ROBERT DE NEUFVILLE, my fellow BIG THINKER, has said I said I think raising taxes is never the right thing to do. His rhetorical strategy is to show all Republicans are nuts because they have that opinion. Obviously, big wars have to be funded with higher taxes. Then he makes “the move” to the position that it’s dogmatic and cruel to believe that we couldn’t save Medicare through higher taxes.
Now the line Robert quotes from ME is one where I summarize the position of Mchele Bachmann, who presented herself as the courageous defender of pure principles.
I even showed the absurd extreme to which she pushed that tax principle, causing poor Pawlenty to grovel in apology over some increase in a cigarette tax (or fee). Surely that tax was fairly insignificant. Not only that, if you’re going to tax something, you might as well begin, for reasons to obvious to mention, with cigarettes.
Our friend Robert ignored both the LITERARY CHARACTER (which he must have noticed as a political theorist) and the SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC CHARACTER of my post.
I explained why debates preceding a caucus (and, in this case, in the immediate context of a straw poll) are likely to favor extremely principled and imprudent candidates. The audience of the debate is composed of voters who are generally more enthusiastic and ideological than even mainstream memebers of their party.
Not only that, a “yes, but” answer on the tax question would require more nuance than would be possible in the time allotted. So that mischievious Byron York was playing with the candidates by asking them a question that he knew they would all have to answer in an “exceptionless” way. Of course any Republican in power might accept a compromise that would include a dime of tax increases for every dollar of tax cuts. Even Reagan raised taxes, etc., etc. The reason the Republicans weren’t about compromising during the fake crisis of the debt ceiling was that they had the president where they wanted him. The point of our separation of powers system is to compel compromise out of necessity; it’s not meant to get ambitious men and women to compromise when they don’t have to.
I also was trying to explain, in my social scientific way, that the debate format favors AUTHENTIC candidates–those who are perfectly comfortable with because they really believe what they’re saying. This time it favored BACHMANN most of all, because her brand of authenticity resonates with so many of the likely caucus voters. But it also favored SANTORUM and RON PAUL. It wasn’t so good for ROMNEY, HUNTSMAN, and PAWLENTY. And although people tend to think GINGRICH is authentic on the level of ideas, there’s too obviously the problem of “his record,” meaning his whole, messed-up life so far.
In 2008, you’ll remember, the debate format favored the authentic McCAIN and HUCKABEE. (That is, the early, unscripted, “what the Huck,” authentic evangelical Huckabee.)
So Robert was employing a tried-and-true partisan tactic of attacking the relative extremism of the rhetoric of the campaign for the nomination of the other party. But, when the audience shifts in the fall, the rhetoric inevitably shifts. (It might be the case that Bachmann is so darn authentic she can’t make that move, but it’s also very unlikely that she’ll get the nomination.)
In any case: I do agree with the general Republican view that the idea that raising taxes could save Medicare as it now exists is an illusion. And that the president’s attempt to move us in the direction of European social democracy through higher and more progressive taxation is fatally discredited–perhaps even in his own eyes. BIGGER GOVERNMENT through higher taxes can’t cure what ails us now.
That’s not to say that raising taxes is always wrong, of course. I thought I also made it clear that I thought that raising that debt ceiling is surely right for now, given how much of government spending now goes to paying off the debt. Surely my praise of Santorum for courageously calling attention to Bachmann’s showboating was clear enough. Finally: I mentioned that Bachmann herslf said that TAX issues aren’t like LIFE issues. They’re only about MONEY! So my post, I thought, was a defense of a prudent, pro-growth, reform and (as little as possible) truncation of our present entitlement system.