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January 5, 2007
The Tax Line In The Sand

It looks like the Republicans have found their theme for the next two years of Democratic control of Congress. A slew of press releases from the GOP yesterday focused on the spectre of tax-raising by Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and their controlling caucuses. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney became the first top-level Republican primary candidate to sign the Tax Pledge, joining most of the Republican caucuses in Congress:

Seeking to broaden his appeal as a presidential candidate beyond those Republicans attracted by his reputation as a social conservative, Governor Romney is making a play for economic conservatives by focusing on taxes.

Moments before Mr. Romney, whose term as governor ended this week, entered the offices of his presidential exploratory committee for the first time as a private citizen, he warned that the new Democratic Congress would succumb to raising taxes.

"The Democratic agenda seems to be surrounding the idea of raising taxes and more government spending, and more taxing is not good for the American people, it's not good for the economy, it's not good for America," Mr. Romney said. "I think you'll see the Republicans in both houses and in the White House stand firm. Holding the line on taxes is critical to strength of our economy and the well-being of the American people."

Mr. Romney's comments come fresh on the heels of the news that he signed the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" promulgated by Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. Mr. Romney distributed an image of the pledge signed by himself and two witnesses, dated January 3. It is a promise that he will "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses." It adds that he will also "oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

For Romney, this move makes sense. He has some credibility problems with conservatives at the moment, which puts him in the same position as John McCain but for much different reasons. Rudy Giuliani has his own differences with conservatives that don't really have much to do with credibility. Romney saw an opportunity to shore up his right flank by pledging opposition to any tax increases, and it will definitely get conservative appreciation.

Why do tax cuts have such resonance? In theory, it shows a commitment to a smaller, less intrusive federal government, which tends to preserve individual liberty and protect private property. However, Republicans will have to explain how they intend to fulfill those goals. We have spent the last six years increasing discretionary spending far past the rate of inflation and expanding government in almost every category -- and this is apart from the war effort. Given the opportunity, the GOP has proven itself the equal of the Democrats in expanding the power and reach (and cost) of the federal government.

Republicans have the right idea in focusing on taxes. The Democrats, led by Charles Rangel on the Ways and Means Committee, will waste no time rolling back tax relief and taking capital out of the market for their slate of new government programs, However, if the Republicans really want credibility, they need to start telling voters how they plan to match their tax cuts with real reductions in federal spending. That's what the Republicans need to do to regain credibility with the American people. Perhaps it will take someone outside of the DC circuit to carry that message -- and if no one else will do it, Romney has a clear shot at the banner.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 5, 2007 6:37 AM

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