A Tax Loophole for Republicans

One of the difficulties for the GOP in making a debt deal is that they have all signed Grover Norquist's "No new taxes" pledge.  If they violate it, their base will view the tax hike as a replay of Bush I's "Read my lips: no new taxes" pledge, which is thought to have contributed to his loss to Bill Clinton in 1992. But my colleague Clive Crook points out that there may be an opening for the GOP to find some revenue:


Did the anti-tax activist misspeak when he chatted to the Washington Post, or is the following weirdness his considered position? From the Post's editorial:

With an handful of exceptions, every Republican member of Congress has signed a pledge against increasing taxes. Would allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2012 violate this vow? We posed this question to Grover Norquist, its author and enforcer, and his answer was both surprising and encouraging: No.

In other words, according to Mr. Norquist's interpretation of the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, lawmakers have the technical leeway to bring in as much as $4 trillion in new tax revenue -- the cost of extending President George W. Bush's tax cuts for another decade -- without being accused of breaking their promise. "Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase," Mr. Norquist told us. So it doesn't violate the pledge? "We wouldn't hold it that way," he said.

Is that enough?  Norquist also says that his group, Americans for Tax Reform, remains staunchly opposed to letting the tax cuts expire.  And the administration seems suicidally genuinely attached to keeping the tax cuts for the middle class.


Still, a narrow escape route is better than none at all.
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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