Chambliss, whose conservative credentials are suspect in the Tea Party movement, faced the issue head-on in his speech to Cobb Republicans at their monthly breakfast and in a Journal op-ed piece Saturday. He said at the GOP meeting, “I have never voted for a tax increase” and “I don’t intend to vote for a tax increase.”
The senator scored with a question for his audience: How many would support ending the $6 billion annual tax credits for the ethanol industry? Nearly every hand went up. Then Chambliss told the crowd they had just said they would violate the anti-tax pledge he signed 20 years ago — the one hatched by Grover Norquist, lobbyist, conservative activist and founder of Americans for Tax Reform.
Chambliss explained the problem with the Norquist pledge: the elimination of a tax credit without reducing tax rates would be a violation of the pledge. To underscore what can only be called extremism on this issue, Chambliss said that last year Norquist compared Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) to suspected Soviet spy Alger Hiss for proposing to eliminate the ethanol tax credit. And just think, this is corporate welfare for an industry that uses corn to make gasoline.
Chambliss rightly pointed out the need to fix entitlement spending, notably Medicare and Medicaid along with Social Security. Surely, there are some common sense steps that would go far toward fixing these programs. Just one example: if the Social Security retirement age were raised by a few years, it would help insure solvency of the program. That seems to be a no-brainer, but the Democrats won’t even bend on that.
In his op-ed piece in the Journal, Chambliss called for “meaningful tax reform that must include lower tax rates for everybody and eliminate special-interest loopholes in the tax code that don’t benefit average Americans.” He said the existing tax code, loaded with “loopholes, deductions and exemptions, has become little more than another Washington welfare program to benefit special interests, not taxpayers.” He’s right on target.
Chambliss is also on target in insisting that tax reform is not code for raising taxes. Throw the Norquist notion out the window. Instead, Chambliss said that removing the loopholes and “keeping or modifying deductions that benefit many Americans” will in fact bring lower individual tax rates— and also generate more money for the government “to pay down debt.” That, said the senator, “is not a tax increase.” And it’s not.
To the contrary, Chambliss favors lowering U.S. corporate tax rates which now stand at nearly 40 percent, the highest among large developed economies. No wonder we have sluggish, near-recessionary growth.
Is Chambliss talking — that dread word — compromise? It seems he is simply talking common sense, something sorely lacking in Washington, D. C.