You have no doubt heard of the infamous "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" that Grover Norquist uses to browbeat Republican legislators (and a Democrat here and there) across the land into doing his will instead of the voters’.
Example of the effect it has in the real world is that it paralyzes the S.C. Legislature on the issue of tax reform. They can’t do real, comprehensive tax reform — which would mean taking our whole system and making it more fair and logical — because you can’t do that without somewhere, along with all your tax cuts, raising some other tax to balance things out (even if you’re going for a net reduction in the tax burden, not every tax would go down, if you’re approaching it responsibly).
To be more specific: It’s why we haven’t had an increase in our lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax, even though it would reduce teen smoking, and be multiplied by a federal match that would ease the burden of paying for Medicaid, and even though 70 percent of South Carolinians want the tax raised.
All that matters to signers is that Grover doesn’t want the tax raised, so it doesn’t happen. So much for our system of representative democracy.
Anyway, the news is that ATR yesterday released its official list of South Carolina signers.
You will no doubt read the list with some interest, searching for names of folks facing election next month — either because you think this pledge is a good idea, or because you believe, as I do, that promising never to raise a tax in the future is as insanely irresponsible as promising to raise every tax you see. (And before you anti-tax folks say that’s what legislators always do, remember that our General Assembly has not instituted a general tax increase since it bumped up the gasoline tax a couple of pennies in 1987.)
And indeed, you will find such names as that of Rep. Jim Harrison, the House Judiciary chair who is facing energetic opposition in the 75th District. Oh, and there’s Denise Jones, who had second thoughts about signing in our interview, and said she thought her reply to Grover probably got lost in the mail or something anyway. Well, Ms. Jones, it got there.
But don’t put too much stock in this list. Bill Cotty‘s on it, too. Bill Cotty DID sign the list, years ago, but has come to regret that decision profoundly, and has not only refused to sign it in subsequent elections, but withdrawn his original pledge demanded that ATR cease claiming that he’s one of the lawmakers in their pocket. ATR has ignored his pleas, even as its anti-government allies pound Mr. Cotty for being a moderate.
That’s the trouble with this thing. You’re not allowed to wise up and have second thoughts. To Grover, it’s like the Mafia — once you’re a made guy, you’re in for life.
(Oh, and by the way — you might think it unfair that I link to a Mother Jones article to explain to the uninitiated who Grover is. Rest your troubled mind. I learned about that article because when he came to visit our editorial board, Grover passed out copies of it, along with several other press clippings, by way of introducing himself. He’s proud of that piece.)