Friend, fellow activist provides perspective on D.C.'s deficit debate
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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 Republicans.

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 2 ballot campaign. That employee, Chip Faulkner, now runs the Massachusetts FMG meetings.

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.

Grover predicts 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 notes:

"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 restraint.

"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.

Throughout this 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 economic decline.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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