Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Saxby Chambliss seizes the freedom to acknowledge that 2+2 = 4

When the Wall Street Journal reported that a new Senate gang of six was beginning negotiations toward a comprehensive tax/budget reform deal, Grover Norquist put the screws to the Republican half of the gang, publicly reminding Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, and Mike Crapo of their pledge not to raise taxes.  I noted at the time that the trio's carefully worded response letter seemed to leave the door open to tax reform that, lowering marginal rates while closing loopholes, would raise revenues as a percentage of GDP:
Chambliss et al may defend me as a "taxpayer" while clobbering me as a "special interest" (mortgagee, donor).
Now Chambliss has embarked on a bipartisan roadshow with Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. According to the New York Times, he is unequivocal: taxes must be raised.
While Republicans are adamantly antitax, Mr. Chambliss said, “We’ve got to close the revenue gap.” 

And, breaking another GOP taboo:

A questioner pointed out the importance of military spending in Virginia, home to the Pentagon, bases and shipbuilding, but Mr. Warner and Mr. Chambliss agreed that it must be cut, too.
 Chambliss cast budget reform as a three-legged stool:
“If we cut all of that” part of the budget, “we still couldn’t solve the problem,” Mr. Chambliss said.
Reducing entitlement programs, which make up more than 40 percent of the budget, would also not be enough for long-term solvency, he added, “and you can’t raise taxes enough to get us out of this problem. So obviously you have to have all three of those issues up for dialogue.”

These points in one sense simply reiterate Chambliss' signing on to the Bowles-Simpson plan. But in the face of Norquist's challenge, and the ambiguous response, this independent truth-telling seems significant.

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