The head of the lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) has the Republican pledge to never raise taxes. He is thereby steering the U.S. to the edge of the abyss.
At the high point of Republican President George W. Bush’s popularity in 2003, Grover Norquist traveled to his 25th reunion at Harvard University. At a panel discussion he met his former classmate, Deval Patrick, who had served as governor of Massachusetts in the interim.
Norquist threw the idea into the room that the Republicans would remain the governing party forever. Even if a Democrat won the White House, according to Norquist, “We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat.”
Modesty had never been one of Norquist’s character traits. There is a reason for this: The head of ATR is likely the most important man in Washington who has never run for election. He is “the dark wizard of the Right’s anti-tax cult,” wrote liberal journalist Arianna Huffington.
With his stone hard rejection of any tax hike, Norquist rules Congress from the outside — and so strongly that the U.S. now stands on a fiscal precipice.
U.S. President Obama confirmed Norquist’s influence on Tuesday in his address to the nation. The well being of the ordinary American must be more important to Congress “than any pledge that someone once signed as a candidate,”* said Obama. This pledge comes from Norquist’s quill. Of the 287 current Republican representatives and senators, only a dozen did not sign.
It binds them to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”* For three decades, Norquist’s ATR has presented it to every candidate seeking public office. Those refusing to sign risk the cumulative anger of the right wing of the Republican rank and file. Such candidates are simply risking re-election.
Norquist Unifies the Most Diverse Interest Groups
Norquist has networked these groups and mini-groups of tax and abortion opponents, gun proponents and Congress-haters through years of detailed work. Every Wednesday morning he presides over a meeting of up to 100 delegates in ATR headquarters five blocks away from the White House.
He always emphasizes the common denominators of these highly disparate interest groups, that is, to reduce the size of government and to leave individuals their freedom. Therefore it is logical that the Methodist, who is married to a Muslim Palestinian, advocates for gay rights and against an increase in government surveillance of citizens, but also for the freedom to bear arms.
In the foreground for him are the rejection of new taxes and any interference of the government in the economy or in private property. The Tea Party, the populist alliance of tax opponents associated with the right wing of the Republican Party, would never have become so powerful without his groundwork.
He does not contest the threatening default of the U.S. in the next few days. The size of organized government and Washington’s unbridled spending are solely responsible for the budget deficit. Recently he wrote, “there is only one fix for a spending problem: spend less.” Years ago he formulated this idea: “I want to shrink government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
*Editor’s Note: This quote, while accurately translated, could not be verified.