Since 1986, incumbents and candidates for state and federal office have been asked to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, in which they promise not to vote to raise taxes. In the latest lively installment of the American Enterprise Debates series, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, the architect of the pledge, and Ross Douthat of the New York Times argued the merits of the pledge and its effects on US government. Norquist pointed out that the Taxpayer Protection Pledge has kept Republicans from voting for tax increases for nearly two decades. While Norquist conceded that the pledge is imperfect, he contended that it is tightly worded and clear, making it enforceable through the democratic process. Douthat countered by pointing out that while conservatives have consistently held down tax rates, they have done little to control their spending. The resulting policy environment is hyperpartisan and feeds mounting deficits that eventually translate into tax increases. The two found common ground on the idea that spending and taxes should both fall, but in the end remained split about whether a “starve the beast” approach to shrinking government was viable.
--- Daniel Hanson
In the next American Enterprise Debate, Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, will argue that the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is an effective bulwark against tax increases. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat will counter with his claim that the tax pledge has created political gridlock that threatens to derail serious tax reform and deficit reduction. AEI research fellow and former chief economist to the House Ways and Means Committee Alex Brill will moderate.