Grover Norquist: The man who killed tax increases

I think it’s time to take a closer look at the man some people call the most feared man in Washington, DC.

The Week

The anti-tax activist holds no office, but wields enormous power in Washington. What are his goals

Who is Grover Norquist?

He’s a conservative activist best known as the head of Americans for Tax Reform, a taxpayer advocacy group that is opposed to any and all tax increases. A fierce partisan who once referred to bipartisanship as “date rape,” Norquist argues that taxation is inherently oppressive, and that Big Government is a burden on the American people.

“The government’s power to control one’s life derives from its power to tax,” he says in his organization’s mission statement. “We believe that power should be minimized.” He’s called for abolishing such agencies as the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Arts; he famously once said that he hoped to shrink government until he could “drown it in a bathtub.” Democrats like journalist Arianna Huffington view Norquist as “the dark wizard of the Right’s anti-tax cult.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calls him “the single most effective conservative activist in the country.”

What makes him effective?

His single-minded focus on one goal—to make it impossible for politicians to raise taxes for any reason, including to balance budgets. In 1985, the Reagan administration set up Americans for Tax Reform to lobby in favor of overhauling the tax code. Reagan installed the 29-year-old Norquist, who’d served as an economist at the Chamber of Commerce, as its chairman.

To ensure that future Congresses would not reverse Reagan-era tax cuts, Norquist wrote the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, an oath made by lawmakers directly to their constituents never to support tax increases of any kind. More than 1,200 federal, state, and local Republican officeholders have signed the oath, which has become a litmus test for true conservative values. Those who violate it often face primary challenges from candidates Norquist endorses.

How powerful is that pledge?

It’s had enormous influence. In the current Congress, 235 congressmen and 41 senators have signed the pledge; only seven Republican congressmen and seven senators have not. Thanks largely to Norquist’s efforts, tax increases have become political suicide, and Americans now pay the lowest percentage of their incomes in federal taxes since 1958.

Republicans, in fact, are refusing even to consider any tax increases in their current battle with Democrats over the debt ceiling. Norquist says Republicans learned a valuable lesson when President George H.W. Bush broke the pledge and raised taxes to plug a budget deficit in 1990, and then lost to Bill Clinton.  “He gets thrown out of the office by a bum—a nobody from Arkansas,’’ Norquist says. “The message was: You can’t break the pledge.”

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2 comments

  1. What I don’t understand is, why doesn’t someone stand up to this guy, and tell him to go fuck himself, and at the same time, counter attack him. Norquist is nothing but a fucking bully, who hasn’t worked a day in his whole life span.

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