The unelected Norquist crippling the whole country, not just SC

This paragraph in a Robert Samuelson column jumped out at me:

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, no one has elected Grover Norquist to anything. Still, he looms as a major obstacle to Congress reaching a deficit-reduction agreement needed to raise the federal debt ceiling. Norquist heads Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group that has persuaded 41 senators and 236 representatives (all but three of them Republicans) to sign its “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” opposing any tax increase. If Congress eliminates special-interest tax breaks, the pledge requires that they be “matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

It’s astounding the way this malignant extremist has the power to mesmerize politicians into obedience to him and to his will, without regard to the interests of their constituents.

He has long been the reason why we can’t revamp our rickety, inadequate, illogical and unfair tax system in South Carolina — because too many SC lawmakers have promised Norquist that they won’t ever raise a tax (which of course, you would inevitably do with some taxes, while lowering or eliminating others, in comprehensive reform). What their constituents want or need has always paled in comparison to their horror at the idea of letting ol’ Grover down.

I’ve met the guy. I can’t imagine what inspires such slavish loyalty. Surely they can’t fear him that much.

I had thought his influence was waning in recent years, and a reasonable person would think he was pretty much discredited recently. But this isn’t about anything that reasonable people would understand.

37 thoughts on “The unelected Norquist crippling the whole country, not just SC

  1. Karen McLeod

    I have long been amazed that anyone sane would sign saying that they would never raise taxes. It leaves the gov. doing such things as holding a war on credit (gets very expensive when the bill comes). We have got to be able to adjust to meet the needs (including solvency needs) of the public. Those who say that we shouldn’t do what we can’t pay for forget that we’ve already gotten the items. Like a credit card bill, sooner or later you have to pay the bill. We are going to have to close loopholes and raise taxes. No choice. We owe the money.

  2. bud

    It’s astounding the way this malignant extremist has the power to mesmerize politicians into obedience to him and to his will, without regard to the interests of their constituents.

    No, no, no! A thousand times no. Brad are you being willfully obtuse here? It’s not POLITICIANS that are mesmerized it’s GOP POLITICIANS almost exclusively. Here’s a great example of how the two parties are completely different in their approach to governing. Most of the Republicans in congress govern by adhering to party doctrine, conservative platitudes and wreckless stubborness. Let’s give the Democrats some credit here. Although they may start from positions that are part of party doctrine they tend to be pragmatic in approaching the problems of the nation. Sure there are exception. But exactly 3 Democrats signed Norquist reckless pledge. So this is a slam of the GOP not politicians in general. To make such a generalized criticism to me smacks of a person who is doing exactly what he accuses partisans of doing, bowing to pre-conceived ideas of what is the correct worldview.

  3. Doug Ross

    Can you be labeled an extremist if your view is held by a significant portion of American?

    His shtick is a direct response to perceived government waste, fraud, and abuse. The problem with trying to overcome his rhetoric is that you have to deny reality. Government grows and continues to grow. It spends what it does not have. It spends on things that governments should not spend on. And it promotes a culture of lobbyists and politically connected people to tweak tax rules in their favor. It’s an unseemly mess of corruption and greed that is worse now than it ever has been.

    It would take politicians with some ethics, brains, and backbone to overcome Norquist. They don’t exist. Someone like Lindsey Graham could make Norquist a target but he’s as scared of Norquist as much as Demint is a fan.

  4. Doug Ross

    If we had a pure flat tax with no loopholes or exemptions, Grover would go away. Find a candidate who has the guts to push for that…

    I never heard Sheheen talk about any meaningul tax reform.

  5. Doug Ross

    Here’s the type of lunacy that makes Grover’s job so easy. The guy who caught Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit HR the other night is expected to face a tax bill of $14,000 for the gifts the Yankees gave him (tickets, memorabilia, etc.) for the ball.

    As long as the tax system is ridiculous, Grover will appear to be a genius. It’s easy to make the government look stupid when it is.

  6. Matt Cain

    He exchanged the ball for goods, which makes those goods income. He would have to pay income tax on the value of the goods in a flat or progressive tax system. So does that make the flat tax ridiculous also?

  7. Tim

    Can’t they guy turn down the gifts? Its income. He came into a windfall, like finding a picasso at a garage sale, and no one forced him to give the ball back, are they? If the Yankees were so concerned, they could pay the tax on the contributions for him as well. He sounds like a whiner to me. And the dude said he knows the IRS can’t pick and choose who it collects taxes from. “The IRS has a job to do, so I’m not going to hold it against them, but it would be cool if they helped me out a little on this.”

  8. Jake

    Elected officials who sign these ridiculous pledges are simpletons. I wonder if DeMint will have a new one ready and waiting for the candidates at his “forum.”

  9. Brad

    Yeah, he sounds like a winner to me, too.

    And if DeMint doesn’t have a pledge ready for them to sign (“I promise to do the will of Jim DeMint, hereinafter referred to as “the Master,” at all times…”), then he’s missed a big opportunity.

    I think I’ll have a competing forum at the same time. I’ll call it the “Mom and Apple Pie Forum”…

  10. Mark Stewart

    Bud’s right on this one.

    Abdicating the responsibility to negotiate in good faith the bills and matters that come before Congress (or the General Assembly) ought to be an impeachable offense. We elected them to figure out the tough stuff, not to check their brains in the cloak room.

    All of them made pledges to their constituency and to the people of this nation/state that come before such political drivel.

  11. Brad

    Amen to that, Mark.

    Hey, are y’all sure this Mark Stewart guy isn’t just me commenting under another name?

  12. Brad

    Seriously, Mark’s dead-on. This is an utter negation of all that representative government is about.

    Representatives should never make a pledge, in advance, even to voters that they will always vote a certain way on anything. That’s grossly irresponsible. It reflects an immature understanding of the unpredictability of life, for one thing…

    But to make such a pledge to some guy with an interest group up in Washington? That is beyond unconscionable.

    Did y’all see that pro-family, anti-porn pledge Michelle Bachmann signed in Iowa? Hey, I’m a cultural traditionalist; I would agree with these people on a lot of these points (monogamy a good idea? you betcha).

    But you don’t ask someone running for president to swear to all these highly detailed policy propositions. You just don’t…

    OK, bad example. Not the same thing at all. I mean, I guess you sort of could expect a president to always support monogamy (unless the godless commies kill all the men in the country, and the president has to marry all the women in order to repopulate the Armed Forces, but admittedly the chance of that is small).

    But to swear, as an elected official, that one will always vote no (or always vote yes, for that matter) on new taxes, is like swearing always to vote “no” on days of the week containing an “R.” It’s arbitrary, and takes no account of the unknowable circumstances.

  13. `Kathryn Fenner

    Mark is far more astute than you, brad. sorry….

    You guys forget that pledges and other preset decision-makers make it so much easier for politicians to just go out and raise even more campaign dough–the pesky business of governing takes care of itself!

  14. Brad

    Hey, how do you know that I don’t just sign “Mark Stewart” to the very smartest stuff I say, and then make the rest of what I write sloppy and stupid to throw y’all off?

  15. `Kathryn Fenner

    ….because I met “Mark Stewart” and he talks better than you, too….but we love ya, Brad, anyway!

    You were even in the same place at the same time, so….

    Now “Steven Davis”?!?!?

  16. `Kathryn Fenner

    People who *may* actually be Brad, working out issues–“Steven Davis,” “Juan Caruso,” “Tim,” “tired old man”….

  17. Mark Stewart

    Well, since I’m me I got a good laugh over this. And thanks, Kathryn! But not better, just different.

    Maybe it’s just that this is common sense stuff. People are always backing themselves into painted corners though, in spite of their sharper instincts; marriage and adoption excepted.

  18. Michael Rodgers

    From one perspective, President Obama keeps offering the Republicans really good deals. And choosing whether or not to accept these offered deals should be, for the Republicans, The Mother of All No-Brainers.

    “If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.”

    From another perspective, President Obama keeps putting a well-known dealbreaking poison pill in all of his offered deals. And choosing whether or not to accept these offered deals is, for the Republicans, Hobson’s Choice.

    “The reality is that Mr. Obama is trying to present Republicans with a Hobson’s choice: Either repudiate their campaign pledge by raising taxes, or take the blame for any economic turmoil and government shutdown as the U.S. nears a debt default.”

    The issue is the pledge, promise, or whatever the Republicans have vowed to never ever raise any tax, regardless of the overall result of any deal. The pledge is the problem. And the Republicans remember how President George H. W. Bush got hammered from everyone (left, right, and center) after he made a reasonable deal that saved the economy because that reasonable deal included new taxes and Mr. Bush had pledged, “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

    However, since the Republicans have pledged themselves into a corner, now we are in the “sweet roll” situation, of this video:

    The Republicans are the managers of the restuarant (Washington, DC), and they have chosen to take sweet rolls (tax increases) off their menu. President Obama is the customer who requests different drinks (spending cuts) along with his sweet roll. Speaker Boehner is the waitress who explains, “We are out of sweet rolls”, and who gets more and more furious as the customer affects reasonability (changing drink orders ~ offering different spending cuts) while actually adhering to an impossible request (demanding a sweet roll ~ requiring a tax increase).

    I think President Obama should make an offer that has minimal spending cuts and zero tax raises, so that the Republicans can vote for it.

  19. Lynn T

    No, Michael Rogers, your analogy fails because the Republican Party does not get to write the whole menu or decide what is in the kitchen. Americans have elected people with diverse points of view. As a consequence, compromise is necessary to get things done. Compromise is not giving one side every thing they want while they return nothing. That is what the Republicans are asking for at present, and it is absurd to think that they should get it.

  20. bud

    Lynn has a great point. This no-tax pledge should not have any weight on the give and take process in congress. If dems had taken a similar, ridiculous no-pledge policy on spending cuts then we’d just have a deadlock. The whole pledge thing just needs to be ignored.

  21. Karen McLeod

    @Lynn, I agree. Compromise is not a dirty word; our representatives need to look at both tax revenues and spending cuts rather than playing ‘chicken’ with the president.

  22. Brad

    The Washington Post had a profile on Grover and his role yesterday. An excerpt:

    “The sacred texts from which Grover Norquist draws his political power are hidden in a secret fireproof safe.

    “I keep the originals in a vault, in case D.C. burns down,” said Norquist, referring to the pledge that his organization asks politicians to sign, vowing to “oppose any and all efforts” to raise taxes. “When someone takes the pledge, you don’t want it tampered with; you don’t want it destroyed.”

    How ridiculous.

    I just can’t believe this guy is still exerting any sort of power over anyone.

    You know, in the extremely hard-to-imagine event that I ever signed this or any other pledge, I’m sure that (once I had sobered up or whatever) I would realize the foolishness, the wrongness, of it in quick order, and would fully realize that KEEPING the promise would be more morally objectionable than breaking it.

    And I would tell the world what Grover could do with my signature.

  23. Michael Rodgers

    Yes, Brad, for you and for all reasonable people, pragmatism is the guiding principle. You have to decide based upon the choices in front of you. You call them as you see them.

    It’s not so for these Republicans. They think that the only real judge of whether or not one stands on principle is if one stands on principle when it hurts. They love it when their decision is pragmatically wrong because then they “know” that it is principlely right.

    I’m not explaining this well, but I hope you understand. It’s important.

  24. Brad

    Oh, you’re doing fine. Although I’m not sure “principlely” is a word. Sounds kind of like “truthy.”

    Of course, it IS a test of principle to stick to it when it’s tough.

    Problem is, this is a stupid, wrong, principle. It’s not even a principle. It’s a negation of principle. The job of an elected official (or part of it) is to decide when to have a tax, and when not to have a tax, when to raise it, when to lower it, considering all sorts of factors such as whether there is a legitimate public need, whether it is fairly conceived and administered, whether it is spent properly and not wastefully, what the impact is on the economy, etc.

    To go into office swearing in advance that you will always do X or Y with regard to taxes is just wrong, and a denial of what representative democracy is about.

    It doesn’t matter what you think about taxes, or the “size of government” (which has always seemed like an odd topic to me, as though were were actually a size that is proper that could be determined, like the waist measurement on a pair of pants), or anything. You don’t promise in advance to ALWAYS do something.

  25. Michael Rodgers

    Thanks. I’m just trying to explain to reasonable people (left, right, and center) what some of these Republicans are thinking. They are “word is bond” Republicans even when faced with new situations and even when they are called upon to stop the tide (West Wing reference).

    Here’s an example from Jay Ragley the spokesperson for Dr. Zais. Mr. Ragley said
    “What message is the education establishment sending to students by demanding Dr. Zais change his position regarding Race to the Top? It’s acceptable to break your word?”

  26. Brad

    Yes, it is — when you promised to do something wrong.

    It’s like a variant on that favorite rhetorical question of mothers everywhere: “If you promised your friends you’d jump off a cliff, would you do it?”

    Oh, and it case you can’t tell, boys and girls, Mom is looking for a “no” answer there…

  27. Maggie

    I’m still puzzled that the rest of the country looks to South Carolina to choose its possible next leader. We’re the folks who, 150 years ago, not only led the nation to the edge of the cliff but jumped off it.

  28. `Kathryn Fenner

    I’m trying to recall what happened during the face off during the 90s–that didn’t work out so well for the Republicans or Newt, did it?

  29. Doug Ross

    Always picking the easy targets. Norquist has no power. He’s got a message that resonates with some people.

    Just like Haley and Sanford aren’t the issue in South Carolina, Norquist isn’t the problem in the U.S. government. That falls directly in the laps of career politicians on both sides. Lindsey Graham and John McCain are far more responsible for the state of affairs than Norquist ever was or will be.

  30. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Doug–resonating with some people can equal power, and in the case of the unelected Norquist,it does. Sarah Palin also has a message that resonates with some people….

    You can fool an awful lot of the people an awful lot of the time….

  31. Karen McLeod

    Rather than electing representatives who can reason well and make hard choices based on a good understanding of a situation, we’re electing representatives who can yell the loudest, and are willing to sink the whole ship if the can’t have everything their way.

  32. Doug Ross


    “You can fool an awful lot of the people an awful lot of the time…”

    Wasn’t that the slogan of MoveOn.Org?

    Grover Norquist is so powerful he has cut the size of the Federal Government. He’s so powerful, he’s been able to produce yearly balanced budgets. He’s so powerful, he stopped TARP from adding trillions to the debt. Stop me when I get to a true statement.

  33. `Kathryn Fenner

    What’s wrong with Move On, besides you don’t like their politics and a couple of peons were entrapped by gotcha folks from the right?

    Norquist is so powerful, he has led us to this impasse that may crash our government.

  34. Mark Stewart


    He got far too many people who should know far better to sign “pledges” that they would not in actuality do the job that they were elected to do.

    The signer’s of such nonsense might be the real problems, but Norquist had juice when nobody quite realized what was really at play.

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