Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Let's Talk

At Power Line, Steven Hayward asks and answers the question whether There a Conservative Case for Higher Taxes?:

In other words, if you want to limit government spending, instead of starving the beast, serve the check. (Well, I can hear everyone now, there’s goes your invitation to Grover Norquist’s Wednesday meetings! True that.) Right now the anti-tax bias of the right has the effect of shifting costs onto future generations who do not vote in today’s elections, and enables liberals to defend against spending restraints very cheaply. Time to end the free ride.

A debate on how to raise taxes might actually be fun to have with liberals, because their only idea—eat tax the rich—doesn’t produce anywhere near enough revenue to fund their programs. Of course, the “tax the rich” slogan is just a cover so they can raise taxes on everyone, but why not smoke them out on this by agreeing?

But more to the point, the argument should be cast in terms of a creating pro-growth tax reform. Froma Harrop of the Providence Journal has a typically idiotic column out today saying Americans want higher taxes. It is not even worth the bother of debunking. There is one highly useable sentence in it: “Today, high-tax Sweden has only 7 percent unemployment, while ours is 9 percent. How come? Before the 2008 economic meltdown, Sweden prudently maintained a budget surplus equal to 3.6 percent of its economy.” Never mind that Sweden isn’t exactly putting its shoulder to the wheel in the fight against terrorists (or anything else), and just focus your mind on one fact: yes, it is a high tax country, but its corporate income tax rate is one-third lower than the U.S. rate (26% for Sweden; 39% for the U.S.). So, my opening bid is—yes. By all means let’s emulate Sweden’s tax rates, starting with a one-third cut in our corporate income tax rate, and a hike in middle class income tax rates. Deal? I didn’t think so.

The reflexive instinct among conservatives to say NO to ANY tax increases in ALL circumstances is perfectly understandable and one that I often find myself embracing. However, it allows the Left to set the terms of the debate and even appear reasonable in their proposals to tax the rich. Instead, as Hayward notes, conservatives should welcome the opportunity to talk about taxes without precluding the possibility of raising some of them. Let's discuss which taxes should be increased and which taxes should be lowered. Let's have a real conversation about "fairness" and efficiency in the tax code. Chanting "No new taxes!" until your voice is hoarse feels damn good, but it's not advancing the conservative goals of limited government and a growing economy. Disagree? Check the record over the last thirty years.