Democrat-Light has another cheerleader and his name is Bruce Bartlett. Bartlett, former Reagan and Bush 41 Treasury official, writes in the Politico today in a piece titled “Conservatives Must to Adapt to the Welfare State” that:
If conservatives refuse to participate in the debate over how revenues will be raised, then liberals will do it on their own, which will likely give us much higher tax rates and a tax system that is more harmful to growth than necessary to fund the government. Instead of opposing any tax hike, I think it makes more sense for conservatives to figure out how best to raise the additional revenue that will be raised in any event.
Bartlett is wrong. Conservatives should not cut and run from the core principles of the conservatism that we need to keep taxes low and fight expansions of the welfare state. Bartlett makes the classic argument that Republicans need give up principle to be in the room when deals are cut.
Conservatives are against raising taxes because high levels of taxation destroy economic growth. Why would a conservative give up the moral high ground so that he can be at the table when a deal is cut? If conservative members of Congress agree to the idea that the welfare state is merely run inefficiently and higher taxes will buy the love of the voters, conservatives might as well just give up right now and declare defeat. Democrat-Light is not a winning strategy for Republicans as a whole, although it may allow a few selfish members to save their seats for a few years.
As for Bartlett’s argument that conservatives should find ways to efficiently tax the American public at a higher rate and support the bloated welfare state, Dan Mitchell of the Cato Insitute responds:
Taking away goodies from people who want to feed at the public trough is never easy, but GOP successes in ’80 and ’94 – elections that led to meaningful constraint in domestic spending in subsequent years – show that the American people will respond favorably to a message of less government and more freedom. The Eisenhower and Nixon years, by contrast, demonstrated that “me-tooism” is a recipe for permanent minority party status.
Bartlett is urging conservatives to give up on core principles — an action that will lead to some fun receptions at the Obama White House in the short term, but liberal rule for a long period of time. If conservatives don’t give the American people a choice on tax policy, who will?