Editorial | Ditch the Pledges

Graham and Rice on path more S.C. leaders should follow

November 29, 2012 

Call us old fashioned, but we like political leaders who can make their own decisions.

Accordingly, we’ve never been a fan of political pledges such as the anti-tax promise promulgated by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. It’s not that we’re a fan of taxes. If our leaders can figure out how to pay for our government work without raising taxes, bully for them. But that simply won’t be the case from here until eternity, all day every day. Populations change. The economy changes. Needs change.

Putting together massive state or federal budgets is tough work and not for the faint of heart. To attempt it with one hand tied behind your back is madness. Whether they avail themselves of every option available or not, our leaders should at least have them all at their disposal. By signing pledges to outside groups that they will not raise taxes, no matter what, too many of our leaders cravenly abdicate their decision-making ability and hand over control of government decisions to the special interest groups they’ve signed up with.

With that in mind, it’s heartening to hear some common sense from S.C. leaders such as Lindsey Graham, who told ABC’s “This Week” recently that he would break his pledge as Congress faces tough negotiations over the looming fiscal cliff.

“I will violate the pledge – long story short – for the good of the country,” Graham said, “only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.”

And our newest congressman, U.S. Rep. Tom Rice should get kudos of his own for never having signed Norquist’s pledge in the first place, making him the only one of our Republican congressional leaders not to pledge his fealty to the group. It’s a promising early indication that Rice intends to be his own man in Congress, not beholden to others, and it’s a position his constituents should applaud.

That still leaves dozens of state leaders, including many from our area, who have signed the state version of the pledge. As the legislature once again embarks upon a wide-ranging tax overhaul in the upcoming session, such promises could frustratingly stand in the way of needed, wider change, as pledge-bound members refuse to eliminate tax loopholes and exemptions for fear of violating their vow.

Graham and Rice are showing a better way for our state that more should follow. It’s time to ditch the pledge, legislators, and make up your own minds, for better or worse. We elect you to make your own decisions, not outsource them to lobbyists and special interest groups.

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