Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 20, 2012

Other View: Congress must craft a definite plan

The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

---- — Signs are showing that the influence of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is starting to ebb.

And it's none too soon.

Norquist is famous for getting the vast majority of Republicans to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates." Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said his party has to change to fix the country's fiscal problems even if that means giving "up some ideological ground." Norquist called that a "brain fart." Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, said that he hadn't signed Norquist's pledge because he wasn't one to "outsource your principles and convictions to people." Norquist called him "some yokel." Bush went on to say that conservative Ronald Reagan would have "a hard time" in the current GOP, which he said is too conservative even for Reagan.

Norquist countered that Bush was merely mouthing President Obama's story line. ...

Finally North Dakotans recently rejected a ballot initiative to abolish the state's property tax, recognizing what a precarious position that would put the state in should its oil revenue boom dry up. Norquist called that initiative a "train wreck" and predicted instead the income tax will be gone by 2016.

Last fall Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, called Norquist "some random person" when asked whether he was a positive influence on GOP lawmakers.

America faces a critical deadline on an automatic deficit reduction plan that if triggered on Jan. 1 would not only slash the deficit but, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would shrink the national economy by 1.3 percent in the first half of 2013 alone and likely throw the U.S. over a "fiscal cliff" into another recession.

Let's be honest and fair in these deliberations. If spending cuts are to be the only method by which we can end the deficit, proponents must be clear about what exactly will be cut and where.

Revenue "enhancements" don't have to be tax increases. It may mean ending some loopholes, but then even those alternatives must be fair to all parties and not just particular segments of the population.

The good news is no one in Congress wants the automatic triggers to take effect and many expect it will act before the Jan. 1 deadline imposed by the failed negotiations of the "super committee" last year.

With many starting to back away from the "all or nothing" Norquist stance, there may be some hope this actually will happen.