So there I was last
week, eating cafeteria chicken with "the anti-tax enforcer
behind the scenes of the debt debate," as Grover Norquist was
called in a recent Washington Post headline.
The congressional "supercommittee,"
created last summer as part of the deal that allowed an increase
in the nation's debt ceiling, is facing its Thanksgiving
deadline to reduce the federal budget by $1.5 trillion. My
friend Grover doesn't expect serious action anytime soon. So he
flew up from Washington for a few hours to meet with the Friday
Morning Group (FMG), our Massachusetts center-right coalition
modeled on his Wednesday Meeting, an influential D.C. gathering
of elected officials and political activists.
Front-right to rear: Barbara Anderson, Grover
Norquist, and Chip Faulkner at CLT's Friday Morning
Group meeting (Nov. 11, 2011)
After the meeting,
we had lunch with his parents and caught up on mutual friends.
I've known him since he dropped by the office of Citizens for
Limited Taxation in 1978 when I was its secretary; he was 22
years old, still at Harvard and active with the College
Later, I became
CLT's executive director, and he the executive director of the
National Taxpayers Union, from where he helped fund a third CLT
employee to run the Proposition 2½ ballot campaign. That
employee, Chip Faulkner, now runs the Massachusetts FMG
In 1985, Grover was
asked by President Reagan to form Americans for Tax Reform (ATR),
with the mission of reducing the percentage of the GDP consumed
by the federal government. ATR "opposes all tax increases as a
matter of principle," which is why his organization sponsors the
"no new taxes" pledge that has been taken by all Republican
members of the supercommittee.
This past Sunday,
when Grover was the guest on C-Span's "The Newsmakers," the
Washington Examiner reporter noted that "The Pledge is playing a
really big role in whatever deal comes out" of the committee's
deliberations, and Norquist is "a really important and big
person on Capitol Hill; he wields a lot of power."
I don't know about
you, but I'm glad someone who fits that description is on my
side against the outstanding power of the federal government;
and as a bonus,
his sense of humor annoys our opponents.
During the ongoing
fiscal debate, you will probably hear him attacked for having
said he wants to "shrink government to a size where we can drown
it in the bathtub." That's a joke, liberals, an exaggeration to
make a point; so please don't go shrieking in circles about
anarchy and dead rats in the drain. Grover has always been a
happy warrior; he competes in the comedy fundraiser
"Washington's Funniest Celebrity," placing second in 2009.
It's important that
we keep our sense of humor and some perspective as we watch the
unraveling of the supercommittee this month. Though Newt
Gingrich was right when he said "the idea that 523 senators and
congressmen are going to sit around for four months while 12
brilliant people, mostly picked for political reasons, are going
to sit in some room and brilliantly come up with a trillion
dollars ... is irrational," it can still be unsettling if they
can't do it.
Grover explains the
failure by noting that modern Democrats have no platform from
which to run for re-election.
Obama can't run on
"Four more years of THIS?" or "Are you better off?"; so instead
he is running against Republicans — "I hate these guys!" —
hoping they'll be held responsible for fiscal irresolution.
that modern Democrats will reject Republican plans, not just
Congressman Paul Ryan's $6 trillion in cuts over 10 years, but
genuine compromise cuts that the supercommittee was told to
find. They'll demand tax increases that, when used in the past
as part of "grand bargains," replaced any real effort toward
reform with more spending and inevitably more debt. Norquist
"The 1982 Tax
Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act: President Reagan agreed to
a budget deal with congressional Democrats that promised $3 in
spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. We got the largest
peacetime tax increase in American history, without spending
"The 1990 Budget
Deal: President George H.W. Bush agreed to raise $1 in taxes in
return for $2 in cuts. Taxes went up, and so did spending."
So as public
employee union and AARP leaders lobby committee member Sen. John
Kerry to raise taxes, we taxpayers should lobby, too. We're not
Charlie Brown, trying to kick the football again. This time,
Lucy, do spending cuts first. Then, if there are new revenues,
we'll expect them to be earmarked for directly reducing the
national debt instead of spent on new programs and bailouts.
We also need a
complete overhaul of the federal tax system, simplifying it to
the point where Big Government can no longer team up with
lobbyists from Big Labor and Big Business to overwhelm the
resources of the "unconnected" American people who, we hope, are
organizing themselves into Big Voters for November 2012.
election cycle, we'll be seeing a lot of Grover Norquist, whom
Arianna Huffington calls "the dark wizard of the Right's
anti-tax cult." She isn't joking, but we should laugh at the
imagery meant to disparage the good wizards of fiscal
responsibility, who fight the Lord Voldemorts of America's