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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

Grover Norquist’s Pledge Is A Colossal Failure

In 1986, Grover Norquist and his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, created the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which he describes as “a simple, written commitment by a candidate or elected official that he or she will oppose, and vote against, tax increases.” It has recently come under repeated fire: it became a tool for ethanol subsidy apologists, for example, and most recently, it emerged as a needless obstacle in negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.

Responding to his critics, Norquist has taken to the op-ed page of the New York Timesthis morning to defend his legacy:

Contrary to the hopes of some that I am somehow softening the pledge, it is stronger and more important than ever: it has made it easier for  members of Congress to credibly commit to voters that they will refuse  to increase taxes and instead focus on reducing the cost of government.

In fact, it is more important than ever to be rid of The Pledge, because it has been a colossal failure.  Does anyone think that fiscal conservatives should be happier with the state of our nation’s finances now than they were when the pledge began 25 years ago? Does anyone still harbor the illusion that “starve the beast” is an effective method of shrinking the federal government?

Here is why The Pledge has failed. Time and again, it has contributed to the GOP tendency to make taxes their top priority, deficits be damned. As Kevin Williamson puts it at National Review, “Republicans led by naïve supply-siders are preparing, for the third time in my life, to sell their souls on spending cuts in exchange for  tax-rate reductions that are small, ineffective, and sure to be  temporary. Ronald Reagan got his tax cuts, but he went to his grave  waiting for those spending cuts. George W. Bush got his tax cuts, and  ended his presidency with spending soaring and his entitlement-reform  program in the garbage. And now certain Republicans are starting to  slobber over the Gang of Six plan.”

What Norquist doesn’t understand or won’t admit is that deficit spending is worse than a tax increase, because you’ve got to pay for it eventually anyway, with interest. Meanwhile, you’ve created in the public mind the illusion that the level of government services they’re consuming is cheaper and less burdensome than is in fact the case. If you hold the line on taxes but not the deficit, you’re making big government more palatable.

Back in 1986, if taxes had been raised every time federal spending had increased, and voters knew that taxes would go up again every time new federal programs or spending was passed, the backlash against big government that we’re seeing now would’ve started a lot sooner, and been much more broad-based. Had that been the policy, it’s doubtful that George W. Bush would’ve passed Medicare Part D. Instead, the Baby Boomers have borrowed a bunch of money that my generation and my children’s generation is going to have to pay back. But their taxes didn’t go up. Thanks for that, Mr. Norquist. I’m not sure what to call it, but fiscal conservatism isn’t it.

As the conservative movement laments our fiscal straits, and the dire situation the nation finds itself in, perhaps it is too much to ask that they assign Norquist a little bit of the blame. But surely they can at least recognize that the solution he’s been pushing since the Reagan Administration hasn’t worked.

 

By: Conor Friedersdorf, Associate Editor, The Atlantic, July 22, 2011

July 23, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Political “Idjits”: Is the GOP Bound for A ‘Political Jonestown’?

Once upon a time the Republican Party included a few widely-respected leaders who valued reason and flexibility — names like Eisenhower, Javitz, Weicker and a few others come to mind. Hell, Nixon was a paragon of sanity compared to some of the loons running the GOP asylum now. if this sounds overstated, read Richard Cohen’s Sunday WaPo column “A Grand Old Cult,” in which he explains:

To become a Republican, one has to take a pledge. It is not enough to support the party or mouth banalities about Ronald Reagan; one has to promise not to give the government another nickel. This is called the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” issued by Americans for Tax Reform, an organization headed by the chirpy Grover Norquist. He once labeled the argument that an estate tax would affect only the very rich “the morality of the Holocaust.” Anyone can see how singling out the filthy rich and the immensely powerful and asking them to ante up is pretty much the same as Auschwitz and that sort of thing….Almost all the GOP’s presidential candidates have taken this oath, swearing before God and Grover Norquist to cease thinking on their own, never to exercise independent judgment and, if necessary, to destroy the credit of the United States, raise the cost of borrowing and put the government deeper into the hole.

Cohen notes the role of revisionist history and denial in the Republicans’ increasingly unhinged worldview:

…The hallmark of a cult is to replace reason with feverish belief. This the GOP has done when it comes to the government’s ability to stimulate the economy. History proves this works — it’s how the Great Depression ended — but Republicans will not acknowledge it.The Depression in fact deepened in 1937 when Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to balance the budget and was ended entirely by World War II, which, besides being a noble cause, was also a huge stimulus program. Here, though, is Sen. Richard Shelby mouthing GOP dogma: Stimulus programs “did not bring us out of the Depression,” he recently told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, but “the war did.” In other words, a really huge stimulus program hugely worked. Might not a more modest one succeed modestly? Shelby ought to follow his own logic.

‘Logic’ may not be the best word to describe GOP thinking in the second decade of the 21st century. Cohen notes a similar pattern of denial with respect to Republican policies on abortion and global warning, and adds,

…Independent thinkers, stop right here! If you believe in global warming, revenue enhancement, stimulus programs, the occasional need for abortion or even the fabulist theories of the late Charles Darwin, then either stay home — or lie.This intellectual rigidity has produced a GOP presidential field that’s a virtual political Jonestown. The Grand Old Party, so named when it really did evoke America, has so narrowed its base that it has become a political cult. It is a redoubt of certainty over reason and in itself significantly responsible for the government deficit that matters most: leadership. That we can’t borrow from China.

The problem for Democrats is that, when Republicans become irrational proponents of discredited ideas and failed polices, there is not much incentive for Dems to up their game. Dems are not being challenged to respond to good arguments so much as tantrums by intellectually-constipated ideologues. The public gets cheated out of an enlightening debate and everybody loses.

What puzzles is why all of the Republicans have guzzled the Koolaid. Why hasn’t it dawned on the party’s brighter bulbs, perhaps Senator Lugar or, maybe Scott Brown or Huntsman that “Hmm, I could really separate myself from the pack of idjits by taking things to a more rational level”? All indications are that the public would like to see a little more flexibility from Republicans.

There may well come a point when the Republicans’ impressive party discipline starts to look like pointless obstructionism to swing voters. The public can see that, so far only one party is compromising. If sanity prevails, the Republicans’ unspoken meme that “we’re 100 percent right, and they’re 100 percent wrong, so we won’t give an inch” can’t play much longer without diminishing returns.

 

By: J. P. Green, The Democratic Strategist, July 5, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Class Warfare, Climate Change, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taxpayer Protection Pledge And The Grover Norquist Ethanol Trap

Tom Coburn has sprung a plan to force the Senate to vote on the ethanol subsidy:

Sen. Tom Coburn has pulled the trigger and is forcing a long-sought vote on an amendment repealing billions in annual tax incentives for ethanol.

The Senate will vote Tuesday afternoon on Coburn’s motion limiting debate on his amendment that would do away with the 45 cent blender tax credit for ethanol — worth about $6 billion this year — and the 54 cent tariff on imported ethanol.

Wait, don’t go to sleep, there’s something going on here. The press coverage doesn’t say so, but this is actually not about ethanol. It’s about Republican anti-tax dogma.

I wrote about this a few months ago, but for those readers who haven’t committed my blog to memory — shame on you! —  I’ll refresh. Nearly all Republicans have signed a Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is enforced by Grover Norquist. The pledge forbids the signer from approving any increase in tax revenue under any circumstances whatsoever.

Coburn and a handful of Republicans are trying to get around this pledge. Their tactic is to negotiate revenue increases that take the form of closing loopholes and exemptions rather than raising rates. This would clearly violate the Pledge. But Coburn is trying to expose the silliness of the Pledge. He’s holding a vote on eliminating the ethanol subsidy. Now, conservatives oppose the ethanol subsidy. But since the subsidy is a tax credit, then eliminating it is a tax increase, and forbidden by the Pledge.

So Coburn’s goal here is to drive a wedge between conservative doctrine and Norquist’s anti-tax dogma. If Norquist opposes a vote against ethanol, he reveals how absurd his pledge actually is. If he supports it, then he proves that it shouldn’t be taken literally. Either way, it creates a talking point that Republicans could use to support revenue increases. And since the GOP’s theological opposition to revenue increases has been driving budget policy for more than two decades, this is a pretty important development.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, June 10, 2011

June 10, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Energy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate, Tax Credits, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Grover Norquist’s “Sharia Tax Law” Causing The GOP To Rethink It’s “Pledge”?

Senator Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican from Oklahoma, has had the good sense to demand an end to the $5 billion annual tax credit to makers of corn ethanol, a wasteful subsidy to farm states that is also dubious environmental policy. For his outspokenness, Senator Coburn was pilloried by anti-government activists of his own party who cannot stand the idea of more revenues flowing into the federal Treasury. But he and a few others in the Senate are holding fast, suggesting that at least some Republicans are willing to break with party orthodoxy to reduce the long-term budget deficit.

The loudest criticism came from Grover Norquist, whose group, Americans for Tax Reform, is the author of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that has become a sacred covenant for virtually anyone wishing to run as a Republican. More than 95 percent of the Republicans in Congress have signed it (including Senator Coburn), as have many Republican governors and state lawmakers.

The pledge is often thought of as an agreement never to vote for raising taxes for any reason, but it goes even further than that. Those who sign it also vow never to eliminate any tax deductions or credits (like the handout to ethanol makers), unless the resulting increase in revenues is offset, dollar for dollar, by further tax cuts.

The pledge is really less about keeping taxes low than it is about holding down government revenues, which prevent the growth of government services. Mr. Norquist has famously said his goal is to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Mr. Norquist can afford to be candid about his fierce aversion to government services, since he does not have to run for office with the votes of people who like those services. The Republican lawmakers who have joined his congregation, however, are less forthright about the effect of their policies. They go around lulling constituents with phony mantras like “Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem,” as if cutting spending is the only conceivable solution to lowering the deficit.

This purity finally ran into a tough-minded pragmatist in Senator Coburn. Though his zeal to eliminate many worthy government programs is still excessive, he is right to see the wastefulness in the ethanol giveaway — and the extremism of Mr. Norquist’s position. Senator Coburn’s spokesman has even described Mr. Norquist as “the chief cleric of Sharia tax law.”

Senator Coburn is also a member of the “gang of six” senators that has been trying to find a bipartisan way to reduce the nation’s debt. He and the two other Republicans in the group, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Michael Crapo of Idaho, say they are opposed to raising tax rates but hope to rewrite the tax code in a way that brings in more revenue by eliminating many unnecessary tax breaks and broadening the tax base.

That, at least, represents the beginning of a useful conversation. It could very well mean that the rich would pay more in taxes. Which is why Mr. Norquist, in full grand-inquisitor style, has demanded that Senator Coburn drop out of the gang.

His influence, happily, seems to be on the wane. The three senators have reminded Mr. Norquist that their highest oath is not to him or some abstract pledge, but to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

By: The New York Times, Editorial, April 21, 2011

April 22, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Deficits, Democracy, Economy, GOP, Government, Governors, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Tax Credits, Taxes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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