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“Putting The Nails In The Coffin”: Has Grover Norquist And His Anti-Tax Pledge Reached The End Of The Road?

Yet another prominent Republican has added his name to the list of those for whom the allure of the Grover Norquist “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” has lost its luster.

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has announced that he will no longer honor his commitment to the Norquist pledge wherein he promised not to raise taxes under any circumstances whatsoever. Appearing on a local Georgia television program, Chambliss said, “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge. If we do it his way then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”

While Chambliss expects Norquist to push back on his defection by supporting a primary challenge to Senator Chambliss when he stands for re-election in 2014, Chambliss has decided to take his chances, noting, “But I don’t worry about that because I care too much about my country. I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist.”

While Saxby Chambliss’ sentiment is admirable, is it possible that he has done the math and concluded that the Norquist modus operandi of going after any Republican that dare defy him just doesn’t pack the punch it once possessed?

Judging from the 2012 election results, there is reason to believe that Grover Norquist’s days of bullying candidates into doing his bidding may be a thing of the past.

Going into the elections, 279 Congressional incumbents—along with 286 challengers—had signed the anti-tax pledge. However, at a time when the polls point to an overwhelming number of Americans favoring a rise in the tax rates for the nation’s very wealthiest, some 57 Republican House incumbents or challengers who signed the pledge went down to defeat while 24 GOP sitting Senators or those seeking a seat lost in their race.

Included among the high profile, pledge-signing losers were Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), former Wisconsin Governor and cabinet member Tommy Thompson (R-WI) and two-time loser Linda McMahon (R-CT). Over in the House, long time Congressmen Dan Lungren got beat after a constituent publically challenged him for signing the pledge while two GOP incumbents who had received direct funding from Norquist’s organization, Americans For Tax Reform, in an effort to save their seats, were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, GOP Senate leaders such as Bob Corker (R-TN), John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), have become more vocal in their opposition to Grover Norquist and his tactics as has leading conservative voice, Bill Kristol.

Adding what might be the final nail in the coffin for Mr. Norquist’s brand of political blackmail is the fact that the likely GOP frontrunner for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016, Gov. Jeb Bush—while highly supportive of keeping taxes low—has steadfastly refused to sign the tax pledge saying, “I don’t believe you outsource your convictions and principles to people.” The younger Bush follows in the footsteps of his father, President George H.W. Bush, who earlier this year made his own feelings completely clear when he remarked, “The rigidity of those pledges is something I don’t like. The circumstances change and you can’t be wedded to some formula by Grover Norquist. It’s – who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?”

Good question—who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?

While he has managed to become more famous than most, at the end of the day, Grover Norquist is a lobbyist.

In fact, according to Jack Abramoff—the disgraced lobbyist who went to jail after entering a guilty plea to three criminal felonies involving defrauding American Indian tribes and corrupting public officials—Mr. Norquist’s organization served as a conduit for funds that flowed from Abramoff’s clients to surreptitiously finance grass-roots lobbying campaigns.

The Washington Post reports,

“The federal probe has brought a string of bribery-related charges and plea deals. The possible misuse of tax-exempt groups is also receiving investigators’ attention, sources familiar with the matter said. Among the organizations used by Abramoff was Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. According to an investigative report on Abramoff’s lobbying released last week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Americans for Tax Reform served as a “conduit” for funds that flowed from Abramoff’s clients to surreptitiously finance grass-roots lobbying campaigns. As the money passed through, Norquist’s organization kept a small cut, e-mails show. A second group Norquist was involved with, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, received about $500,000 in Abramoff client funds…”

Mr. Norquist has denied any wrongdoing in the Abramoff matter and neither he nor his organization(s) have ever been charged for any offense related to the same.

With Saxby Chambliss’s new found independence and willingness to once again exercise his own judgment and regain control of his own vote when it comes to tax matters, expect other legislators—on both the federal and state level—to now join in.

The Norquist era has come and gone—and thank Heaven for that.

Whether you support tax increases for some or detest the very notion of anything short of a decrease in taxes, we elect leaders to think for themselves and to serve the needs of their constituents. Unless you are an elected official from a district that Grover Norquist calls home, Mr. Norquist, and his Americans For Tax Reform, are not a constituency—they are a special interest lobby.

The time has come for a little GOP courage. While Mr. Norquist may have been able to impose his will on Republican incumbents who fear a primary challenge from the right courtesy of Grover Norquist, the reality is that there are only so many such challenges Mr. Norquist can afford to mount. Therefore, the more GOP elected officials who reject the notion of handing over their vote to the likes of Grover Norquist, the lower the odds that these politicians will pay the price for their defection come election season.

The clock on Grover Norquist’s fifteen minutes of fame has expired—and the sooner Republican incumbents and candidates figure this out, the sooner they will be able to impress the voters with their willingness to think for themselves and for their constituencies rather than turning control over to a lobbyist.

How can that possibly be a bad thing?

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, November 23, 2012

November 24, 2012 Posted by | Taxes | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Opportunity And Equality”: What The “Takers” Really Want

The Republican far right has concluded that Mitt Romney’s loss was due in part to his excess moderation, but Romney and the right agree that the blame also rests with the 47 percent of Americans who are “takers,” whom the Democrats wooed with governmental largess. America is no longer dominated by “traditional” small-government Americans, as Bill O’Reilly put it on a glum election night at Fox News. In behind-closed-doors talks to his donors that were recorded (and are likely to remain the only talks of his entire campaign that anyone remembers), Romney concurred.

The Romney-right analysis shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Racial minorities, the young, single women — the groups whose share of the electorate is rising — all believe that government has a role to play in increasing opportunity and enlarging the rewards of work. They tend to support a larger government that provides more services than a smaller one with lower tax levels. That doesn’t make them “takers,” however, unless you believe that public spending on schools and on a retirement fund to which American workers contribute constitutes an illegitimate drain on private resources.

Indeed, many of these so-called takers have higher rates of workforce participation than “traditional” Americans. That is, to restate this without using the barely coded terminology of the right, Latinos and Asians have higher rates of labor-force participation than whites. While the level of labor-force participation for non-Hispanic whites was 64.6 percent, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2010 data, the level for Asians was 64.7 percent and for Latinos, 67.5 percent. So which group has more “takers” and which more workers?

But these industrious minorities believe that government can foster even more opportunity. A post-election American Values Survey, conducted for the Public Religion Research Institute, asked voters whether government should promote growth by spending more on education and infrastructure or should lower taxes on businesses and individuals. The groups that constitute the growing elements of the electorate all favored the spending option — 61 percent of Latinos favored it, 62 percent of blacks, 63 percent of voters under 30 and 64 percent of single women. White voters, however, preferred the lower-taxes option 52 percent to 42 percent.

On Election Day, California voters passed a tax-increase initiative to arrest the decimation of the state’s schools and universities, with a voter breakdown very much like that in the American Values Survey. Ending decades of voter opposition to ballot measures that increased tax rates, Californians raised taxes on incomes above $250,000 and boosted the sales tax by a quarter-cent to provide more funding to K-12 schools and the state’s public colleges and universities. While white voters split evenly on the measure, 67 percent of voters under 30 backed it, 61 percent of Asians favored it and 53 percent of Latinos supported it.

Ever since the passage of Howard Jarvis’s Proposition 13 in 1978 downsized California’s taxes and public sector, a majority of the state’s white voters have rejected this kind of tax-hike initiative. As California’s Latino population grew, so did a rift in the state’s voting patterns: Aging white voters opposed dozens of ballot measures for school bond authorization, while Latino voters, whose children often made up the majority in the school districts, supported them overwhelmingly — and in heavily Latino areas, they prevailed at the polls. This year, the Latino share of California voters was 23 percent, up from 18 percent in 2008; the share of Asians rose to 12 percent from 6 percent; and the share of voters under 30 rose to 27 percent from 20 percent. Confronted with this new electorate, Jarvis’s California was consigned to history’s dustbin.

One reason support for government spending on schools and the safety net is strong within these growing constituencies is that the lot of the “maker” — the hard worker who creates wealth — is declining for most Americans, particularly for young and working-class Americans. Median household income is shrinking as the share of company revenue going to wages descends and the share going to profits increases. If more private-sector workers were able to bargain collectively for wage increases, they would be less dependent on governmental income supplements and the safety net for rudimentary economic security. By all but destroying unions in the private sector, however, the same business executives who applauded Romney’s condemnation of “takers” greatly enlarged the pool of Americans who must “take” to survive. If these self-designated makers feel beleaguered by takers, they have only themselves to blame.

By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 21, 2012

November 24, 2012 Posted by | Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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