Conservatism = No Tax Hikes for Any Reason

Erick Erickson has a meaty, anguished essay about the state of conservatism and the GOP field. (It reads best if you imagine the author as an Edvard Munch painting.) The reaction so far has focused on Erickson’s wry kindness toward Jon Huntsman, but this is the part that jumped out at me.

Conservatism is already dying. Republicans on Capitol Hill are about to raise taxes on the American people with this Super Committee, but they’ll say they are just “raising revenue,” not taxes. Conservatives will give them a pass as they have on virtually every other major issue.

No, they won’t, because no, they’re not. There are a couple of Republicans, Rob Portman among them, who have vouched support for some kind of tax reform; Dave Camp has talked about corporate tax reform that would eliminate loopholes. If they look in their rearviews, they don’t see armies; they see empty fields. Last week I chatted with some of the 40 House Republicans who’d signed a letter asking for a “grand bargain,” which is the kind of thing Erickson refers to here, and surprise of all surprises, they didn’t interpret “revenues” as tax hikes. After sticking their necks out, they’ve had to dodge guillotines. Americans for Prosperity is running a campaign to shame the Republicans out of their compromise stance – even though it isn’t really a compromise stance!

It’s important for Erickson and AFP to do this, to stop their Republicans going wobbly, but think about what they’re rejecting. Democrats on the supercommittee have proposed $400 billion of cuts to Medicare as part of a supercommittee deal. The Gang of Six, which included three Democrats and was/is mostly supported by Democratic senators, want to change the Consumer Price Indexing of Social Security in a manner that cuts benefits. The conservative line right now: Forget about that, because if you raise any taxes in any way, you’re betraying the movement. The implication: Wait until 2013, when you can dislodge the New Deal without compromise. The meaning right now is that support for any kind of tax increases in exchange for any spending or entitlement cuts, even at an outsized ratio, is a betrayal.