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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Anatomy of GOP hardliners

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 11, 2011, as the debt talks continued. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

On the surface, it would seem like an opportune time for Congress to include targeted tax hikes as part of a cost-cutting package to reduce the huge federal deficit.

Federal taxes, as a share of the overall economy, are at their lowest levels since 1950. A return to the higher income tax rates of the Clinton presidency — when many Americans prospered, and calls for tax cuts were fairly muted — would wipe out most of the deficit. And congressional Democrats appear ready to make deep spending cuts, sought by Republicans, in exchange for a smaller level of tax increases.

Despite all that, most congressional Republicans have vowed not to raise taxes of any kind, complicating efforts to reach a bipartisan deal to reduce spending and prevent the United States from defaulting on its loans.

The adamant stand puzzles many analysts. They say it’s almost self-defeating, blocking Republicans from accepting deals in which Democrats have made the biggest concessions.

“Republicans don’t know when to take ‘yes’ for an answer,” said Bob Bixby of the bipartisan Concord Coalition, a leading advocate of balanced budgets. “They could have very, very favorable terms” in the current negotiations, he said, with Democrats yielding far more in spending cuts than Republicans would have to yield in tax hikes.

The potency of the Republican Party’s anti-tax stance seems to have caught even a top GOP lawmaker, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, by surprise. He had to back away from suggestions that he might accept significant revenue hikes as part of a $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan.

“There was never any agreement to allow tax rates to go up in any discussions I’ve ever had with the White House,” Boehner said Monday.

Key Republicans and others cite at least four key events that transformed the GOP from a party with a balanced approach to taxes and spending — Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan both raised taxes, though many Republicans now ignore those facts — to a party that puts a no-net-tax-increase pledge above almost everything else.

—Read My Lips.

George H.W. Bush’s most memorable campaign phrase in 1988 was “Read my lips: No new taxes!”

But in 1990, Bush faced a rising deficit and congressional Democrats who, like today, insisted on revenue increases to partly offset spending cuts. Bush’s advisers persuaded him to accept the deal. Hardcore conservatives howled, and Bush lost his 1992 re-election bid to Bill Clinton.

A dispirited GOP played a role, but Bush’s slow response to a rapidly deteriorating economy probably played a bigger part. Nonetheless, Republican lore holds that Bush lost because he reneged on a vow never to raise taxes, and thousands of Republican officials since then have sworn not to make the same mistake.


By that year, Bush’s son had succeeded Clinton as president, and he solidified the GOP’s image as a party that doesn’t raise taxes, even when it launches costly new missions. In fact, President George W. Bush persuaded Congress to enact a second major tax cut, on top of the one from 2001. Also in 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and the GOP-led Congress expanded Medicare to cover prescription drugs, both of which were paid for with borrowed money.

“2003 was the most fiscally irresponsible year, possibly of all time,” said David Walker, a former comptroller general who travels the country calling for deficit reduction.

Despite such charges, few Republican officials today say the lesson of 2003 is to raise revenues when programs expand and deficits soar.

—A man named Grover.

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, has spent years cajoling, persuading and bullying GOP officials into signing a pledge never to support a net increase in taxes. While some Republicans grumble about Norquist’s clout, he still wields enormous influence, partly by warning those who defy his pledge that they will pay a political price.

“My God, what has this country come to when one person has to give you permission to do what’s best for the country?” Clinton said in a recent speech, referring to Norquist.

—A more conservative GOP.

In recent years, staunch conservatives have expanded their influence in the Republican electorate. “The Republican Party is dependent, to an extent unprecedented in recent political history, on a single ideological group,” which is conservatives, writes political analyst Nate Silver.

The trend increases the threat of a party primary challenger to any GOP lawmaker who makes accommodations, such as tax increases, to reach an accord with Democrats.

Today’s Republican Party is so taxaphobic that hardly anyone blinks when Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell says, day after day, that the nation has a spending problem, not a taxing problem.

Mathematically, of course, that’s not necessarily true. A government can close a budget gap with tax hikes, spending cuts or some combination of the two. Liberal bloggers make this point more robustly than do most Democrats in Congress.

“No, McConnell, we have a revenue problem, not a spending problem,” wrote a blogger named westcoastliberal at “If you and your GOP cohorts had not sought tax cuts as a remedy for every problem, we could be sitting pretty as a country right now.”

The Republican Party’s anti-tax stand is aided by a public with conflicting wishes. Voters generally oppose large deficits, higher taxes and cuts in programs that benefit them, a painless but impossible combination.

A March AP-GfK poll found that 62 percent of Americans say cutting government services is preferable to raising taxes in order to balance the budget. Less than one-third favored tax hikes.

But their tune changes when faced with specifics, such as cutting popular and expensive programs that threaten to drive the deficit much higher. A new Pew Research poll asked whether it is more important to reduce the budget deficit or to maintain current Medicare and Social Security benefits. “The public decisively supports maintaining the status quo,” Pew found.

Walker says the growing deficit mirrors a changed society that’s less willing to confront the consequences of spending more money than one makes. For 175 years, he said, the country refused to accept big deficits except in cases of deep recessions, declared wars or national emergencies. “It was part of our culture,” he said.

“About three decades ago, our culture changed,” Walker said. Americans amassed debts on their credit cards and home equity loans, and the government similarly lived on borrowed money. Given voters’ and lawmakers’ reluctance to make sacrifices, Walker said, Congress should enact a system of automatic spending cuts and temporary tax surcharges that would be triggered when the deficit hits designated levels.

Bixby, of the Concord Coalition, said deal-making in Congress “used to be a good thing.” Now, he said, “people seem to be going out of their way to avoid a solution.”

Tax hikes and program cuts are naturally unpopular, Bixby said, but how else can the deficit be tamed?

“Raise revenues and cut spending,” he said. “It’s not that difficult.”

18 thoughts on “Anatomy of GOP hardliners”

  1. Call the bluff and see if it falls apart? Maybe get it over with now rather than in three years or five or ten. See if it will really be a fiscal Armageddon? Maybe Moody can downgrade everyone? Maybe China can get stuck with all our worthless paper? See what happens if the threat of no government handouts from entitlements really happens. See if the obligations to those who paid into the Ponzi SS get any dough? If it does fall apart then let’s see a ObamaVille set up on The Mall.

  2. Interesting how the definition of a hardliner is someone who doesn’t want the govt to take any more of folks’ hard-earned money…

    • Rest assured Almandine, the ‘republicans’ are not our friends. It’s these war-mongering jerks that managed to slap 60% of our public debt burden upon us during the past 20 years with their presence in the White House from Reagan/H.W. Bush on through the G.W. Bush/Cheney reign of terror/errors. Eight years of Clinton/Gore and now 2.5 years of Obama/Biden are nothing but holding presidencies until the party of ‘freebooters’ can regain control of the White House. “We the people” are seemingly dopes and they’ve roped us…no? / : |

      Republicans are hyprocrites, phonies and worse. This sensationalistic ‘hardliner’ moniker is pure bullsh*t. Believe it…!

      The Democrats are nothing but “camp-following” bottom feeders as far as I’m concerned and will waste tax revenues on questionable social programs; I.E., any availabe tax bucks the ‘rethugs’ haven’t squandered on engineered wars in far off ratholes of the world.

      Carl Nemo **=

      • This sensationalistic ‘hardliner’ moniker is pure bullsh*t. Believe it…!

        Maybe so, Carl… but within the context of this article, they ARE the ones who are trying to subdue the bottom feeding. Otherwise, $14T in debt will be $30T in debt in another 5 years or so.

        Light a friggin’ candle and quit cursing.

        • Almandine you just don’t seem to get the concept that there is no longer a ‘two party’ system in place with each catering to different needs of “We the people”, one with a long-standing commitment to the monied class; I.E., the Republicans and the other to the working class, the Democrats. The concept is finis…!

          This paradigm is no more with both parties totally compromised to corporate interests. There is no hope to found with embracing either party platform. They’ve devolved to our detriment into simply duopolists representing the shadowy corporate oligarchs that own this nation lock, stock and barrel.

          Candle lighting is for weak-minded optimists Almadine whereas I’m a terminally predisposed realist, although I do light candles on the mantle for ambience while having an evening fire in July…! Hell it’s supposed to be summer, but not where I live in the Pacific Northwest. Seemingly it’s been raining for two years and we still have 48 degree nights in July. Is this an omen of things to come or what in terms of weather and our nations impending travails at the hands of these mattoids…?! / : |

          Carl Nemo **==

          • I get it ALL, Carl! In this latest missive, you’ve intertwined the political realm with the weather… all in a causal mode, it seems, and you’ve lost the ability to promote discriminated reality. You’re around the linguistic bend, some would say.

            I DO NOT advocate any sort of pollyannish approach to our problems… far from it. Heck, about 4 years ago when I first posted here and we were posting complementary ideas together, ideas that actually identified facts and data, programs and problems, the reality spoke for itself. We just pointed to it.

            Anymore, your’s is all about the most negatively opinionated discourse you can muster. ALL indiscriminate gloom and doom, ALL the time. ALWAYS about the political slugs that are out to kill us. There can be no goodness… anywhere. You’ve become the Irascible Oracle.

            I want to say, Get A Life, Man! And since I don’t say that, I now ask: How many times over the last 6 months have you posted the exact same rant, maybe using different words sometimes, but the exact same message? WE GET IT! WE KNOW… but there are INDEED solutions, not just bloviation!

            You haven’t spent any time lately on solutions… and maybe you don’t see any. The thing is… your fixation leads me to believe that you wouldn’t see the solution forest for the troubled trees… thus, I call on you to adjust yourself. BE USEFUL, not just troubled. LEAD… quit reacting.

            We need what you have to offer: BETTER 🙂

            • “ALWAYS about the political slugs that are out to kill us.” …extract from post

              They are…! Tonight you are writing the empty rhetoric of a desperate peasant as myself without any solutions to be had.

              We best realize who our betters are…!

              Sorry to chaff your hide tonight as in seemingly months past good buddy, but that’s the way I perceive the order of things and the hopelessness of the situation.

              Surely if we were mutual multi-billionaires we’d be cheering the other side of the human equation; I.E., ‘our thing’…no? / : |

              Carl Nemo **==

  3. Doesn’t matter how much taxes are raised when there are four wars sucking it back out to the tune of trillions per year. There will never be enough taxes for these Hill People.

    • Another salient point Woody188 for sure. Seemingly evil madmen have hijacked this nation.

      It’s obvious to citizens such as ourselves what needs to be done, but they absolutely refuse to take the necessary action to save this nation, meaning to me, they are out to intentionally scuttle the USS America and for what ‘reward’ I’m not sure? Is it ‘gold stars’ given out by the shadowy global oligarchs that want to bring about their New World Order, single currency scam or in addition an exalted place in hell next to their ‘Father”, the Prince of Darkness in the event they are into such a belief system…? / : |

      Whatever the reason, seemingly our leadership have become truly dangerous entities and need to be summarily removed from office, but since that cannot be so without open revolution, then my unsolicited advisement to citizens is to prepare for the absolute worst scenario possible; I.E., severely cut or curtailed government programs and benefits, even more massive unemployment and the remnant of the housing market headed for the bottom.

      It’s difficult to believe that our entire societal paradigm is at risk of crashing and it’s all linked to corrupt central banking and the ilk that runs them.

      At one time CHB offered a blogposting function to readers. I’m thinking my first post to this site function, no longer available. which still seems to be popular with web viewers be reposted to this site due to the impending crisis in the months and years to come. I also know Woody188 that you’ve admonished readers concerning this same issue; i.e., family survival over time.

      Carl Nemo **==

  4. The rich make an easy target but then it depends on what the definition of rich is? I go along with Carl on the top 1% like an extra 10% will kill them? Spending cuts are laughable since none of them have the balls to offend any and all specila interest groups. Last thing they need is the march of the advocates.

  5. Well said Mr. Nemo

    Here’s to you Eve

    I wonder if NAFTA was thought about in the mid seventies. I had a professor explain food, energy, and housing prices along with taxes in the USA compared to the rest of the world. He explained if we keep food and energy prices low we would have more disposable income to buy “stuff”, and how our economy would grow. Look back at the NYSE since the seventies and look at the growth. His one remark was very telling when he asked how many TV’s did each one of us have at home. Everyone in class raised one finger and his remark was that we would have 2 or 3 sets in the near future. We all laughed, but if we had only known what was to come.

  6. Forget tax hikes–just eliminate the majority of the loopholes. Though I imagine that would get more people howling than an overt increase would.

  7. Well said Carl Nemo.

    Is NAFTA one of the tools used to cut American worker wages down to that of “slave labor” nations?

    One has to wonder.

    Has NAFTA been good for the US Middle Class?
    Sure, there re probably websites which claim that it has been great for the US, however Main St. and Wall St. are singing different tunes.

  8. “Raise revenues and cut spending,” he said. “It’s not that difficult.” …extract from article

    Both David Walker, former Comptroller General of the U.S. and Bixby of the Concord Coalition have it right. We need both and not in a minor way; ie., massive spending cuts and tax hikes especially on the top 1% who’ve been enjoying a ten year “half trillion” dollar windfall thanks to the Bushistas. Also corporate tax law needs to changed big time along with penalites for corporations that are engaged in offshore banking to avoid taxes. If they don’t pay their fair share then yank their corporate certification and kick their butts ‘offshore’ where they belong permanently with heavy, punitive tariffs on products cranked out by their criminally disposed, nation-destroying manufacturing ops. This would also force entrepreneurs to start domestic manufacturing again along with the derivative benefit of jobs since goods produced at home would be far cheaper to the consuming public.

    Cantor is proclaiming you don’t raise taxes in a recession at least not for the top 1% his patrons no doubt. The recession isn’t affecting them. Yeah, maybe they can’t purchase a more expensive yacht, airplane or another home, but other than that life is still good to great for them. This isn’t a normal recession/depression, but one engineered by the Congressional clowns during the past sixteen years since the passage of NAFTA and a host of manufacturing base damaging, lob-sided ‘free trade’ treaties. They’ve created the mess, but refuse to do what’s necessary to turn things about. It it any wonder there’s a shortfall on tax revenues derived from the serfs of this nation. Fie on them all…!

    Our Congress reminds me of people who buy expensive exercise equipment, but refuse to integrate a change in diet and drinking habits in order to lose the ‘pork’. / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Funny thing: If no new legislation is passed, the Bush/Obama tax cuts will automatically expire at the end of 2012, returning to higher rates for all. So the Democrats don’t have to do a thing, and rates will rise. Republicans have to actually get a bill through the Senate and get Obama to sign it, to keep the same low rates after 2012.

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