For the past week, “Georgia on My Mind” has been playing on political talk shows. Not the state’s theme song, but the growing role played by the state’s Senior US Senator Saxby Chambliss in the ongoing talks on the fiscal cliff crisis has gotten the political establishment focused on the Peach and Pecan state.
Following the 2012 election, Chambliss spoke on the Veterans’ Day edition of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” along with Democrat Patty Murray. Chambliss, a newcomer to the Sunday Morning talk show circuit, carried himself very well with Murray, also a relative unknown to the media.
Following their comments on the Petraus scandal, the fiscal cliff controversy dominated the rest of the discussion. As a member of last year’s Super Committee, Murray commanded a greater knowledge of the dealings and the resistance from both sides to comprehensive reform.
A number of times Murray emphasized that revenues must be included, reciting “The wealthy have to pay their fair share.” Murray expressed measured confidence that Congress would resolve the fiscal cliff. Murray's call for "fairness" is meaningless at best and suspect at worst. "Fairness" remains a nebulous policy position, one which has little bearing on serious fiscal reform.
Chambliss acknowledged that revenues have to be part of the next deal, but the government has to cut spending. He next pointed out the need for broad entitlement reform, the primary expenditure "choking" the country's economy. By eliminating a host of tax deductions, Congress could lower overall tax rates while generating over $1.3 trillion in revenue, Chambliss added.
True to his conservative roots, Chambliss stressed that the economy needs to get working again. Tax increases on private firms will kill 700,000 jobs. “Now is not the time to raise taxes – not on job creators," Chambliss added, quoting President Obama from earlier this year. Murray brought up the Senate bill extending the Bush tax cuts for 98% of Americans. Chambliss properly countered that the bill passed on a party-line vote. The House should not agree on such a plan, but rather sek a common-ground solution must attract widespread support from both parties.
I was impressed by the comity and candor of the two senators. Neither rising stars nor firebrands in their caucus, they presented compromise instead of political calculation. Following the collegial conference, one would expected that both sides would find common ground to cut spending, reform entitlements, and provide a pathway for economic recovery.
Unfortunately, two weeks later Senator Chambliss decided to break the Grover Norquist “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which he had signed twenty years ago. In a recent telephone conference call, Chambliss submitted that times have changed, and this problem requires flexibility for meaningful reform. Chambliss predicted that Norquist will endorse a challenger against him in his 2014 reelection campaign. “I care more about my country than Grover Norquist,” Chambliss submitted at the end of the conference.
Following Chambliss’ open decision to break the “No New Tax” pledge, Norquist argued that Chambliss must explain himself to his constituents in Georgia for choosing to break his pledge not to raise taxes.
Mr. Chambliss’ patriotism is indubitable. Voters should honor his interest to be independent. He wants to do the right thing, let the political consequences fall where they may. Every state should welcome such leadership and integrity from their representatives. Before mounting a challenge against his candidacy, the people of Georgia must impress on their senator not to raise taxes during the struggling economy which has not improved adequately under President Obama’s leadership. While his decision may deter brinkmanship, it does not determine a better course for this country.
Even though the Republicans failed to take the Senate or the White House, their stable majority in the House of Representatives testifies to the majority of Americans' opposition to tax increases. Senator Chambliss argued that tax increases will hurt businesses and kill jobs. He needs to heed his own concern.
Georgia voters have been on many minds since Chambliss’ pledge to break his pledge not to raise taxes. In no way should limited government conservatives like Chambliss entertain budgeing on their values unless Democrats budget for entitlement reform that protect the programs and provides for their future.
By all means, Chambliss should consider ending all corporate and agribusiness subsidies and revoke “wealthy welfare”, which includes federally subsidized homeowner’s insurance for residents who insist along living by hurricane-battered coastlines. Tax deductions can be on the table, too, but by no means should Chambliss revoke his "no taxes" pledge without hearing from his constituents.
Please contact Senator Chambliss and tell him to maintain his pledge to protect jobs, encourage wealth, and stand by the best interests of his state and the country. Tell Senator Chambliss: "For the good of the country, no tax increases until Congress enacts real budget cuts and entitlement reform."