Taxpayer Protection Pledge is unproductive in addressing fiscal cliff

Read Grover Norquist’s lips: No new taxes. Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, started his Taxpayer Protection Pledge in 1986, which asks lawmakers to sign an agreement with their constituents to fight any rise in marginal tax rates. Unfortunately for him, a handful of influential Republicans who signed his anti-tax pledge have begun to retract their support in light of the upcoming fiscal cliff debacle and a willingness to come to a compromise.

The pledge initiated by Norquist does not seem to have any real enforceability. Far from being a legally binding document, it does not impose any accountability on the signatories. Those who sign it are not obliged to obey, nor would they be prosecuted or face any serious consequences if they break the pledge. In this sense, the tax pledge becomes feckless. Such a void pledge, in principle, should not have any real influence on the actions of politicians.

Nonetheless, many Republicans have signed and staunchly stood behind it. While such actions were politically beneficial in times of financial stability, faced with a real-world dilemma such as the fiscal cliff, its practical application seems lost.

The tax pledge undermines the very framework democracy was built upon — the conversation and debate of dynamic ideas in order to address the nation’s problems in the best way. Our country operates on a two-party system, and when one party engages in absolutism, they impede the progress of the system as a whole. So even worse than the pledge melting into a puddle of meaninglessness, it becomes a vehicle for animosity.

Saxby Chambliss, longtime Republican senator from Georgia, summed up a commonly popular sentiment among Americans this week, saying, “I care a lot more about my country — I care a lot more about it than I do about Grover Norquist.”

Signing the Norquist pledge of not raising taxes is an extreme and unproductive way of expressing the conservative ideology. Pledging allegiance to an honest conversation about the role of taxes and spending cuts is the proper way of addressing the fiscal cliff. Not pledging allegiance to Grover Norquist.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 3 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at edboard@nyunews.com. 

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