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Republicans Pledge Allegiance to Grover Norquist

Republicans Pledge Allegiance to Grover Norquist Drowning the US Government in a Bathtub

Bill Berkowitz
August 5, 2011

'It's a wonderful step in the right direction. It's much better than anything we've been doing for the last 20 years," says Norquist.

In recent weeks, he's been called "the most visible mouthpiece and muse of the lower-taxes, less-government troops that have played a major role in the debt crisis," an "anti-tax zealot," and "an immensely well-connected player in the conservative establishment, a compatriot of the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and a magnet for corporate support."

Whatever one might think about Grover G. Norquist, one thing is clear; he has a set of strong core beliefs and he will use every means in his arsenal to achieve them. While pursuing those beliefs with breakneck speed these days, he recently took a moment for some post debt-ceiling debate comments: "It's a wonderful step in the right direction,' said Norquist, "It's much better than anything we've been doing for the last 20 years." Norquist added that, "We will never again walk into a budget deal with taxes on the table. Congress will never again raise the debt ceiling without cutting spending by the same amount that the debt ceiling goes up."

Now that the debt-ceiling battle has been fought and won handily by Republicans - thanks in large part to the Tea Party and Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, coupled with his insistence that anyone voting for any revenue increases that might be folded into a debt-ceiling package would be seen as pledge violators -- there are more battles coming down the pike.

Norquist, who heads up Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) (http://www.atr.org/), was, as MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell often called him prior to the debt-ceiling debate, the most powerful man in Washington that you never heard of. However, if he was known for one thing, it was for his dictum: "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

These days, however, with his "Americans for Tax Reform's Taxpayer Protection Pledge," signed onto by just about every Republican on the face of the earth, he has become a very well known Republican power broker. Maybe he's not yet a household word, but he's moving in that direction, as pre-debt-ceiling-agreement appearances on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox attested to.

Norquist targeted by right wing Islamophobes

But not everything is honky dory in Groverville. As I wrote just about a year ago, several major players on the Islamophobic right have accused Norquist of palling around with Islamic Fifth Columnists (http://blog.buzzflash.com/contributor/3601). Last August, on David Horowitz's frontpagemag.com, Ryan Mauro, the founder of WorldThreats.com, and national security advisor to the anti-gay Christian Action Network, claimed that Norquist was "likely a convert to Islam."

Another Mauro piece titled "The Ground Zero Mosque's Conservative Supporter," cited Norquist's apparent support for the building of a Muslim Community Center several blocks from Ground Zero, a project that caused quite a stir last summer.

Mauro pointed out that "Norquist has aligned himself with the Muslim Brotherhood network in the U.S. that is supporting Imam Rauf [the initiator of the community center] and accusing his opponents of having 'Islamophobia' and having an anti-Muslim bias."

Gas tax set to expire on September 30

On September 30, "most of the 18.4-cent tax per gallon of gasoline [is] set to expire ... [and] renewing the tax could be the next political controversy to spark a brawl in an ever more deeply divided Capitol Hill," Byron Tau and Ben Smith reported for Politico on August 1.

According to Tau and Smith, "The federal Highway Trust Fund - the largest source of cash for mass transit and road improvements - is funded by the tax on fuel. In 2008, when high gas prices kept consumers away from the pump, the fund temporarily ran out of money, forcing Congress to appropriate an additional $8 billion to keep road projects on track."

"With the level of partisan vitriol and anti-spending sentiment at an all-time high, some advocates are worried that the nation's highway fund will be the next victim - while some conservatives sense an opportunity," Tau and Smith pointed out.

And wherever there's a possibility of a tax expiring, Grover Norquist is probably somewhere in the mix. "In general, ATR has always supported the idea of ending the federal tax on gas and having states pay for their own roads," Norquist told Politico, but Tau and Smith reported that "he declined to say whether he or his group plans to pressure congressional Republicans to let the excise tax expire." Norquist added that, "ATR would love to help begin such a dialogue," he said.

"You can already see how this issue could play itself out a month from now," wrote Doug Mataconis at OutsideTheBeltway.com. "As it is the issue of increased energy prices is an easy one to demagogue with simplistic slogans ('Drill Baby Drill') and even more simplistic ideas ... [like the] idea of a Federal Gas Tax Holiday during the 2008 campaign...). ... It's not at all hard to see the argument over the gas tax being boiled down to the slogan Barack Obama wants to increase the price of gas. Given that renewing the gas tax is going to require affirmative action on the part of Congress (rather than legislation to block it) I'd already say that the forces that come out against it are going to have the advantage here, especially given the partisan make up of Congress and the difficulty of getting anything through the Senate."

The Pledge

According to the Americans for Tax Reform website, "The idea of the Pledge is simple enough: Make them [politicians running for office] put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing." The website trumpets some of the comments reporters and pundits have made about the power of The Pledge, which was rolled-out in 1986, during the Reagan Administration:

• "It has transformed American politics." -- Jonathan Alter, Newsweek
• "Signing it has become de riguer for GOP candidates running for federal or statewide offices across the country." -- The Hill
• "Americans for Tax Reform's Taxpayer Protection Pledge has solidified opposition to tax increases in Congress and state legislatures over the years." -- Michael Barone
• "The Pledge has become something of a rallying cry in conservative circles." -- National Journal

The website also points out that "In the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, candidates and incumbents solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases. While ATR has the role of promoting and monitoring the Pledge, the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is actually made to a candidate's constituents, who are entitled to know where candidates stand before sending them to the capitol (Italics in the original). Since the Pledge is a prerequisite for many voters, it is considered binding as long as an individual holds the office for which he or she signed the Pledge."

Norquist's Ronald Reagan Legacy Project

There is more to Norquist than anti-tax advocacy and The Pledge. His Americans for Tax Reform operates a side project called The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project (RRLP) (http://www.ronaldreaganlegacyproject.org/), which "is committed to preserving the legacy of one of America's greatest presidents throughout the nation and abroad."

The RRLP aims to ensure "that every February 6th is known as 'Ronald Reagan Day,'" and it "work[s] to encourage the naming of landmarks, buildings, roads, etc. after Reagan." The project's "goal is to eventually see a statue, park, or road named after Reagan in all 3,140 counties in the United States."

In a recent sit down with the New York Times' Frank Bruni, Norquist called President Obama "a left-wing ideologue," and the head of a Democratic Party that wants "to turn us into Europe, the European welfare state, somewhere between France and Greece." Would that any of that were true.

ENDS

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