libertarians start squawking about getting rid of agencies like the FDA, they should read more about the history of the FDA and why it was founded in the first place. Unless you really like getting rat turds in your peanut butter and arsenic in your medicines….

    Which is why I have to conclude that libertarians are idiots.

  7. Nikki says:

    @grumpy realist: The same with unions. We’re told we don’t need the unions anymore even as we watch the highlight of union strength, the Middle Class, slowly disappear.

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Well, if you can’t not automatically reject a 10-1 ratio of spending cuts to taxes then no longer is it a question of Republican orthodoxy, it becomes at that level an issue of basic cognition. Which of course is the whole point. Jeb Bush here simply is being sentient and rational. Pledges, like loyalty oaths, litmus tests and similar items, are bad politics and bad policy. Never say never is a much better approach to governance, regardless of the party to which one belongs.

    That said, however, of course this is on many levels an absurd hypothetical. With Harry Reid running the Senate, at least until next January, and with the GOP having no chance in hell of approaching much less exceeding 59 seats, there correspondingly is no chance in hell of a 10-1 ratio of spending cuts to taxes. We also have to be mindful of semantic traps. In D.C. parlance “spending cuts” means reductions to the growth rates of spending, not actual cuts, whereas when taxes are raised they truly and literally are raised.

  9. @superdestroyer:

    There is no such thing as a long term plan as far as the budget goes. Each Congress should be evaluated on how much it taxes in its term, how much it spends during its term, and how much it adds to the national debt.

    Congress should be smart enough to design a long-term plan, and then responsible enough to follow the bulk of that plan.

    Woe that we do not live in such a country.

  10. Hey Norm says:

    @ Superdestroyer…

    “…Each Congress should be evaluated on how much it taxes in its term, how much it spends during its term, and how much it adds to the national debt…”

    If that were the case then you would be an Obama supporter.
    He has cut taxes, he has flattened the spending curve, and thus the growth of the debt. He has added 50% to the debt (much of which was due to obligations left by Republicans) while Reagan added 300%.
    Nice to know he can count on your vote.

  11. Hey Norm says:

    “…an absurd hypothetical…”
    made possible by an absurd position taken by the Reflexicans.

  12. Herb says:

    Things are pretty bad when agreeing to a 10 to 1 cuts to taxes ratio is considered a big concession. It’s so obviously tilted that it’s hardly a concession at all.

    Which is why it was absurd for all the GOP candidates to reject it at the debate. And listen to Jeb Bush act like he’s doing something courageous by agreeing to it. Please….

  13. Herb says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “Jeb Bush here simply is being sentient and rational.”

    Sentient…..learned a new word, did ya?

    Yes, Jeb Bush is being sentient. However, he’s not being very sapient.

  14. Phillip says:

    By separating himself from the GOP orthodoxy on taxes, Bush has essentially made himself an impossible choice for Romney to make

    Hey, you never know with Romney. He could shock us all and slip to the left ever so slightly from far-right to right-central. Would anything that comes from this campaign shock you at this point? Hell, goes for them all. I can’t predict what these politicians and their handlers will come up with next.

  15. Related, because it shows how far economic thought is from political front-lines:

    Justin Wolfers is convinced that economic conditions demand fiscal stimulus. And although Treasury yields are once again a fear gauge, Felix thinks they also show us the way out: vast government borrowing at cheap rates and spending to invest in infrastructure, public-sector employment and the social safety net.

    But congressional intransigience and the president’s seeming discomfort with stimulus makes that an unlikely path. Betsey Stevenson calls on Congress to “stop acting like children and do something about the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling” rather than engage in seven months of brinkmanship. But Jared Bernstein, Joe Biden’s former economic adviser, doesn’t think that a Congress committed to acting on narrow, partisan terms ”regardless of the degree of hardship in the current economy” can mature on a whim. After all, the benefits of the president’s jobs bill are looking awfully attractive right now, and it was pronounced DOA.

  16. oops, please close my /a tag

  17. superdestroyer says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I think that China, Russian, and India are good examples of what happens with big government , big countries and massive corruption. The same can be thought of for Indonesia and Brazil.

    Large , evasive governments in large societies are almost all corrupt and have a reputation of people not paying their taxes.

  18. superdestroyer says:

    @john personna:

    Congress cannot pass a law or budget that is binding on future Congresses. ONce a new Congress is sworn in, all of the old agreements and plans are moot.

    So, Congress should be held to want it does during its session instead of what it is planning on having another Congress do in the future.

  19. superdestroyer says:

    @Hey Norm:

    Obama and the Democrats have passed a law that makes long term obligations without bothering to pay for the. The same thing that GW Bush did.

    If you liked Obama, then you must have liked GW Bush . I think both are failures and that the U.S. needs a new direction where people pay for the government they want.

  20. @superdestroyer:

    Congress cannot pass a law or budget that is binding on future Congresses. ONce a new Congress is sworn in, all of the old agreements and plans are moot.

    We cannot pass “exercise plans” that are binding on our future selves, but many of us launch them and succeed even so.

    It’s kind of a basic human quality. That the right punts on that kind of responsibility is absurd, isn’t it?

    (Not to mention the basic contradiction … “we must cut spending” … “we can never cut spending [because all spending is in the future!]”)

  21. Hey Norm says:

    “…Obama and the Democrats have passed a law that makes long term obligations without bothering to pay for the. The same thing that GW Bush did…”
    What did Obama pass that is in any way shape or form similar to two un-paid for wars, two rounds of unpaid for tax cuts, and a massive un-paid for entitlement expansion?
    The Bush tax cuts alone are the single biggest driver of the deficit.
    If you take out the Bush items we do not have a deficit problem. Period. Nothing Obama has done comes close.
    http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3036

  22. superdestroyer says:

    @Hey Norm:

    The deficit is over $1 trillion dollars. The tax cuts made in 2001 and were extended during the Obama Administration (thus, no longer the bush tax cuts) are no where near one trillion. To raise $1 trillion dollars, incomes taxes would have to be doubled.

    In addition, the Obama Administration did not “fund” the social security tax cuts.

    The Obama Administration passed an Affordable Care Act that is a massive entitlement that will be larger than the Bush Medicare expansion. Of course, the Obama Administration pushed the costs into the second Obama term. Taxes will eventually go back up but the entitlement spending due to the ACA will never go away but just go up.

  23. george says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The way to make Americans rational is to raise taxes until their is no deficit and them tell the Americans that the only way to lower their taxes is to cut programs dollar for dollar. That will make 90% of taxpayers supporters of smaller government, few public servants, and rational governance.

    Noting, of course, that the military is part of the government, and a big military is mutually contradictory with a small government.

    The problem is that even the supposed small government GOP types still want a big government, they just want the big in the military. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

    The exceptions are the occaisional outrider like Paul (who’s got other problems), and his foreign policy (true small gov’t) isn’t liked by most of the GOP.

  24. superdestroyer says:

    @george:

    If progressives want a smaller military, then make the taxpayers pay for a large military. Want to take power away from neo-cons, make the take payers pay full retail for all of the neo-cons adventures.

    As long as Americans are getting their government at a 30% discount, then Americans are going to want more of it.

    Of course, progressives favorites like NPR would not last a day if everyone’s income taxes were double and the only way to lower income taxes are a dollar for dollar cut.

  25. george says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Actually I agree (taxes should be raised to cover everything, and then let people seriously think about what they actually want covered by the gov’t). However, I think you’ll find your thoughts about taxing for a large military will be pretty unpopular among most of the GOP, which has been pretty happy to push for increasing military size without raising taxes to pay for it.

    In this regard at least the Democrats are better, in that they’ve always been honest enough to say taxes have to be raised for the form of big gov’t they want – unlike the GOP who want to pay for their flavor of big gov’t without taxes.

  26. superdestroyer says:

    @george:

    The Democrats are not really that honest. Democrats always say that taxes need to be raised on others to pay for the programs that will benefit the groups that support the Democratic Party. The last thing that most Democratic party voters really want is to do is actually pay higher taxes. Look at California about how the one party state has limited tax increase to a few rich people.

  27. al-Ameda says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Pledges, like loyalty oaths, litmus tests and similar items, are bad politics and bad policy. Never say never is a much better approach to governance, regardless of the party to which one belongs.

    I am not in favor of pledges or loyalty oaths of any kind – I find them to be insulting to one’s intelligence, and somewhat emasculating.

  28. superdestroyer says:

    Instead of pledges, politicians would benefit from from being consistent in their philosophy, having a long term goal instead of a long term plan and then making decisions based upon their philosophy and goals.

    Of course, modern politicians have no long term goals and no consistent phiosophy, thus activist are forced to using pledges.

  29. Rob in CT says:

    On the one hand, this is good.

    On the other, is this becoming the bone that a GOPer throws to the rest of us and we’re supposed to then fall all over ourselves saying how moderate they are?

    Overton window, baby. Now being willing to say “we shouldn’t reject any tax increases, ever” is “moderate.”

    F*ck me.

  30. Rob in CT says:

    Supe: the one thing you are correct about is that we should, generally (I do leave some room for exceptions during extreme events) have taxes that actually pay for our spending, and that this will focus people on what they really want from government. Running up the credit card so you can have guns, butter and a side order of global hegemon pie is not a sustainable path.

  31. george says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Not sure I want my representative to be consistent in their philosophy – the real world tends to be much more complicated than any ideology, and I’d prefer a representative flexible enough to deal with that. Ideological purity is great for university debates, not so good in the ebb and flow of real politics and business.

    I do agree that having long term goals (ie past the next election) would be very nice in a politician, though I’m not holding my breath for that one.