Arkansas Congressman Rick Crawford made a major mistake last week. He slipped up and said aloud what everyone knows to be true. The problem is his message failed in the delivery on several fronts that will likely tank his budget proposal before it even gets off the ground.

Arkansas Congressman Rick Crawford made a major mistake last week. He slipped up and said aloud what everyone knows to be true. The problem is his message failed in the delivery on several fronts that will likely tank his budget proposal before it even gets off the ground.

Politico broke the news that this freshman Republican from a rural Arkansas district was about to do something unthinkable for any self-respecting Tea Party Republican: Propose a tax increase. And not just any tax increase but one directed at the wealthy. The article did mention some sort of broader fiscal responsibility package but did not spell out anything specific.

Within hours, conservative blogs were denouncing his proposal before even hearing it.

“We are stuck with a progressive OWS (Occupy Wall Street) congressman from a conservative state for another 2 years,” wrote one blogger.

By the time most Arkansans heard about Crawford’s big idea, the damage had been done. Crawford quickly put out a statement trying to fully explain that the real key to his proposal was not the tax on millionaires but a balanced budget amendment.

“The era of yearly trillion-dollar deficits is unsustainable,” Crawford said in a statement. “Extreme partisan politics has kept Republicans and Democrats from addressing this problem. If we are going to take financial calamity off the table both parties will need to come together. Republicans have long championed a balanced budget amendment to force the federal government to live within its means. Democrats have pushed for new taxes on millionaires to address our debt. This reasonable approach can be the beginning of a new era in Washington where Congress puts the needs of the country first and stops burdening future generations of Americans with immense debt.”

His “Shared Responsibility in Preserving America’s Future Act” proposes a 5-percent surtax on individuals with taxable income exceeding $1 million annually that would sunset in 5 to 10 years but would only go into effect after Congress passed a balanced budget amendment for ratification by the states.

Crawford appeared that afternoon on a local conservative talk radio show in his northeast Arkansas district trying to repair the damage.

“I am not trying to make this a class warfare issue,” he said. “One of the key elements that (Democrats) have said that they want to address this current fiscal crisis is the millionaires’ tax. I don’t like the millionaire tax, but I am absolutely committed to the Balanced Budget Amendment.”

Crawford’s argument, although mathematically correct, does not follow the talking points of die-hard conservatives who argue that tax increases can never be on the table, only spending cuts. On the other hand, the die hards on left insist that the only solution is tax increases for the wealthy, that government services should expand and never contract.

The problem is that for the last decade or so, Washington has consistently worked out compromises where both sides get a little bit of what they want — some tax cuts along with growth in government services. Although this is smart politics for getting re-elected, it’s horrible budgeting and is exactly how we got into this mess of trillion-dollar deficits.

Crawford’s idea likely will not go anywhere. If it even gets a hearing in committee, I would be surprised.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Arkansas piled on him for even suggesting it. If filing had not closed a week ago, he probably would have drawn a primary opponent as his reward. But he should be commended for daring to suggest an idea that, while unpopular, makes a lot of sense for those of us who understand math.

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Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.