Do We Need A “No Spending” Pledge Instead Of A “No Taxes” Pledge?

NORQUIST

Grover Norquist’s pledge to not raise taxes has been the target of much ire from the left as Democrats claim it’s made Republicans rigid and unwilling to compromise. Of course, some might argue that Democrats are being every bit as rigid in their refusal to agree to meaningful spending cuts and entitlement reforms as an alternative to taking more money from taxpayers, but I digress.

What if Norquist’s pledge had sought to limit spending instead of tax increases?

Imagine if instead of pledging not to raise taxes, all those politicians had pledged not to raise spending. …That’s why it’s important to do for spending what Norquist has done for taxes: create a means for voters to hold elected officials accountable when they break campaign promises of fiscal responsibility. …

Given our ever-mounting debt, it is incumbent on all of us who care about the future prosperity of this country to reexamine the completeness of Norquist’s approach. We have to look at more than the tax side of the equation.

Fortunately, some in Washington are taking aim at our political sacred cows. Doug Collins, Representative-elect from Georgia, and Ted Cruz, Senator-elect from Texas, both pledged to voters this cycle that they consider all items in the budget eligible for reduction. By signing the Reject the Debt pledge in addition to the taxpayers-protection pledge, they will vote against not only tax increases now but also spending increases that would amount to future tax burdens.

As one columnist recently wrote, “From now on, any politician who signs the anti-tax pledge without also signing the anti-debt pledge can be dismissed as a complete hypocrite.” The companion to Norquist’s no-tax pledge is the Reject the Debt pledge. Elected officials need to sign both.

I’d be interested not so much in seeing our national legislators sign a petition promising not to raise spending as signing a petition not to spend money the government doesn’t have. The “no deficit spending” pledge ought to be something all politicians would have no trouble signing. After all, they all tell us they’re against “reckless deficit spending,” right?

If the politician would restrain deficit spending, we’d be forced to make more responsible decisions. Want more government? Then taxes must go up. Want lower taxes? Then some spending must be axed.

The deficit, and the debt, is the direct results of politicians getting away with promising Americans both lower taxes and more government. If we could get them not to do that any more, our fiscal problems would be solved (if not necessarily the social/economic problems that stem from excessive government and taxation).

But is that what voters really want? It seems to me that the root problem in all of this is that voters want expansive and expensive government programs and, at the same time, they want somebody else to pay for it all.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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