Rep. Tim Burns Posts Blog Questioning Whether the Scarlet "T" Deters Republicans From Wise Policy Choices

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Does the Americans for Tax Reform pledge limit policy options for state and national Republican officials? President Reagan closed loopholes and adjusted tax breaks, so there are appropriate times and appropriate ways to increase revenue without being branded with a Scarlet T.

Today, Republicans who support any form of revenue increase are branded with a Scarlet 'T' by their opponents and fervent anti-tax groups for their unpardonable sin supporting taxes.

Representative Tim Burns (R-Mandeville), a member of the Louisiana House Of Representatives, has created a blog (Balcony Blog) to provide an honest insight on state and national political issues. His most recent post on the Balcony Blog questions whether the fear of being branded as a supporter of tax increases, the Scarlet T, deters Republicans from wise policy choices.

Burns recounts that during the Puritan era, women convicted of adultery were forced to wear a Scarlet “A” on their dresses at all times to publicly shame them for their crime. Today, Republicans who support any form of revenue increase are branded with a Scarlet “T” by their opponents and fervent anti-tax groups for their unpardonable sin of supporting taxes. Being stuck with the Scarlet T can be fatal to a Republican, particularly during a primary election when the GOP candidates are trying to position themselves as furthest to the right with the party faithful.

Rep. Burns is concerned that fear of the Scarlet T could impede the efforts of Governor Jindal ( R) and the Republican Legislature from properly addressing Louisiana’s most serious budget crisis in a generation, which severely threatens higher education and health care, two areas of the budget are not constitutionally protected and which have already endured substantial cuts.

There is widespread belief that Louisiana can no longer afford to offer all of the generous tax incentives to various industries. While closing loopholes and adjusting tax breaks to require an appropriate economic return to the state is prudent fiscal policy, some anti-tax groups consider any net increase in revenue to be raising taxes.

The most prominent anti-tax group is the Washington D.C. based Americans for Tax Reform, which challenges federal and state officeholders to sign a pledge to "oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes." The group has its own distinctive Scarlet T for politicians who violate their tax vows, namely public humiliation in its Hall of Shame.

In Louisiana, Republicans should be able to rein in overly generous tax incentives without having to worry about the Scarlet T. On a federal level, Republicans should be able to attack America’s huge deficit with a package that includes modest revenue items in addition to large spending cuts. Why are Republican leaders unwilling to embrace a package that consists of 90% spending cuts and 10% revenue increases for the important goal of deficit reduction? The Scarlet T!    

The Americans for Tax Reform website states that the group was founded by Grover Norquist in 1985 at the request of President Reagan. But didn’t President Reagan back several revenue increases during his term in office including the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act to close loopholes from the Economic Recovery Tax Act? Certainly, President Reagan is not listed in the ATR Hall of Shame.

The point is that there are appropriate times and appropriate ways to increase revenue without being branded with the Scarlet T.

To read Does the Scarlet “T” Deter Republicans from Wise Policy Choices? and Rep. Burns other blog post, please visit thebalconyblog.wordpress.com.

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Tim Burns
Louisiana Legislature
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