“Today's Republican Party may revere Reagan as the patron saint of low taxation. But the party of Reagan – which understood that higher taxes on the rich are sometimes required to cure ruinous deficits – is dead and gone. Instead, the modern GOP has undergone a radical transformation, reorganizing itself around a grotesque proposition: that the wealthy should grow wealthier still, whatever the consequences for the rest of us.”
Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone
Americans who actually listen to the empty words spewed by politicians, in this case of the Republican variety, often hear the name of Ronald Reagan invoked as the grand poobah of anti-taxation conservatism. For many of the GOP faithful, that’s all they need to hear to feel all warm and fuzzy about the state of the nation as soon as their guys and gals “take their country back.”
Other Americans, like me, pay very little attention to what is being said by either side, mainly because no one is saying anything particularly coherent. We are numbed by the failure of rhetoric and party-line catch phrases to move us out of the deep muck we slipped into in 2008.
Sunday morning, however, the spectre of another critical deadline in Washington got my attention, and for the first time I can recall, I actually listened to Candy Crowley interview members of the Deficit Super Committee. That’s when the name Grover Norquist penetrated my political brain fog for the first time. This is the guy who convinced 279 Republican members of Congress to sign a pledge written by his lobbying front organization, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR.) Norquist was the subject of Sunday's 60 Minutes lead story.
photo by Gage Skidmore from Flickr
The ATR web site describes The Pledge as follows:
In the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, candidates and incumbents solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases. While ATR has the role of promoting and monitoring the Pledge, the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is actually made to a candidate's constituents, who are entitled to know where candidates stand before sending them to the capitol. Since the Pledge is a prerequisite for many voters, it is considered binding as long as an individual holds the office for which he or she signed the Pledge.
Read more: http://www.atr.org/taxpayer-protection-pledge#ixzz1eGPKi4Rb
Norquist claims he was asked by Reagan himself to form ATR in 1986. Apparently, there is no term limit on that pledge, no opportunity for renewal or a decision NOT to renew. The Huffington Post reported on November 9, 2011 that a growing number of House members want out of that pledge, but Norquist refuses to remove their names from the published list of signers.
In the meantime, Norquist’s pledge keeps coming up as a major reason the Super Committee cannot reach an agreement.
[The players: Sens.Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), and Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).]
“The difficulty we find is that every one of these discussions, Grover Norquist seems to be in the room,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters last week. “I am hopeful that the Republicans on the super committee will break away from this.”
The idea that one man, not an elected official, but a powerful Washington lobbyist, can effectively bring the nation to the brink of yet another failure to do the jobs for which they were elected, is frightening to me. Even Republicans who believe it is time to take a look at forcing the rich to pay a more reasonable share of taxes are finding it impossible to circumvent the pledge they might have signed several campaign cycles ago, because “the voters don’t want any tax increases.”
I think it’s time for us who see things differently to pay more attention to what the other side is saying and doing. I may be one of the few who, until now, was unaware of the name Grover Norquist or his organization, but I doubt it. If you need a concrete reason for my concern, see the chart below from the November 24, 2011 edition of Rolling Stone: