Debra J. Saunders

Both Bushes signed the ATR pledge, but the first President Bush broke his promise -- and lost re-election. Norquist tells candidates, "If you don't mean it, don't sign it, because if you break the pledge, we'll go after you." But how can a no-new-taxes pledge be meaningful when big spenders like Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, signed it?

Norquist argues that Washington won't curb spending if it can raise taxes.

I used to buy that, except: Not raising taxes has not curbed spending. When Republicans pledge "no new taxes" and Democrats offer more unfunded big-spending programs, both parties engage in the unholy practice of telling voters that they can get more government without paying for it.

A Concord Coalition budget paper, "America's Economy: Headed for Crisis," noted, "Some people might believe that the federal government should both tax and spend at about 18 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), while others might believe it should tax and spend at about 30 percent of GDP. No reasonable person, however, would argue that the government should tax at 18 percent and spend at 30 percent." Uncle Sam now taxes at 18 percent of GDP and spends at 20 percent.

But the government's unfunded Medicare and Social Security promises mean an 18-30 gap could be in your future.

The no-new-taxes pledges served the American economy in the short term, but the overspending cannot go on forever. Maybe it's time for a new wing of the Republican Party -- a wing that doesn't support pledges that contribute to America's debt.

Debra J. Saunders

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