Is Grover Norquist an 'Ayatollah,' a Terrorist, or Just an Evil Warlord?

Grover Norquist is a private American citizen who has convinced a significant number of lawmakers that their careers will be better off if they promise their constituents not to confiscate more of their money through taxes. Against the backdrop of fiscal cliff negotiations that steadfastly refuse to contemplate addressing the single biggest cause of the cliff-inducing deficit–the grotesque expansion of the federal government–this is how Norquist is being described as of late:

David Horsey, Los Angeles Times:

Grover Norquist, GOP ayatollah, is losing his grip on the party [...]

Ayatollahs seem to just appoint themselves and then start enforcing their own brand of orthodoxy. Grover Norquist has been doing that in the Republican Party for years.

Slate's Jacob Weisberg, on Twitter:

Honecker, Ceaucescu, Mubarak.. Norquist

Frank Bruni, New York Times:

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Representative Peter King of New York...stressed that the country's current fiscal woes trumped vows made in less debt-ridden times, and over on "Fox News Sunday," Senator John McCain signaled a receptiveness to new revenue, another dagger to Norquist's dark heart. [...]

It's as if some spell has at long last been broken, and the formerly bewitched villagers are rising up to defy their evil overlord and insist on the possibility of life and even mirth without a deduction for corporate jets.

Christopher Moraff, Philadelphia magazine:

The Rise and Fall of Anti-Tax Terrorist Grover Norquist

Daryl Rowland, Huffington Post:

In the same way that McCarthyism now largely overshadows the early days of the Eisenhower administration, the W. Bush and Obama years will be seen as the stage on which Grover Norquist's domination of domestic policy took place. [...]

McCarthy was of course a public figure, while Norquist has been largely a stealth tyrant, in the glorious tradition of figures like Cardinal Richelieu or Rasputin.

FTR & FWIW, I think Norquist's success has paradoxically undermined his oft-stated goal of reducing the size of government, because it has given Republicans cheap cover on looking fiscally conservative even though almost none of them have been serious about the hard part of that equation, which is actually cutting stuff. I further think it has incentivized the Swiss-cheesification of the tax code, with preferential, distorting tax treatment doled out to favored constituencies and then given immediate de facto protection from a pledge that only accepts deduction-eliminations when coupled with overall rate reductions. I think the mortgage interest deduction is a plague on our lives and should be junked.

But comparing a citizen's attempts to keep tax rates low with the behavior of murderous dictators reveals much more about the ideology of the analogists than of their target. There is a crucial distinction between a private individual attempting to restrain democratic government and a public tyrant using unrestrained government to suppress democratic individuals.

For some interesting Reason interviews with Grover Norquist, including his repeated (and arguable!) assertions that it's bad to get worked up about deficits, start backward from this 2011 conversation with Peter Suderman.

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  • robc||

    Is the Mortgage Interest Deduction a plague that should be gotten rid of, or she would go back to the original income tax code and allow all interest payments to be deducted?

    Im sure the credit card companies would love for their clients to be able to deduct their interest. As would the auto makers.

    I think the original thought was that the recipient of the interest is going to be paying the income tax on it as earned interest, so it would be double taxation if the payer had to pay taxes on it too.

  • robc||

    s/she would/should we/

    Weird typo that.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    I agree with this.

    If interest earned is income, interest paid is a loss.

  • Zuul mothafucka Zuul||

    Yet again reason advocates raising taxes.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Lies.

  • ScottB||

    The abuse of Tax Expenditures are leading to Bigger Government - the Norquist pledge prevents dealing with that.

    http://policyinterns.com/2012/.....-norquist/

  • nicole||

    There is a crucial distinction between a private individual attempting to restrain democratic government and a public tyrant using unrestrained government to suppress democratic individuals.

    So, if I'm getting this right, the first one is evil (private), while the second is good (public!). Right?

  • Cytotoxic||

    Norquis is the former and he's bad for fighting the latter. If only he actually were the evil thug his detractors claim he was these detractors may well be admirers.

    I'd still call him a failure.

  • nicole||

    I've long thought his "starve the beast" strategy was wrong, because we've become very good at increasing spending without concomitant revenues. I heard him on NPR yesterday morning, though, and he didn't hesitate for a millisecond when asked whether taxes, the deficit, or spending were the biggest problem--spending, no contest. He definitely gets it. But the tax pledge, if not at actual cross-purposes, does nothing to curb spending, so the strategy is all wrong.

    It seemed like a shame. He came off as smart, calm, rational, etc., and basically telling undeniable truths. So wtf is with the tax pledge hysteria?

  • Surly Chef||

    It's something that gets people elected. Essentially he's an endorsement for hire. That's his job. Deficits reduction won't get you elected and thus it's not really a self sustaining political-endorsement machine.

  • tarran||

    Perhaps he thinks it contains the problem.

    Let's assume that the govt actually raises tax collection to twice what it is now. Do you really thing that money would go unspent?

    No, they'd spend all those additional dollars with equal profligacy as they do with the dollars the currently get.

    And they'd keep upping spending until they ran into the natural limits they are butting up against now. Except that the capital structure of the company would be even more osteoporotic then it is now.

    I don't know if the anti-tax pledge has been good or bad at constraining government, but there is a rational case to argue that it has been good.

  • nicole||

    Yes. It's been good for taxes. But not good for the overall picture. You are right there.

  • mr simple||

    How has not raising taxes been bad for the overall picture? Sure it doesn't solve everything in and of itself, absent spending restraint, but taxes are a growth killer. Raising taxes at any point would have killed the economy and not done anything tho actually improve revenues or controlled the deficit.

  • MJGreen||

    I've always thought this was a pretty clear and defensible rationale. It's simply an application of Milton Friedman's program of steadily lowering taxes, because any increase will lead to an even greater increase in spending. Progressives who mock this as irrational, unserious or 'unscientific' baffle me. You can disagree with it, but it's a legit strategy.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Part of the problem right now is that it's easy to raise spending without raising taxes, so politicians can run on promising an illusory free lunch. If revenues were required to match spending, there would be less support for spending because people would have to face the cost of their demands.

    Norquist, by focusing almost entirely on taxes, has helped create the disconnect which has fueled the explosion in spending over the last two Presidents.

  • Killazontherun||

    Is GN perfect? No. Are his imperfections a distraction? Yes.

  • ||

    But the tax pledge, if not at actual cross-purposes, does nothing to curb spending, so the strategy is all wrong.

    I think the strategy is the only one available to him.

    Republicans would not sign a spending cut pledge and voters would not demand that they sign it for support.

    It is not Grover's fault that Republicans suck ass.

  • ||

    Matt, you clearly are in the pay of the Kochtopus. Everyone knows that liberals never, ever do hateful things like placing crosshairs on people in advertisements or comparing them to Hitler or using violent rhetoric. Maybe a couple of isolated incidents, but we all know it's really the GOestaPo that's does all of that.

  • GILMORE||

    "GOestaPo"

    Jesus.

    If you just made that up? = funny

    If any proglodyte actually coined that? = [barf]

  • BoscoH||

    Hi name is Grover, FFS. You know, the original, blue version of Elmo. That's why the left can't stand him. Grover never lured underage boys into the penthouse.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    He did lure those unwitting GOP freshmen in though. So pure and noble of heart, only to have their innocence shattered by Grover's evil pledge hazing rituals.

  • Solitude Guard||

    You know who else forced freshmen to pledge...

  • Anonymous Coward||

  • Delroy||

    Doug Neidermeyer?

  • Almanian.||

    The script from "Dazed and Confused?"

  • tarran||

    Trotter and Le Bon concluded that the group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word. In place of thoughts it has impulses, habits and emotions. In making up its mind its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader. This is one of the most firmly established principles of mass psychology. It operates in establishing the rising or diminishing prestige of a summer resort, in causing a run on a bank, or a panic on the stock exchange, in creating a best seller, or a box-office success.
    But when the example of the leader is not at hand and the herd must think for itself, it does so by means of cliches, pat words or images which stand for a whole group of ideas or experiences. Not many years ago, it was only necessary to tag a political candidate with the word interests to stampede millions of people into voting against him, because anything associated with "the interests" seemed necessarily corrupt. Recently the word Bolshevik has performed a similar service for persons who wished to frighten the public away from a line of action.

    Propaganda (1928) by Edward Bernays

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Grover Norquist: Personification of Evil.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    But comparing a citizen's attempts to keep tax rates low with the behavior of murderous dictators reveals much more about the ideology of the analogists than of their target.

    But Norquist is stealing food from the mouths of government-dependent babies, Matt. What could possibly be more eviler than that?

  • bendover||

    So...What's new.

    Progressives think conservatives are evil. Film at eleven.

  • RPR2||

    I think the mortgage interest deduction is a plague on our lives and should be junked.

    I'd love to hear your plan. Does it include landlords and business?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    First thing we do, is kill all the realtors.

  • Killazontherun||

    Hey, aren't you a lawyer?

  • nicole||

    That's REALTORS™ to you.

  • CE||

    Buying or selling a home is so complicated and fraught with peril, parting with 6 percent of the sales price is a small price to pay, really, for the peace of mind. Imagine how much worse the housing bubble would have been without RealtorsTM.

  • plusafdotcom||

    Spoken as a true REALTOR(TM), right?
    6% to the guy who sold me my first home at $26k, 6% from me when I sold it five years later at $45k... and from the guy who sold me my next house that same year at $92k, and 24 years later from me when I sold it just before the bubble broke, for $845k?

    So the costs or benefits or headaches we all saved or prevented were worth 6% (or 5 or whatever) as if the value of those headaches went up at the same rate as the prices of the houses?

    You gotta be kidding me! Talk about monopolies and limiting markets... REALTORS(TM) who tried to offer discounts during those periods had their tires slashed and homes firebombed.

    Nothing like a free market, eh, "REALTORS (TM)"?

  • ||

    Bring a gun.

    Cuz I will be armed.

  • ||

    No one hates like TEAM BLUE.

  • Killazontherun||

    Indeed.

    http://robot6.comicbookresourc.....x-article/

    The controversy:

    Even as the casting search gears up for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, a push has begun online to convince the studio to fire director James Gunn over objections to a nearly two-year-old blog post that many view as misogynistic and homophobic.

    For this remark, they want him fired:

    And for his Batwoman entry: “This lesbian character was voted for almost exclusively by men. I don’t know exactly what that means. But I’m hoping for a Marvel-DC crossover so that Tony Stark can “turn” her. She could also have sex with Nightwing and probably still be technically considered a lesbian.”

    It's almost like the only reason they support gay rights is for the potential witch hunts excused by righteous causes and nothing to do with intrinsic human value.

  • nicole||

    Thanks, Killaz, you just gave me my morning brain explosion.

  • ||

    My vocabulary is inadequate to properly respond to this inanity.

  • ||

    But maybe this Korean gentleman's is. "Huh? What the fuck?"

  • Ice Nine||

    That guy did a great job explaining that stuff.

  • Tonio||

    Because the whole notion of "turning" gay people straight is obnoxious. Really, in 2012 you don't see anything obnoxious about suggesting that all lesbians need is a good man?

    And I've yet to see Killaz ever demonstrate concern for the "intrinsic human value" of gay people.

    So bullshit, layered on more bullshit, with bonus off-topic gay baiting and shit-stirring.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Is this a joke?

  • Killazontherun||

    I ribbed him about hipsters wearing kilts, yesterday. He's still butthurt about it.

  • ||

    How old is Batwoman supposed to be?

    Cuz the number of real world lesbians who were "turned" once they graduated from Collage possibly out numbers the total population of lifetime lesbians.

    Plus why are lifetime lesbians pissed off about talking about?

    They get fiddle around with the experimental in collage lesbians when they are at their hottest.

  • ||

    College

  • mr simple||

    They go further off the deep end no matter who is winning. I can't tell if they get worse when they win or when team red wins. Try reading any comments to a major or other left leaning site. It's scary and absurd.

  • ||

    They get more sinister when they win....cuz then they actually pass laws to enforce this shit.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    Remember when "dissent is the highest form of patriotism?" I was recently told I should be arrested for sedition because I opposed the plans of Our Glorious Leader.

  • Pippers||

    How is this any different than when so and so was President? Or such and such?

  • Nicholas Sarwark||

    It's not like Norquist has a gun to their heads. Politicians are free to break their pledge to their constituents not to raise taxes and see how that turns out for them. They're just pissed that they got stuck signing on to an easily verifiable promise that' they'll be called out on breaking.

    I heard Norquist's NPR interview and thought he was spot on for saying (a) spending is most important and (b) that the "tax increases for spending cuts" trade being offered is a bill of goods, just like it was when sold to Reagan and Bush 41.

    The problem with revenue increases for spending cuts is that the revenue increases are real and the spending cuts are illusory. See, for example, the sequestration cuts that were promised in exchange for the debt ceiling increase. The debt ceiling is higher, but it looks like the sequestration cuts will be cancelled.

  • CE||

    Imagine the audacity of hoping that a Congressperson would keep his or her pledge to not raise taxes, in the face of enormous deficits caused by overspending!

  • Rick Santorum||

    Norquist is half a fool, but the hatred he receives from progressives is just more narrative-spinning. Since the KOCHTOPUS has worn out its appeal, it's time to move on to something else.

  • iggy||

    Given what some of our very own H&R progressives have to say about the Koch Brothers, I don't think Kochtopus has worn out its appeal.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Yes, because you can't possibly be libertarian and still not like the Koch Brothers. All true Scots MUST love the Koch.

  • GILMORE||

    "Grover Norquist's domination of domestic policy..."

    Uhm.

    What?

    Did I miss something?

    And why is reason so mean to these "Objective" and "non-partisan" "reality-based" journalists?!

  • ||

    assertions that it's bad to get worked up about deficits

    Well deficits from the 1950s to about 2007 were fine as they were well below the 90% Debt to GDP thresh hold.

    Now at above 100% it becomes a huge problem that is sinking our economy year after year.

  • ||

    FTR & FWIW, I think Norquist's success has paradoxically undermined his oft-stated goal of reducing the size of government, because it has given Republicans cheap cover on looking fiscally conservative even though almost none of them have been serious about the hard part of that equation, which is actually cutting stuff.

    That is some thin gruel. Norquist's success has everything to do with the nature of Republicans and their voters. Keeping taxes from rising is simply more popular then cutting spending. If Norquist put out a spending cut pledge no republican would sign it.

    Also the Swiss cheeseification does not stand very well either. Democrats did not sign the pledge and they have had no problem giving out special tax breaks to their friends both when they control congress and when they do not.

  • NL_||

    Yeah, because before Grover Norquist Americans were renowned for their love of taxes.

    Grover Norquist is the one who made majorities in 49 states vote against Mondale's promise to hike taxes.

    Grover Norquist wrote the GATT to reduce import taxes.

    Grover Norquist ghost-wrote the court opinion in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Company finding the unapportioned income tax unconstitutional.

    Grover Norquist made South Carolina threaten nullification of the Tariff Act of 1828.

    Grover Norquist led the Whiskey Rebellion.

    Grover Norquist precipitated the American Revolution to defeat the Stamp Tax; he came up with the motto "no taxation" before Ben Franklin added the "without representation" part.

    Grover Norquist is behind all historical resistance to taxation. The rest of the world would be compliant and generous without Grover's machinations. He helped Ghandi resist the British salt tax, organized Jews to resist the Roman poll tax, and prompted British opposition to the Viking Danegeld.

    Grover Norquist has been masterminding opposition to taxes ever since the first caveman tried to tax another caveman's yak slaying.

    Grover Norquist appeared as a snake in the Garden of Eden and told Eve that she should be able to keep more of the apples she earned.

    If it weren't for Grover, we'd all be living in a technocratic utopia of fully-funded social programs and blissful deference to the whims of our betters.

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