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Posts Tagged ‘Grover Norquist’

I am sometimes at a loss for words to describe the stupidity of the Republican Party.

Let’s use an analogy to explain what I mean. Imagine you were playing a game of chess and your opponent openly stated that he wanted you to move your rook to a certain point on the board.

If your IQ was above room temperature, you would probably be suspicious that he wasn’t trying to help you win the game.

Well, the same thing happens in fiscal policy. I quoted the Hill newspaper last year when some Democrats admitted that their top political goal was to seduce the GOP into a tax increase.

Now we have more evidence.

The Democrats’ counter-strategy is a bit more subtle, but has essentially been to find ways to make it very uncomfortable for Republicans to maintain such a rigid anti-tax orthodoxy — to ultimately force Republicans to break their anti-tax pledges and badly splinter their party. That’s what the Buffett Rule is about; that why Dems insist they won’t dismantle the so-called “sequester” — big cuts to defense and even to Medicare — unless Republicans agree to tackle deficits in a balanced way, i.e. by supporting significant new tax revenues. The results have been mixed. They’ve won a small number of GOP votes here and there, and vulnerable members are nowadays more likely to trash or dismiss Grover Norquist in the press than they were last year. But at a very high level within the Democratic Party, there’s a recognition that breaking the GOP on taxes is an absolutely crucial strategic imperative for defending safety net programs over the long term.

That’s a pretty clear statement. We have folks on the left who say they want higher taxes both to prop up big government and to cause internal damage to the GOP.

So we’re now left with a rather strange puzzle. Why would any Republicans (most recently Sen. Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush) want to help the Democrats achieve those goals?!?

Unless, of course, they’re motivated by a belief in bigger government (high likely) or a suicidal desire to harm their own electoral prospects (highly unlikely since even I don’t think GOPers are that stupid).

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I’m not sure why it has become my job to defend Grover Norquist from attacks, but I’ve done it before and now it’s time to do it again.

But I’m not really defending Grover. Instead, I’m defending the wisdom and value of Grover’s no-tax-hike pledge.

Especially when it is being attacked by a columnist who worked for the failed Bush White House and was closely associated with the oxymoronic notion of “compassionate conservatism” or “big-government conservatism.”

I also can’t resist criticizing people who are so sloppy (or disingenuous) that they can’t even get their facts straight.

Let’s look, for example, at what Michael Gerson writes in today’s Washington Post. To attack Grover’s no-tax pledge, he cites the speech of a long-serving GOP Congressman.

Wolf’s economic case that merits more attention. He is one of the House’s old Republican bulls, having taken office the same year that Ronald Reagan became president.

In other words, Gerson think a professional politician who has been in office for more than three decades is automatically worthy of respect, while a taxpayer activist is wrong.

Gerson also conveniently forgets to mention that Rep. Wolf is a member of the Appropriations Committee. That’s a rather important piece of information to omit, since it is the “old bull” appropriators that are the biggest proponents of the corrupt system of earmarks and big government.

Anyhow, here’s more of Gerson’s column.

In Wolf’s view, one of the main obstacles to fiscal seriousness is Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, signed by nearly all Republican members of the House (though not by Wolf himself). The document forbids support not only for tax increases but also for the closing of tax loopholes that aren’t offset by spending cuts. …“According to Mr. Norquist’s pledge, anyone who opposes the myriad of tax subsidies that allowed General Electric to avoid . . . taxes last year would violate ‘the pledge.’ ”

This is a remarkable passage. It includes a glaring factual error by Gerson and it quotes Rep. Wolf uttering a blatant falsehood.

Contrary to what Gerson wrote, the anti-tax pledge does not prohibit the closing of loopholes. It prohibits the closing of loopholes if the money isn’t used to lower tax rates. In other words, the pledge reflects the spirit of the 1986 Tax Reform Act – fewer loopholes and lower tax rates.

Congressman Wolf also demonstrates his lack of accuracy (we’ll set aside the issue of whether his falsehood is deliberate) by saying that the pledge forbids going after loopholes for politically connected companies such as General Electric.

Once again, this is wrong. It is perfectly okay to get rid of GE’s loopholes so long as the money is used to lower tax rates and not to give more money to the big spenders on the Appropriations Committee.

Gerson then goes on to make other silly statements.

Republicans — despite taking the risk of voting for the budget put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan — don’t seem capable of making a coherent case for structural changes in Medicare that would stabilize the program and reduce future risks to seniors.

This is a noteworthy passage because GOPers (for the first time in a long time) actually did try to do something meaningful. The Ryan budget contained sweeping structural reforms to both Medicare and Medicaid.

One wonders whether Gerson has any idea of what’s actually happening in Washington.

But let’s close by acknowledging that Gerson wrote something that is 100 percent accurate. He points out that the no-tax pledge is designed to tie the hands of entrenched incumbent big spenders.

Wolf’s frustrated attack on Norquist’s pledge is really a defense of the political profession. Pledges are designed to constrain politicians, who are viewed by activists as eager for corrupt compromise.

I couldn’t have put it any better. But unlike Gerson, I recognize that the political elite is the cause of America’s problems, not the solution.

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