John Cassidy's New Yorker story on Grover Norquist includes the text of the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, which I had never seen before:
I ,____________, pledge to the taxpayers of the _____ district of the State of _________ and to the American People that I will:
ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and
TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.
I understand why they make people pledge never to raise taxes (though I think that sort of inflexibility is idiotic). But the second provision of the pledge surprised me. To me, a big part of tax reform is reducing the economic distortions and inefficiencies created by the tax code. This means keeping the system simple and preventing special interest deductions and credits from proliferating. The potential efficiency gains from this sort of reform are arguably at least as great as the ones from reducing marginal rates. But ATR is so focused on reducing taxes that it implicitly protects deductions and credits, saying that they can only be eliminated if matched dollar-for-dollar by new tax cuts. What a shame.