Friday, July 22, 2011

Don't Trust Anyone Named Grover Who Isn't A Muppett

My problem with people who have strong political ideologies is that their rigidness means they have an answer before they even know what the question is. There's something about a person who says "all we need is a government program to fix this" or "no tax increases under any circumstances, ever" that just makes me wonder if they bother to ever approach a matter with an open mind. Sadly, the answer is likely no, and that brings us to Grover Norquist.

Norquist is the head of a group called "Americans for Tax Reform" and they have requested that Republican candidates for office sign a pledge that promises to never vote for a tax increase--and defines "tax increase" to mean not just raised rates but the elimination of any deduction or other calculation that would increase government revenue. (The pledge allows the elimination of a deduction if there is a corresponding rate drop or new deduction to off-set it--the key here is that the government can never act to increase its own net revenue) Hundreds of Republicans serving in Congress today have signed this--thereby signalling to voters that they cannot be trusted to use their personal inclination against higher taxes and instead have to be bound by the pledge. This is idiocy.

Consider for a minute that Congress voted to drop the tax rate to a flat rate of 1%, with the first $100K of everyone's income excluded (if that sounds familiar then congratulations, you remember the early 1900s when the first federal income tax was enacted--it would be overturned by the Supreme Court, later requiring the 16th Amendment to enable federal income taxes). Let's also assume Congress gets rid of Social Security, Medicare, defense spending--pretty much everything it does and reduces the deficit to make up for this huge drop in revenue. Then China decides to attack us via Mexico (like Red Dawn, but with better acting). An emergency session of Congress is called for.

Whoops! Can't raise taxes, these idiots signed a pledge! They owe fealty to a man named Grover! Oh, who could have forseen this calamitous turn of events???

See, it's fine to be in favor of lower tax rates and smaller government--it's a perfectly legitimate political philosophy, and really the only difference between the center left and center right in this country is a matter of degree. And it's perfectly fine for the GOP in this current budget fight to push for less--or even no--tax increases as a matter of principle (whether this is good policy, or even realistic since there's a Democrat in the White House). What is just plain stupid is that anyone would sign a pledge that eliminates judgment and flexibility in any circumstances, or otherwise requires the signer to violate it later.

It's a shame that when Mr. Norquist first presented this pledge to Republicans, they didn't just laugh him out of the room. It has served to do nothing but make the GOP look like rigid ideologues unfit to govern.

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