Rudy’s Flat Tax Flip Flop

Ramesh Ponnuru writes:

On Kudlow’s show two days ago: “If we were doing income tax for the first time. In other words, if we were starting off new back at the beginning of the last century, then probably we should go with a-we probably should’ve gone with a flat tax, maybe two levels of tax, but really simple.”

Back in 1996: “The flat tax is not for me.” The New York Times reported: “While he has criticized the flat-tax idea before, yesterday was the first time Mr. Giuliani publicly came out against Mr. Forbes’s plan. Calling it ‘a mistake,’ the Mayor joined other critics who contend that the plan’s elimination of deductions for state and local income taxes would unfairly punish states with high local taxes, like New York, and increase pressure for those states to lower their tax rates.”

A few days later, on Capital Gang, he said that a flat tax “would be a terrible mistake for urban areas, for big states. . . . [Y]ou can’t be pulling away some of our economic basis, which rests with state and local taxation and that would be true of any of the big cities, any of the big states. It would really be a disaster. . .”

Does Giuliani still believe that it would be “a disaster” for states and localities to feel pressure to cut their taxes? The tone of his remarks suggests that he has come around on these issues, which is great. But there are plenty of /reporters who scourge flip-floppers/, and I can’t wait to see what they have to say about this.

Ramesh Ponnuru links to a Deroy Murdock article criticizing Mitt Romney, but as someone who is also a strong supporter of Giuliani and a fierce critic of Romney for his “conversions,” I feel it’s only fair that I respond.

Now, I could sit here and point to nuances in Giuliani’s statements that demonstrate that they aren’t necessarily contradictory, but I’m not going to embarrass myself. Clearly, most normal human beings who read those statements would rightly come to the conclusion that Giuliani changed his position on the flat tax.

However, never have I asserted in my criticisms of Romney that any politician who ever changes his mind on any issue should be run out of contention as a rank political opportunist, unworthy of support. My criticisms of Romney have been based on the nature of his metamorphosis. It is not a single flip flop alone, but the number of flip flops, the dramatic lengths he goes to alter his position, the timing of his conversions, and the arrogance with which he has wielded his new found positions as a stick to beat up on his opponents.

I wouldn’t hold Giuliani up on a pedestal to be beyond any form of political posturing, but at the same time, at least he hasn’t completely remade himself on every issue, and is still willing to stand up and say he disagrees with the conservative point of view sometimes. He may have switched on partial birth abortion, but still says he’s pro-choice, which is quite a stunning acknowledgement for anybody with serious designs on the Republican nomination. He’s still opposed to a federal marriage amendment, he still supports civil unions, he still believes immigrants should have a path to citizenship, etc. He’s not simply making a list of the right conservative issues and checking off that list one by one, which is what Romney seems to be doing. Furthermore, Giuliani did cut taxes as mayor, which was no easy task in New York City, so the fact that he would now be open to the idea of a flat tax, or at least flatter tax, while a reversal, is not as totally out of left field as if he had a record of supporting and imposing higher taxes.

The bottom line is that in my view, not all flip flops are created equal.