Descending from the Jesuits and their probabilism and the Rabbis and their Talmudic interpretations, official Washington is now deep in a complex exegesis of the Norquist anti-tax pledge. Is it eternal? Is it limited to a single term? If a tax rises in the forest but no one voted to rise it, did it really rise?
Just now on Twitter I noticed that Roll Call reporter Steven Dennis fished out a passage from Norquist’s own interpretation of the pledge from 2011. It refers to what we might term taxes of omission rather than commission.
My position, and the implications of the pledge regarding such “temporary” tax cuts, is clear. If there were no vote in Congress and taxes rose automatically, then no politicians would have voted for higher taxes and no elected official would have broken his or her pledge.
So here we have the grand rebbe of anti-tax politics making a definitive statement on a key issue. It’s okay to allow taxes to rise as long as no pledger actually voted for it to happen. It’s a statement pregnant with implications for new ways the country can help GOP elected officials find a way out of their self-imposed straight jacket of nonsense. Particularly since it sanctions what we might call the Zombie tax hike, ones that simply come into being on their own without anyone actually voting for them.
The key is setting in motion a chain of events that leads to tax hikes without being the one who actually hikes the taxes. Here the Jews can show the way: What’s needed is the tax-hiking equivalent of the shabbos goy.
For you gentiles, a shabbos goy is a non-Jew who you hire (or maybe the neighbor kid) to come and do certain tasks — flip on the lights and stuff like that — for you on the Sabbath that you, as an observant Jew, can’t do yourself.
The way out of the Norquist conundrum may be for the Republicans to help pass a law that does not raise taxes but designates and empowers a good hearted non-Republican who at an appointed time will raise taxes on their own. It might even be good for Republicans to have left Washington and returned to their districts at the appointed time.
This would seem similar to the exception Norquist himself okayed for Zombie tax increases. So I’m going to seek an opinion on whether this too would be acceptable.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.