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Opinion: Good on GOP for Quitting Grover Norquist's Preposterous Tax Pledge

Monday, November 26, 2012 - 09:21 AM

The news that two Republican legislators said they will abandon Grover Norquist’s No tax Pledge in order to secure a compromise to the threat of the nation falling off the “fiscal cliff” before the end of the year has everyone in a tizzy.

When we discussed this in my American Government class this week, one of my students asked, “Professor Schmidt, who the hell is Grover Norquist?” and several wondered why someone they’ve never heard about would have such enormous power over the entire Republican Party.

As you and I know, he’s an American lobbyist and conservative activist who founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) whose "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" was signed by 95 percent of Republican Members of Congress. Most GOP candidates for president have signed the pledge, which commits them to oppose increases in marginal income tax rates for individuals and businesses. The pledge also commits them to oppose any "reductions or elimination of deductions and credits without a matching reduced tax rate." 

The pledge is now 20 years old and polls show that if anything, it is a burden on Republicans as the nation struggles to preserve very, VERY popular programs such as Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid as well as Veterans benefits and programs that are moving into revenue deficits. Selected tax increases and reform of many tax deductions and credits is seen as absolutely critical to strengthen these programs as well as, of course, reform many federal programs.

Norquist has scared Republican politicians into fearing any tax increases as career-ending, which can stimulate actions such as Tea Party challenges to any Republican who does not sign or violates the pledge.

Since Americans for Tax Reform is not required to disclose the identity of its contributors, it is essentially a well-funded secret society that has successfully shaped national policy on taxes and spending without anyone knowing who is behind the organization’s objectives. Of course, rumors have it that corporations and wealthy folks, i.e. “Romney Americans,” are the principal supporters of ATR.

I tried to explain all this to a group of European journalists and literally none of them could grasp how a country like the United States could concede so much power to an individual who is not elected, who holds no official positions, and who is fueled by secret money.

Now, raising taxes on upper income Americans may no longer be the taboo that Republicans have feared. As a newspaper in Wichita, the Kansas Eagle puts it,

"56 percent of Americans support ending the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000, while 39 percent favor continuing the cuts for everyone. Meanwhile, exit polling in eight swing states also showed even more support for ending the tax cuts for the wealthy, ranging from 57 percent in Florida and Ohio to 64 percent in Nevada and Wisconsin."

This would, of course, remove a major and seemingly insurmountable hurdle to finding a solution to the looming revenue-spending game of chicken we have been playing. These new poll numbers and attitude changes may force the GOP to reprogram and refocus its ideological premise that taxes are bad.

As I’ve indicated many times, countries with some of then highest marginal tax rates in the world are also among the highest in quality of life – think Switzerland, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Australia, Austria, and the Netherlands, which are ranked at the top in that order. All of these have individual tax rates over 50 percent.

So the question this week is “Will Grover Norquist need to find different employment now that Americans have turned against the “No New Taxes” mantra?”

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Comments [4]

listener

Since when is holding politicians to their campaign promises a bad thing?

The "very, VERY popular programs such as Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid" will be going
very, VERY broke very, VERY soon if serious reforms are not made to save them.

"..reform of many tax deductions" means the administration is coming for IRA and 401K retirements plans because when you run up six trillion in debt in four years private retirement money cannot be allowed to just sit there.

If this week we are all supposed to direct our two minutes of hate at Norquist, who will be the object of hate next week as this dishonest distraction game continues.

Nov. 28 2012 12:09 AM
Maria Arthur from West Des Moines, Iowa

Personally I liken Norquist to a dictator. Just do not understand that elected officials would sign a binding treaty with one individual and yet swear to represent all of their constituents. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. The secrecy to the organization smacks of totalitarian systems of the cold war era. Sure glad you brought this up in your class though I am surprised that they not know about this man that wields so much power. Have you spoken about the other major power manipulator, Karl Rove?

Nov. 27 2012 05:09 PM
Hugh J. Campbell Jr.CPA from New Jersey

Regarding:
A big reason why Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Netherlands, etc. have a high quality of life is because the United States is the economic and military world superpower footing the bill that secures their economy and security.

Why is the United States footing the bill that secures their economy and security? Because securing their economy and security is a bi-product of securing the wealth of “Romney Americans”: wealth that stretches around the globe. It’s the supply-chain the gutted American industry. Our homeland security and national defense is all about protecting the wealth of the 1%. The U.S. should fund homeland security and national defense with a “use tax” assessed on wealth: That’s a Fair-Tax.

Who would have thought a revolution over “taxation without representation” would evolve after almost 240 years to greater representation for the benefit of corporation via SCOTUS Citizens United who pay less than their statutory federal income tax rate? Representation without taxation!

Nov. 26 2012 11:05 PM
listener

How long before the scornful question that is asked is “What the hell is the US Constitution" and why do we have that weird ceremony of the President and others putting their hand on the Bible and swearing to protect it with its strong limitations on central government power?
What Norquist-like pledges are made by the Democratic Party to unions and other "progressive" interest groups which tend to contradict the Constitutional pledge these officials make on Inauguration Day?

A big reason why Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Netherlands, ect have a high quality of life is because the United States is the economic and military world superpower footing the bill that secures their economy and security.
What was the quality of life and future of these nations before the USA became a superpower sometime during 1943? It was bleak and hellish. When the United States goes into steep economic decline resulting in a financial meltdown what will be the character of these same comfortable nations then by mid-century?
The Hapsburg Empire was supposed to be forever too like the European Union.

Pity the students will be twenty years out of school and still paying off their loans before the think to ask those questions that they paid their professors handsomely to answer intelligently.

Nov. 26 2012 01:17 PM

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