Paging Grover Norquist: Over the weekend, the Associated Press published a much-discussed piece arguing that by the GOP’s own lights, Republican opposition to Obama’s demand for a payroll tax cut extension constitutes support for a tax hike:
News flash: Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes.
Impossible, right? GOP lawmakers are so virulently anti-tax, surely they will fight to prevent a payroll tax increase on virtually every wage-earner starting Jan. 1, right?
Many of the same Republicans who fought hammer-and-tong to keep the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts from expiring on schedule are now saying a different “temporary” tax cut should end as planned. By their own definition, that amounts to a tax increase.
The tax break extension they oppose is sought by President Barack Obama. Unlike proposed changes in the income tax, this policy helps the 46 percent of all Americans who owe no federal income taxes but who pay a “payroll tax” on practically every dime they earn.
There are other differences as well, and Republicans say their stand is consistent with their goal of long-term tax policies that will spur employment and lend greater certainty to the economy.
“It’s always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn,” says Rep. Jeb Hensarling, “but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again.”
So according to Hensarling, it would be a “net positive” to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn — which is what a temporary extension of the payroll tax cut would do. Yet Republicans seem to oppose the temporary extension anyway, on the grounds that permanent tax cuts are necessary and better policy.
Which prompted a question from Chuck Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon: “Surely @GroverNorquist wld say that letting President’s payroll tax cut lapse is a violation of ATR pledge, right?”
It’s a fair question. Virtually every Republican in Congress has signed Norquist’s and Americans for Tax Reform’s pledge not to raise taxes. What’s more, even Norquist himself has referred to the refusal to extend temporary tax cuts as a tax hike — and a violation of the pledge. Recall that back when there was some controversy over whether Norquist had let slip that not extending the Bush tax cuts would not violate his pledge, Norquist clarified that failure to extend them absolutely would violate it:
Any failure to extend or make permanent the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, in whole or in part, would clearly increase taxes on the American people.
In other words, in the eyes of the fearsome Norquist and his Almighty Pledge, even a failure to extend tax cuts temporarily amounts to a tax increase.
I’ve asked a spokesman for Norquist where he stands on GOP opposition to the payroll tax cut extension, and I’ll update you when I get a response.