What is a tax increase?

"What is a tax increase?" Continued...

Issue: "Border bandits," Dec. 3, 2011

"From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous," Coburn said. "Multimillionaires are even receiving government checks for not working."

Such surprising positions will not come without consequences. Nearly every congressional Republican (including all but six in the House) has signed the Americans for Tax Reform's "taxpayer protection pledge." This pledge includes opposition to ending any tax breaks unless it's combined with rate cuts elsewhere. The group, arguing that any revenue increases always lead to future spending increases, promises to hold the pledge-breakers accountable.

Signing this pledge has been as routine as filing to run for most Republican candidates over the years. But already some Republicans this fall are taking the unprecedented step of pushing back. "I believe how the pledge is interpreted and enforced ... is a roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code," said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., recently on the House floor.

Still, not all Republicans are willing to put tax changes on the table. "It is about commitments that people make to the electorate that they represent, to the people that sent them here," said Rep. Eric Cantor, who as Republican majority leader is one of Boehner's top lieutenants in the House. "So again, your words should be good to your constituents, and that is what we are dealing with here."

From within the Republican leadership to the rank and file, the gauntlet has been thrown down over taxes. The result could create a fierce intraparty showdown among conservatives heading into next fall's elections.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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