Grover Norquist on Fiscal Cliff, Tax Pledges, & Being the GOP's "Rasputin"

"The people who attack me as 'Rasputin' think that the Republicans truly want to raise taxes," says Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform. ATR's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" has drawn the ire of Democrats and the media as the fiscal cliff approaches. Candidates and officeholders who sign the pledge vow not to raise net taxes on individuals and businesses. For the past couple of decades, signing the pledge has become a pro forma exercise for Republicans with aspirations for national office.

His critics, continues Norquist, think "the only thing keeping [GOP legislators] from raising taxes...is that I would call them names."

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Norquist to discuss the attacks, why he thinks Obama wants to take the U.S. over the fiscal cliff, and whether House Majority Leader John Boehner can ever be trusted to control spending.

About 22 minutes. Shot by Meredith Bragg, and Joshua Swain; edited by Swain.

Scroll down for downloadable versions, and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube Channel to receive immediate updates when new material goes live.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • $park¥||

    For the past couple of decades, signing the pledge has become a pro forma exercise for Republicans with aspirations for national office.

    Which is pretty ridiculous since it isn't binding and can be jettisoned at any time.

  • Drake||

    Read my lips...

  • Ken Shultz||

    Bush Sr. may very well have lost the presidency becasue of breaking that promise.

    Perot might not have had the opening he did were it not for Bush so obviously breaking his pledge.

  • Libertymike||

    It was awesome in the Dicky V. sense of it being awwesome baby to see Pooopy Bush's approval numbers plummet so precipitiously from their Desert Storm apogee to election time.

  • Randian||

    Which is pretty ridiculous since it isn't binding and can be jettisoned at any time.

    Nothing is binding and symbols matter.

  • Libertymike||

    Good and gracious god, I agree with you and Ken!

  • Ken Shultz||

    For anyone who signs the pledge and violates it, it makes their illegitimacy obvious.

    I think that's worth something.

  • Randian||

    Good Lord, I agree with Ken.

  • iggy||

    I don't agree. I think the pledge has given Republicans an out. They can spend as much as they want, and they have, but can then point to the fact that they won't raise taxes and claim to be 'fiscally responsible.'

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't mind that.

    If I have to choose between the two, I'd much rather have lower taxes and higher deficits.

    The whole purpose of having lower spending is that we can keep taxes low; if it weren't for the promise of keeping taxes low, they'd just raise taxes and keep spending...

    California is the perfect example. Because of the two-thirds requirement/Prop 13, the government couldn't raise taxes as high as they wanted to.

    As awful as the legislature's spending record is in California, the fact that they couldn't raise taxes was the ONLY reason the legislature didn't spend even more! I see Congress like that, too.

    Anything that helps keep taxes down also helps to keep spending down lower than it would be otherwise, and the whole point of keeping spending down is to keep taxes down. If inflation gets real bad, or something, I might rethink that in a pinch, but even then, if the economy were choking on inflation, the last thing we'd want to do is raise taxes. Even then, the solution would be to cut spending--not raise taxes.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    If I have to choose between the two, I'd much rather have lower taxes and higher deficits.

    If you're running a deficit, your taxes aren't lower; you've just replaced visible taxation with invisible taxation via devaluation of the currency and are tricking yourself into believing that a bigger pile of less valuable dollars means you're richer.

    Furthermore, deficits make it harder to cut spending because it creates the illusion of a free lunch; more benefits without having to pay more for it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Has there ever been a time when the government was so flush with cash that it decided to cut spending? I thought the whole idea of Keynes was that we can depend on the government to spend every dime they get--and then some! If they can't stop themselves from spending the money they don't have (and have to borrow), why would we depend on the them to use the money they get in their hands to pay down the deficit?

    Starve the Beast is the only strategy that slows down spending. They will never stop spending until they have no other choice. Raising taxes is the latest option to try. They'll keep trying everything else on the list before they try the one that cuts spending--let's hurry them on down the list to the option that works by refusing to let them raise our taxes.

    Isn't that what FUCS is all about?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Starve the Beast is the only strategy that slows down spending.

    Except we've been "starving the beast" for 12 years now and spending hasn't slowed down; it's accelerated. I used to think it was the right strategy too, but it's pretty conclusive now that it encourages spending by shielding voters from the costs of their demands.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Except we've been "starving the beast" for 12 years now and spending hasn't slowed down; it's accelerated."

    Let's leave the Laffer Curve out of the discussion for the moment...

    Are you suggesting that spending wouldn't be higher if they'd been able to tax us more? If drunken sailors had more of our money in their pockets, you don't think they would have spent it on shore leave?

    If you want to stop drunken sailors from spending all our money--keep it out of their pockets. That's the ONLY strategy that works.

    So, short answer? Yes! If they had had more of our money to spend with higher taxes--they would have spent MORE than they already have. As astounding as that is! There isn't anyone with any say on the budget in Washington that's against spending the tax revenue they actually collect from us. If we don't want them to spend more of our money, then we need to keep it out of their grubby little hands--absolutely. There isn't anything about giving them more money to spend that's about to make them spend less money.

  • califernian||

    It has recently worked in California

  • johnl||

    No it's by spending not taxing the government wrecks the country. I wouldn't care what the tax rate was so long as the government didn't do anything with the money. And if the government was funded by foreign aid, and took in no tax revenue, they could still wreck the place. The reason why we want low taxes is to keep spending low, not the other way around.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The chances of the government not spending the money it takes in as taxes is zero.

    They'd borrow less and spend the actual tax revenue they collected before they stopped spending tax money.

    The world you're talking about just doesn't exist. But the world where the government can't get our money becasue taxes are low?

    That one really does exist! It exists right now--and Barack Obama wants to raise taxes and do away with the way it is now.

    If you can't get anybody that has any say in Congress to stop spending, at least we can get them to keep taxes low.

    Like I said, the world where Congress gets so much money coming in that it decides to cut spending--just doesn't exist. It's a unicorn that shits rainbows.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "I wouldn't care what the tax rate was so long as the government didn't do anything with the money."

    P.S. High tax rates are extremely destructive to all kinds of economic activity. It effects unemployment, the price of goods, incentives to invest, and all sorts of other things.

    High spending is bad--apart from the inflationary pressure it brings--because high spending brings with it the expectations of higher taxes in the future. ...which, likewise, effects all sorts of economic activity, as well.

  • califernian||

    No it's by spending not taxing the government wrecks the country

    I hate to go all Ron Paul on this but if the Fed was independent and subject to competition then even the govt spending wouldn't matter.

    They can borrow and borrow and go bankrupt and no one would care.

  • ||

    They can spend as much as they want

    Grover says we live in a post tea party era when republicans got serious about restraining spending.

  • BladdyK||

    There is something to this. Throughout the video, Norquist will only discuss taxation levels, and seems uncomfortable with the issue of government spending.

    It gave me the impression that he is much more agreeable to wild spending, much more of the standard Republican policy.

  • $park¥||

    1. Sign pledge
    2. Get elected
    3. Ignore pledge because "We have to do something!"
    4. Get reelected for doing something and saving America.

    Yep, you're right. Obviously anybody can see the illegitimacy.

  • Tim||

    ROLLER CAPTION: 'IN 1742 THE SPANISH EMPIRE LAY IN RUINS. TORN BY INTERNAL DISSENT, AND WRACKED BY NUMEROUS WARS, ITS RICH TRADE ROUTES FELL EASY PREY TO BRITISH PRIVATEERS...AND THE TREASURE OF THE SPANISH MAIN WAS BROUGHT HOME TO THE SHORES OF ENGLAND'

    ROLLER CAPTION: 'IN 2012 THE GOP LAY IN RUINS. TORN BY INTERNAL DISSENT, AND WRACKED BY NUMEROUS WARS, ITS RICH DONORS FELL EASY PREY TO DEMOCRAT TAX INCREASES...AND THE TREASURE OF PRIVATE ENTERPRISE WAS BROUGHT HOME TO THE SHORES OF DC'


    ROLLER CAPTION: 'IN 1742 THE SPANISH EMPIRE LAY IN RUINS. TORN BY INTERNAL DISSENT, AND WRACKED BY NUMEROUS WARS, ITS RICH TRADE ROUTES FELL EASY PREY TO BRITISH PRIVATEERS...AND THE TREASURE OF THE SPANISH MAIN WAS BROUGHT HOME TO THE SHORES OF ENGLAND'

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Context or not - that just makes me miss the HERC!

  • Ken Shultz||

    The DERP is strong with this one.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    ROLLER CAPTION: CAPSLOCK IS NOT CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL

  • Ken Shultz||

    BUT NO ONE WILL NOTICE WHAT YOU WRITE OTHERWISE.

  • Brandybuck||

    Dammit Reason! Stop with the popup/popunder ads!

  • ||

    What's with this shit where if you try to close the pop-up ad you get a warning box asking if you "really want to miss out on the secrets of caffeine"?

  • RBS||

    AdBlock works wonders.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    It's our punishment for not coughing up enough during the webathon.

  • Ryan60657||

    What if the proposed legislation was: increase marginal tax rates and/or eliminate deductions for a group of individual taxpayers, while at the same time reducing corporate taxes by the same aggregate dollar amount. Would this run afoul of the Norquist pledge?

  • Atanarjuat||

    Well Norquist said in the above video that he doesn't care if they reform the tax code so long as the overall revenue coming in is the same or less. So no it wouldn't run afoul of his pledge.

  • Russell||

    Before comparing Grover Glenovitch to Blessed Rasputin editors should be administering traditional hospitality test of cyanide wine, strychnine macaroons and underwater head-shootings.

  • Gray Ghost||

    So long as Norquist can cure the hemorrhaging of money that characterizes this Government, he's welcome in my royal house. No matter how much he may smell. (No idea if he has a beard, either. NTTAWWT.)

  • ||

    According to his cousin, Rasputin had like a sixteen inch Dick. My question would be how did she know that.

  • SugarFree||

    He was a Skoptic. Maybe he sent it to her after he cut it off.

    Worst. Trip. To. The. Mailbox. Evar.

  • Libertymike||

    Perhaps the Empress told his cousin. If a mother thinks that her child was saved only through the miraculous, though mysterious, efforts of a strange man, she may well think he has been blessed with one giant shileleigh.

  • ||

    And I thought my information was useless and disgusting.

  • ||

    And I also don't know how to thread comments.

  • waaminn||

    Now that sounds like a plan to me dude.

    www.PrivacyUSA.tk

  • Patriot||

    Would you support my Patriotic Eugenics Plan?
    1. We need to keep abortion legal and make it free to all who want it. Those who get pregnant, and then decide they don't want to have children, are not the genetic stock we want in our nation.
    2. Free birth control to all who want it. The fact is that we have a large population of undesirable stock who either can't afford birth control, or are too stupid to buy it. Either way they reproduce, and we pay for it. This needs to stop.
    3. End the welfare system for parents. If they can't take care of their children, they will be taken away and raised either by competent parents or the state. It would save money and discourage reproduction among these people.
    4. Pay women 2,500$ each to get sterilized, 250$ a year to go on long term birth control. Men get 500$ to get sterilized. Sterilization reversals will not be covered. Prisoners who get or have gotten sterilized will receive special treatment in prison.
    5. Give tax breaks to middle and upper class Americans to reproduce more and improve the gene pool.

  • Sevo||

    Patriot| 12.19.12 @ 8:28PM |#
    "Would you support my Patriotic Eugenics Plan?"

    No, asshole, and I have no idea why you'd name a plan to diminish prosperity as 'patriotic'.
    Actually, I do; you're an idiot.

  • Patriot||

    Did you even read the Plan?

  • Sevo||

    "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" has drawn the ire of Democrats and the media"

    Fuck them. Cut spending. Now.

  • uythsb||

    Merry Christmas

  • Sevo||

    I agree.
    Just put the Nutcracker recordings on. I'm lighting a fire in the fireplace, shopping's done, wife is enjoying a cocktail.
    Merry Christmas to you, too!

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    His critics, continues Norquist, think "the only thing keeping [GOP legislators] from raising taxes...is that I would call them names.""/i

    And these would be the same dogshit neoLiberals who claim that Republicans are going to raise taxes on the Middle Class by refusing to raise taxes.

  • MacKlingon||

    The gov will continue to spend as much money as they can. If the money doesn't come from taxes they will print it as they have been doing.

    The best thing that can happen for the gov budget is to go over the cliff with its mandated cuts. Then refuse to raise the debt ceiling, forcing further cuts. The economy will recover at least as fast as it has been with out government "HELP".

  • newshutz||

    Spending is taxation.

    You cannot starve the beast that can print its own money by limiting open taxation.

    Borrowing and printing money are just as costly to society as taxation.

  • uythsb||

    Merry Christmas to you 2012.

  • pjackson7||

    Grover Norquist. The most moronic, tail chasing line of reasoning you will ever find. "Well it should never be more than that because it should always be significantly less than that" ... "I'm with Samuel Gompers, it should always be less, less...." "the government was bloated in 1852"... Do you have ANY argument to support what you say? Is there any reasoning here? Do you really have anything of substance to contribute?This man is an idiot. Why did his parents name him Grover? He's a muppet. What a fucking joke.

Click here to follow Reason on Instagram

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE