The Washington Post

Republican leaders should ignore the white flag

With no less than Bill Kristol in the lead, there is talk in Republican circles that suggests we should go ahead and agree to income-tax rate increases on America's highest earners. The obvious reason for doing this is that, otherwise, Republicans will appear to be protecting millionaires and we will lose the public relations battle.

But before we give in too quickly, Republicans should at least make a clear case outlining why we are against raising anyone's taxes. Simply put, raising taxes is anti-growth. We need to propose urgent pro-growth measures and not just shrug, raise taxes and hope for the best.

We are on the brink of another recession and a no-growth economy, which could cost millions of people their jobs and shape a bleak future for generations of Americans, who will then have to live with diminished opportunities and in enslavement to a welfare state. Before we raise taxes, we need to have a rational discussion — both economic and philosophical — about the consequences.

President Obama’s quest to raise taxes is ideologically based. It is a punitive measure that would be of little to no consequence from a deficit standpoint. There is no case to make that it would create a single job. The only debate is how much harm it would do.

So Republicans, don't go wobbly; protect the idea that the GOP is the pro-growth party. We must be seen fighting harmful policies and class warfare.

Republicans need to have an honest debate about what we are for, and everything should be open for discussion. To help collect thoughts for this debate, everyone should read Janet Daley’s Nov. 17 article for the Telegraph, “We’re heading for economic dictatorship.

She writes, “It remains to be seen what the consequences will be of the whole of the West, America included, falling into the economic black hole of permanent no-growth.” And she argues, “Tax rises prevent growth and job creation, as well as reducing tax revenue.  It is a formula for permanent decline in the private sector and endless austerity in the public one.”

All that said, Republicans can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Life is all about what you net, not what you gross. So if a deal were struck that contained so much good — by way of entitlement reform, pro-growth policies and fiscal discipline — but required a rise in some tax rates, that could be acceptable because it would be in the nation's overall best interest.

Call me a cynic, but I don't think the Democrats will ever be for real entitlement cuts. They would like nothing better than for the Republicans to agree to raise taxes, go on the defensive and get nothing in return. Many Democrats think going over the fiscal cliff is just fine — and if Republicans can be blamed for driving us over the side because they appear to only be interested in protecting the privileged few, all the better. 

But we should not start with an anti-growth, harmful tax increase as a pointless capitulation to the president's socialist point of view. First, let's try to do the right things and be for the policies we know are best. We are the pro-growth, low tax party.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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