NORMAN — If all your friends jumped off a fiscal cliff, would you do it, too? The answer from Sen. Tom Coburn and Representative Tom Cole is no.
Though staunchly opposed to increasing tax rates, both men recently made national headlines; Coburn for his willingness to increase receipts by eliminating loopholes and preferential tax treatments and Cole for suggesting Republicans accept a compromise solution ensuring 98-percent of Americans avoid a tax hike.
Grover Norquist claims both positions defy the anti-tax pledge, the revenue-neutral standard for tax policy changes made famous by his Americans for Tax Reform advocacy group.
Until now, ideology-based conservatives like Norquist have defined conservatism by their own terms. Absurdly, yet expectedly, the conservative credentials of both Coburn and Cole are under fire. Such reality-based conservatives who dare step out, or in it, get branded with the M-word to be thrashed about in the public square clothed in the “moderate” label regardless of the fit.
Norquist lambasted Coburn saying, “he lied his way into office.” Coburn struck back by defining the difference between cheap and courageous conservatism, stating the former is that of rhetoric, pledges and pandering while the latter is that of truth, action, solutions and sacrifice.
Oklahoma also has ideologically-driven interest groups that seek their own definition of conservatism.
One such group, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, has upped the ante on the Norquist gold standard where anything short of complete elimination of the state’s largest source of revenue is deemed not conservative.
Is it not conservative to be cautious in our approach to needed income tax reduction, to protect the state credit rating, to pay our debts and to ensure sufficient funding for core services with a diversified and dependable revenue structure?
In Oklahoma, those who say cuts in tax rates should be offset by cuts in spending and by broadening the base — ironically the very position heralded as conservative at the federal level — are burnished with the moderate brand.