Over the last few years, debt-reduction talks between the major parties haven’t gone especially well. Democrats have offered compromises consistent with agreements reached between the parties for decades: some combination of spending cuts and new revenue. Republicans have responded by refusing to compromise – if a policy includes any new revenue, they’ll kill it.
And so there hasn’t been much progress on this front, with every attempt at a “Grand Bargain” failing in the face of unyielding opposition.
Presumably, this dynamic won’t change much for the foreseeable future, at least not until voters elect some Republican lawmakers willing to negotiate and consider both sides of the accounting ledger. In the heated Republican primary in Georgia’s U.S. Senate race, does David Perdue fit the bill?
In a conversation with the Macon Telegraph’s editorial board released Tuesday, the multi-millionaire businessman did not offer the categorical refusal to raise taxes that is now customary among Republican candidates.“Is it better to try to get out of the ditch by curbing the growth of spending or increasing revenue?” an editorial board member asked.“Both,” Perdue replied emphatically.
When the editor added that new revenue is “a euphemism for some kind of tax increase, of course,” Perdue, the apparent frontrunner, laughed and said, “Here’s the reality: if you go into a business – and I keep coming back to my background, it’s how I know how to relate is to refer back to it – I was never able to turn around a company just by cutting spending. You had to figure out a way to get revenue growing.”
To put it mildly, this is not Republican Party orthodoxy. On the contrary, GOP officials have spent the last several years insisting that any deal that includes so much as a penny in new revenue is a deal the party cannot and will not consider, no matter what else Democrats might be offering as part of a larger compromise.
Indeed, it wasn’t long before Perdue’s Republican rivals pounced, seeing this as a unique opportunity to hurt the candidate who’s arguably leading the pack.
But before Perdue starts failing GOP purity tests, the right probably ought to calm down.
The candidate’s spokesperson soon after issued a statement clarifying: “David was stating a simple economic principle: If the economy is growing and more people were working, it generates more revenue. Tax increases hinder economic growth and destroy jobs. David wants to get government off our backs and our economy back on track.”
It’s true that if you listen to the audio, Perdue never comes right out and says he’d consider a compromise that included tax increases. He just didn’t categorically rule it out the way Republicans are supposed to.
We’ll know soon enough whether this costs Perdue some support – Georgia’s primary is May 20, this upcoming Tuesday – but I imagine his top competitors will be talking about little else between now and then.