Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist is elaborating on a comment he made during a session with the Washington Post editorial board on Tuesday about what constitutes a tax hike. As we noted in our editorial, we asked Norquist if allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2012 would violate the anti-tax pledge that he has gotten 236 House members and 41 senators to sign. “Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase,” Mr. Norquist told us. So lawmakers who allow the Bush tax cuts to expire wouldn't be violating the pledge? “We wouldn’t hold it that way,” he said.
Today, ATR released a statement "to clarify concerns that may be raised by the Washington Post editorial":
ATR opposes all tax increases on the American people. 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 addition, the failure to extend the AMT patch would increase taxes. The outlines of the plans are deliberately hazy, but it appears that both Obama’s Simpson-Bowles commission proposal and the Gang-of-Six proposal dramatically increase taxes on the American people.
It is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to trade temporary tax reductions for permanent tax hikes.
The present conversations in Washington should focus totally and exclusively on reducing government overspending. President Barack Obama has increased the annual federal budget by almost $1 trillion dollars. ATR has not altered either its policy positions or opposition to all tax increases whatsoever in any debt negotiations.
Tax reform that reduces tax rates and broadens the tax base on a revenue neutral basis should be done separately and not in a rush under duress from parties hostile to the interests of taxpayers.
So that there's no question about what was said during Tuesday's meeting, here's the relevant audio of the exchange between Norquist and editorial board member Ruth Marcus: