06-06-2011 by Linda S. Carbonell
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. The name is lie. He doesn’t advocate tax reform – he advocates tax elimination. No Republican who aspires to federal or state office these days can get elected without signing Norquist’s pledge to cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-bankrupt-America, never, ever raise taxes. Thanks to Norquist, and a belief that George H. W. Bush lost re-election because he dared to raise taxes, Republicans have driven our Federal tax revenues down to only 15% of our gross domestic product. The eight oil-rich countries of the Middle East pay less in taxes, but except for Hong Kong and Singapore, the other 50 countries that pay less in taxes are all either third-world or emerging markets.
[Note to Republicans - GHW lost the election on two sound bites, not the "no new taxes" pledge. Barbara laughed about her mother-in-law’s piano being swept out to sea in a gale and George didn’t know what a grocery price scanner was. Those two incidents proved that the Bushes were too far outside the ordinary American’s experience to ever understand our problems.]
When politicians promise to not raise taxes, voters immediately think they mean the voters’ taxes. That’s not the way this is working out. Because of the special tax breaks, exclusions, deductions, etc, that the richest Americans can use and that corporations lobbied for and exploit, it is America’s fading middle class that is paying the highest portion of its income in taxes. Even the poorest of us paid more in taxes than General Electric and Bank of America because no one is exempt from paying payroll taxes.
Of the Republican lawmakers in Washington, 275 have signed Norquist’s pledge, which he calls a “quality control” so that voters know they are getting “the same thing every time.” No Republican has voted for a major tax increase since 1991. Republican governors and state legislators are also signed on. Norquist’s followers are a network who constantly monitor every piece of legislation to make sure no one even considers raising taxes. It’s being interpreted to mean that states shouldn’t even extend existing taxes or create fees for the environmental impact of certain industries.
Norquist has warned Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mike Crapo of Idaho that they need to back off even suggesting that raising tax revenues might be a necessary step to balancing our budget and eliminating our crippling deficits. In Norquist’s plan, every tax increase must be matched with a tax cut somewhere else because anything else will expand the size of the government. Doesn’t make an logical sense, but that’s the plan. It has led Republicans to defend tax policies that are bad public policy.
In the past, wars were paid for with tax increases. To meet Norquist’s demands, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not paid for, and with the Bush tax cuts, our national debt was doubled. Now, the Republicans are running on the size of the national debt, but insisting that it must be eliminated by cutting trillions out of the budget and not raising so much as a penny in new taxes.
Former senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire said “Grover’s not realistic.” With the aging of our population and a need to expand social programs, “your government is inevitably going to grow, and you’re either going to have to finance that, or you’re going to end up running the country into the ditch.”
Well, the Republican Party’s solution is to force those social programs into the private sector.
Prominent Republicans are speaking out against this rigid ideology. Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman and Martin Feldstein, one of Reagan’s chief economic advisors, have both challenged the wisdom of refusing to raise revenues. Norquist may talk about reforming the tax code with a lowering of the tax rates – something President Obama favors – but he also says that Tom Coburn, who advocates tax reform, is a “malignant” cell in the Senate. “So,” says Norquist, “we use chemo and radiation to protect all the healthy cells around it, so it doesn’t grow and metastasize.”
Norquist started Americans for Tax Reform at the request of President Reagan, who lowered taxes to a top rate of 28% and left the country with twice the national debt it had when he entered office in 1980. President Clinton’s increase in taxes balanced the budget and left us with a surplus that could have been used to reduce the national debt.
Norquist has effectively used the ballot box to dispose of politicians who don’t toe his line. When six Republicans agreed to tax increases in California to help close a $42 billion budget gap, Norquist’s army got them voted out of office. He now uses that threat, and the presence of strong Tea Party performance in primaries, to enforce his personal policy. Norquist absolutely believes in reducing the Federal government to its smallest possible size – whatever that might be, and he is prepared to starve it to death to accomplish that. He is an ideological fanatic and the Republican Party has handed him absolute power over themselves and their platform.
To fulfill their pledges, the Republican Party must strip our education systems until our children can’t compete in the global marketplace, force our seniors to depend on Wall Street’s whimseys for their retirement, enrich the insurance industry while denying medical care to the neediest, reduce our incomes to at or below the current minimum wage, eliminate our benefit packages, eliminate the workplace protections we fought for, bulldoze subdivisions that no one can afford to live in anymore, let bridges fall and roads disintegrate, let disease reach epidemic levels in overcrowded tenements, and reduce America to a client state of oil-rich nations and mulitnational corporations.
As we wind up for the 2012 election, we should all be challenging our Republican candidates on one very important point – why have they decided to hand that much power to one unelected man? Where did they park not only their brains, but their cojones and their backbones?