Grover Norquist, GOP ayatollah, is losing his grip on the party
“Anyone who has followed the debate about how to reduce our debt and deal with with the tough issues of entitlement reform has likely heard the name Grover Norquist. This delights no one more than Mr. Norquist, who has spent the last two decades managing and manipulating the insecurities of career politicians in order to cultivate his image as a power broker and secure well-paying clients who want to protect their tax earmarks.”
“…As these talks continue it is important for members of Congress to understand Norquist need not be feared. Washington is a menagerie of paper tigers. No one roars louder than Norquist.”
Remember the first time you saw Ken Lay, the Duke of Enron? Perhaps not, but in the midst of the ENRON collapse, when I first saw him, I thought: “Bad news, a bad guy.”
Can’t say when I first saw Grover Norquist but it is readily apparent that he operates with the same principles as Karl Rove.
Grover is a zealous ideologue who ostensibly regards the payment of taxes as an existential threat to personal well-being.
“Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”
In his Farewell Address, George Washington said:
As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue; that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.
Tom Coburn Clashes With Grover Norquist On How To Solve Fiscal Crisis
The Huffington Post | By Patrick Svitek
Posted: 07/16/2012 2:16 pm Updated: 07/16/2012 2:28 pm
Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist provided a fresh rebuttal to an old critic Monday, accusing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) of standing “alone” in his claim that solving the fiscal crisis will require more open-mindedness when it comes to a balanced approach.
In a New York Times op-ed published Sunday, Coburn accused Norquist of becoming “increasingly isolated politically” by pushing a no-new-taxes pledge on Congressional Republicans that forbids tax hikes unless accompanied by dollar-for-dollar deductions.
Coburn also wrote that Norquist only gives Democratic legislators the political fodder they need to paint the GOP as receiving its “marching orders” from a stubborn ideologue.
“The majority of Democrats and Republicans understand the severity of our economic challenges,” Coburn concluded. “They know they have to put everything on the table and make hard choices. Legislators who would rather foster political boogeyman only delay those critical reforms.”
In an interview with The Hill on Monday, Norquist dismissed Coburn’s argument, saying the pledge is not open to “interpretation.” Norquist suggested that Corburn has “gone native or developed Stockholm Syndrome” from sitting alongside Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) during Gang of Six meetings, referring to the bipartisan discussions surrounding the debt ceiling crisis last summer.
“When Coburn stands up and says, ‘I want to raise taxes,’ he stands alone,” Norquist said.
Sunday’s op-ed marks the latest in a series of Coburn-backed challenges to the ubiquitous pledge, which has been signed by 238 representatives and 41 senators — all but three of them Republicans — in the 112th Congress.
Earlier this year, Coburn took on Norquist’s vague definition of a tax by supporting the elimination of a multi-billion-dollar ethanol subsidy, which Norquist deemed a tax increase.
“Grover’s old news. It doesn’t matter what he says,” Coburn told MSNBC the same day he cast the procedural vote, which Norquist warned would be a pledge violation.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the Taxpayer Protection Pledge for restricting them from closing loopholes.
In one of the pledge’s more high-profile defections, Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) yanked his signature and released a two-page letter to constituents explaining why he could not support the anti-tax oath. He wrote that he objects to the pledge’s prohibition against getting rid of corporate loopholes or government subsidies unless the change in the tax code is revenue neutral.
“Though I suppose well intended, it directly inhibited the very goal we seek to advance, which is tax reform,” Rigell told The Huffington Post earlier this month.
Norquist’s Phantom Army
By TOM COBURN
Published: July 15, 2012
WHEN the antitax lobbyist Grover G. Norquist made a visit to Capitol Hill recently, leading Democrats welcomed the chance to build up their favorite boogeyman. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said Mr. Norquist has “the entire Republican party in the palm of his hand.” A spokeswoman for Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said Mr. Norquist — who is famous for getting lawmakers to pledge not to support tax hikes or deficit reduction that is paired with revenue increases — was coming to give the G.O.P. its “marching orders.”
But this story is utterly false. Senate Republicans — and many House Republicans — have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s strict interpretation of his own pledge, a reading that requires them to defend every loophole and spending program hidden in the tax code. While most Republicans do, of course, oppose tax increases, they are hardly the mindless robots Democrats say they are.
What the narrative does, however, is let Democrats off the hook. If they can make out Republicans as uncompromising ideologues, they can continue refusing to offer detailed plans to reform entitlement programs. That is the real obstacle to a grand bargain on spending, not Mr. Norquist’s pledge.
Consider the evidence: I recently proposed amendments to end tax earmarks for movie producers and the ethanol industry. Mr. Norquist charged that those measures would be tax hikes unless paired with dollar-for-dollar rate reductions. And yet all but six of the 41 Senate Republicans who had signed his pledge voted for my amendments.
Those 35 Republican pledge-violators are hardly soft on taxes. Rather, they understand that the tax code is riddled with special-interest provisions that are merely spending by another name. If asked to eliminate earmarks for things like Nascar, the tackle-box industry or Eskimo whaling captains — all of which are actual tax “breaks” — most of my colleagues would be embarrassed to demand dollar-for-dollar rate reductions, and rightly so.
As a result, rather than forcing Republicans to bow to him, Mr. Norquist is the one who is increasingly isolated politically. For instance, while his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, was calling my ethanol amendment a tax hike, the Club for Growth, which is far more influential among conservative lawmakers, my amendment outright.
What’s more, my colleagues have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s demand that Republicans walk away from any grand bargain on the deficit that includes even a penny of new revenue. Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, who calls Mr. Norquist “some random person,” offered to trade revenue increases for entitlement reform in talks with the White House last summer. Republicans on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform made a similar offer, as did Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, during last year’s deficit supercommittee negotiations. My colleagues, by and large, know that doing nothing to confront our fiscal challenges would mean an automatic tax increase and a cut to entitlement programs.
The problem with the pledge is that it is powerless to prevent future automatic tax increases and has failed to restrain past spending. The “starve the beast” strategy to shrink the size of the federal government by cutting revenue but not spending was a disaster. Every dollar we borrow is a tax increase on the next generation.
And in a debt crisis, higher interest rates and the debasement of our currency would be additional tax hikes. In that sense, no one is doing more to violate the spirit of the pledge than Mr. Norquist himself, who is asking Republicans to reject the very type of agreement that could prevent future tax increases.
What unifies Republicans is not Mr. Norquist’s tortured definition of tax purity but the idea of a Reagan- or Kennedy-style tax reform that lowers rates and broadens the tax base by getting rid of loopholes and deductions. It’s true that Republicans would prefer to lower rates as much as possible, and it’s true that Republicans believe smart tax reform will generate more, not less, revenue for the federal government. But Republicans would not walk away from a grand bargain on entitlements and tax reform that would devote a penny of revenue to deficit reduction instead of rate reduction.
Free-market conservatives have repeatedly given openings to Democrats that they have chosen to ignore. The president, for instance, knows that his calls to raise taxes on earnings over $250,000, which follows his gimmicky Buffett Rule, is a nonstarter unless paired with fundamental tax and entitlement reform.
The majority of Democrats and Republicans understand the severity of our economic challenges. They know they have to put everything on the table and make hard choices. Legislators who would rather foster political boogeymen only delay those critical reforms.
Tom Coburn is a Republican senator from Oklahoma and the author of “The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America.”
Norquist rebuts Coburn, says he ‘stands alone’ on taxes
By Erik Wasson – 07/16/12 11:04 AM ET
Anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist on Monday called Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) a liar after the senator blasted him in the pages of The New York Times.
Coburn’s op-ed piece argues that Senate Republicans have already violated Norquist’s strict “interpretation” of his anti-tax pledge, and would be willing to agree to a deficit grand bargain with a “penny” of net tax increases.
Norquist told The Hill that the piece is filed with “lies” and said that Coburn is violating, and trying to get colleagues to violate, a pledge they made to voters.
“It is like a couple that is having a fight and one of them tries to drag a third party in. Like the preacher who gave a speech last week against adultery. ‘Hey, this is your fault!’ ‘No, no, no! You promised her you would behave, you didn’t promise me. You explain to her why you get to make decisions on adultery.’ ”
He said that the idea of not raising taxes is what is powerful and pointed out that more GOP candidates have signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge than ever before. He said that presidential candidate Mitt Romney has fully embraced the pledge as written.
Norquist said the pledge is not open to “interpretation,” as Coburn insinuates, and plainly states that ending tax breaks must be accompanied by equivalent rate reductions.
He also said that Coburn’s claims about his colleagues turning their backs on the pledge are false.
“When Coburn stands up and says, ‘I want to raise taxes,’ he stands alone,” Norquist said.
He said that Coburn lied when he stated in the Times piece that all but six of the 41 Senate Republicans violated the pledge when they supported an amendment ending an ethanol tax break last year that did not have a corresponding tax reduction.
Norquist said that senators had voted for it under the assumption it was tied to another bill, offered by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), that would have ended the estate tax.
He said that Coburn is also being misleading when he says House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was willing to raise revenue in failed grand bargain talks with President Obama last year. That revenue was solely from tax rate reductions spurring growth, Norquist said.
The lobbyist said that Coburn last year had assured him publicly that he supports only growth-induced revenue increases and cited a letter in which Coburn and fellow Gang of Six deficit negotiators Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said they would work with him “to support a proposal where any increase in revenue generation will be the result of the pro-growth effects of lower individual and corporate tax rates for all Americans.”
Norquist said that Coburn since that time appears to have “gone native or developed Stockholm Syndrome” from spending too much time with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in Gang of Six meetings.
He said the example of a deficit grand bargain with entitlement reforms in exchange for a “penny” in tax increases is a “bizarre straw man” that does not exist. Instead, Democrats are seeking trillions in tax increases that must be resisted, he said.
Norquist said he is not nervous about losing his fight against tax increases. He confidently predicted the GOP will take the Senate and White House and enact Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget, which slashes $5 trillion in spending and reforms Medicare and the tax code without raising taxes.
Scott Walker’s win is a permanent defeat for US labor unions
The Wisconsin recall result was seismic for reasons Democrats barely realise. Their major funder is on the run in state after state
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 7 June 2012 17.12 ED
When Wisconsin GovernorScott Walker defeated Mayor Tom Barrett, 53-46%, in Tuesday’s recall election, many observers immediately asked how this would affect the fight for Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes in the November presidential election between Obama and Romney. The best Republican get-out-the-vote effort, funded by millions of dollars of contributions from across the nation, went up against millions of dollars of union dues from all 50 states – and the Republican won by 53% in a state that Obama carried by 1,677,211 votes in 2008. And while Romney is behind Obama in “on the ground” organizing in most of the 10 or 12 key competitive states, Wisconsin now has a readymade campaign, with 20 state offices, which can be handed off to the Romney campaign.
Probably the only safe prediction is that a once safe “blue” state, believed to be in Obama column from the start, is now in play and both campaigns will spend time and money contesting the ten electoral college votes. On the side, the Tuesday results also suggest that Republicans have a very good chance of winning the open Senate seat created when Wisconsin Democratic US Senator Herb Kohl decided not to run for re-election.
But focusing on one state’s electoral votes in play misses the big picture. The Scott Walker win signals a permanent and seismic shift in American politics.
Today, 7% of Americans in the private sector are members of labor unions; 37% of government employees pay union dues. There are more public sector union members – teachers, cops, firemen, bureaucrats – than private sector union members. Most of the government union members pay over $500 in dues each year – much of which flows directly into politics.
The Wisconsin reforms forbid towns, counties, and school districts from withholding union dues from government workers and handing the cash over to the unions. The reforms have required union members to vote each year on whether they want to continue to be represented by a union. They forbade unions from negotiating on pensions, benefits, or working conditions. Wisconsin unions may negotiate wage increases up to and limited by the inflation rate. Period. Teacher tenure is no longer a “benefit” to be negotiated.
The Walker law has changed the demographics and correlation of forces in Wisconsin politics. Membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – the state’s second-largest public-sector union after the National Education Association, which represents teachers – fell to 28,745 in February, from 62,818 in March 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported. If dues averaged $500, that is a loss to the coffers of the Democrat party’s key ally of $17m a year for that one union.
Correspondingly, the greater flexibility for local government has saved Wisconsin towns, cities and school districts $1,052,555,404 in the first year.
This budget-saving reform will now move rapidly through the 23 states that like Wisconsin have a Republican governor and legislature. They can calculate how much money local property tax payers will save. They can calculate how much campaign cash the Democrat-aligned unions will lose each and every year. And they know that in a Democratic-leaning state with the national resources of the modern union movement, the unions have shown themselves to be, not a paper tiger, but certainly not up to exacting certain revenge.
Watch Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Arizona to enact similar laws when legislatures reconvene next January. And some Democratic mayors and governors will borrow arrows from Walker’s quiver, because they need to save their cities and states from bankruptcy – even as they realize it defunds the Democratic party in the long run. We saw this on Tuesday when the mayor of San Jose, California won a referendum 70-30 to reduce union pensions and benefits.
Politicians like to know that legislation will work. By that, they mean: will the law accomplish its stated purpose “without costing me the next election”. Governor Scott Walker’s success has answered both questions in the affirmative. And next year, a dozen states will pass similar legislation and the power of the unions, already declining, will be divided because they cannot focus on one state, but will have to respond to multiple challenges.
Scott Walker’s win on Tuesday will lead to a permanent and growing shift in the correlation of forces between the two parties – to the disadvantage of the Democrats.
Grover Norquist: Norquist: The Billionaires’ Best Friend
How the anti-tax activist hijacked the GOP on behalf of the rich
By Tim Dickinson
November 9, 2011 7:00 AM ET
Grover Norquist has never held elected office. He’s not a political appointee or a congressional staffer, and few voters know his name. Yet this anti-tax lobbyist wields immense power over the Republican Party, enforcing a hard-line position that compels the GOP to protect tax breaks for the rich and billions in federal subsidies for America’s wealthiest corporations. “It all comes from a single guy,” says Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator. So how does Norquist do it?
Norquist’s influence over the GOP began in 1985, when Ronald Reagan tapped the little-known staffer at the Chamber of Commerce to head up Americans for Tax Reform, a pressure group organized to push a comprehensive tax package through Congress. With backing from the Chamber, Norquist – a Harvard MBA and former head of the College Republicans – challenged GOP candidates to take a two-part pledge: that they would never raise taxes, and that they would only close tax loopholes if the additional revenue was used to pay for further tax cuts. Before long, he had 102 congressmen and 16 senators signed up.
Over the past 25 years, Norquist has received funding from many of America’s wealthiest corporations, including Philip Morris, Pfizer and Microsoft. To build a farm team of anti-tax conservatives, Norquist shrewdly took the pledge to state legislatures across the country, pressuring up-and- coming Republicans to make it a core issue before they’re called up to the big leagues. “We’re branding the whole party that way,” Norquist says. “The people who are going to be running for Congress in 10 or 20 years are coming out of state legislatures with a history with the pledge.”
Norquist also built the anti-tax pledge into the DNA of the GOP by hosting weekly Wednesday meetings that enable activist groups representing everyone from gun nuts to home-schoolers to mix with top business lobbyists and conservative officials. The meetings, which began shortly after Bill Clinton was elected, turned Norquist into the Republican Party’s foremost power broker – and gave him a forum to enforce the no-new-taxes pledge as the centerpiece of the GOP’s strategy. “The tax issue,” he says, “is the one thing everyone agrees on.”
Norquist cemented his influence by forging an early alliance with Karl Rove and setting himself up as a gatekeeper to George W. Bush’s inner circle. Then, after Obama was elected, this ultimate Washington insider positioned himself as a leader of the anti-establishment Tea Party, complete with financial support from the billionaire Koch brothers. “These Tea Party people, in effect, take their orders from him,” says Bruce Bartlett, an architect of the Reagan tax cuts. “He decides: This is a permissible tax action, or this is not a permissible tax action. And of course, anything that cuts taxes is per se OK.”
Today, GOP politicians who have signed Norquist’s anti-tax pledge include every top Republican running for president, 13 governors, 1,300 state lawmakers, 40 of the 47 Republicans in the Senate, and 236 of the 242 Republicans in the House. What’s more, the GOP’s Tea Party foot soldiers are marshaled by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor – a veteran of Norquist’s farm team, who first signed the pledge as an ambitious member of the Virginia legislature. Under Cantor’s leadership, Norquist’s anti-tax pledge was directly responsible for last summer’s debt-ceiling standoff that wrecked the nation’s credit rating by leading the nation to the brink of default. “Congress was willing to cause severe economic damage to the entire population,” marvels Paul O’Neill, Bush’s former Treasury secretary, “simply because they were slaves to an idiot’s idea of how the world works.”