Politics, taxes and Grover Norquist

Politics, taxes and Grover Norquist

December 3rd, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

The recent failure of a bipartisan "super committee" in Congress to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in federal deficit cuts over the next 10 years was not terribly surprising.

After all, Democrats were pushing for massive tax increases and limited, "iffy" spending cuts, while Republicans on the committee wanted to focus on the spending cuts.

In the end, they predictably could not come to an agreement.

But in the wake of the committee's failure, Democrats and even a few Republicans have strangely focused blame on an anti-tax-increase advocate by the name of Grover Norquist.

You may or may not have heard of Norquist, who is the president of an organization called Americans for Tax Reform. But he has long argued -- effectively and correctly -- that government spending and taxation are out of control.

He has urged members of Congress to sign a pledge against tax increases, and some have done so.

But Norquist's critics argue that Republicans who signed the pledge are "afraid" of "crossing" him by violating that anti-tax-hike pledge, and they say that's what killed the deficit-reduction efforts of the congressional super committee.

But think about that for a moment. Are Republican lawmakers really fearful of one man's efforts to prevent tax hikes? Why should they be? After all, if he is just a single voice among the 300 million-plus citizens of our country, why would politicians worry about what he might do?

The answer, of course, is that Norquist is not the all-powerful bogeyman that Democrats portray him to be. Rather, the strength of his low-tax activism comes from the simple fact that a great many of the American people do not want higher taxes. If he didn't represent the views of millions of Americans, he would have little power to persuade politicians to oppose tax increases.

It does not take an advanced degree in mathematics for most Americans to look at our $15 trillion national debt and realize that the federal government is out of control. Norquist has merely tapped into the frustration that so many Americans feel about Congress' unwillingness to shrink the size of the bloated federal government.

Lawmakers are not obliged to sign Norquist's pledge on taxes. But pledge or no pledge, they should not be surprised when voters react negatively to attempts to raise taxes.