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Consolidating the Anti-Tax Cult

June 28, 2011
Last night, Stephen Colbert had Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform on the Colbert Report (beginning at 14:33) and asked him a farcical hypothetical to which Norquist supplied a farcical answer:

Colbert: OK, terrorists have kidnapped all of our grandmothers. They’ve got them in a subterranian burrow, which you know they have, and all of our grandmothers have been slathered with honey and they are going to release fireants into this burrow which are going to bite our grandmothers to death. Their only demand is that we increase the marginal tax rate on the top 2% of americans and we will release them. Do we increase the tax rate or do we let them die by ant bite?

Norquist: I think we console ourselves with the fact we have pictures and memories.

The question is on its face ridiculous, and Norquist’s answer reveals nothing – ticking time bombs aren’t relevant in tortures or taxes. However, the question’s implicit jab – the fact that the question is funny – demonstrates the absurdity of the Republicans’ cult-like opposition to tax increases, much of which has been marshaled by Norquist himself.
In both Washington and Sacramento, Republicans are categorically opposed to tax increases, in spite of the fact that income inequality is skyrocketing, spending cuts have failed to spur growth and the Bush tax cuts are a main driver of the long-term deficit (along with Medicare). If you’re trying to balance a budget or eliminate a deficit, the negotiations should take place along a spectrum which includes both tax increases and spending cuts. The current system’s supermajority requirements of the California Legislature and the Senate have allowed Republicans to shift the debate and take tax increases off the table, once again demonstrating the need for reform in both cases. Granted, taxes aren’t always the way to go but they also aren’t evil. They should be on the table in the current situation, even though Grandma isn’t in danger.
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