Saturday, July 21, 2012

Whither Grover Norquist?

Lawrence O’Donnell likes to refer to him as the “most powerful man in America who holds no elective office.”

He is Grover Norquist, founder and President of Americans for Tax Reform. He is most notable for the pledge his organization requires to support candidates for U.S. Congressional office. The pledge requires that the signatories promise to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates." 

As of late 2011, 238 of 242 House Republicans and 41 out of 47 Senate Republicans had signed Americans for Tax Reform's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge".

As a consequence, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the filibuster enforcing Republican head count in the Senate have blocked any efforts at revenue enhancement as a means of addressing the Federal Government’s financial woes – despite the fact that corporate and personal tax rates are at the lowest level in over seven decades.

It helps explain the Republican intransigence on rescinding the Bush tax cuts even for the highest income earners despite the fact that they were originally set to expire two years ago. It has blocked their expiration even though George W. Bush, in his first State of the Union message, justified the first round of tax cuts on the basis that the budget surpluses he had inherited from Bill Clinton meant that the government was taking money that it didn’t need*. Somehow it seems that his Administration did a good job in eradicating that justification.

But, like so much else in the conservative Republican orthodoxy, the application of the pledge appears to tilt toward favoring the interests of the so-called one percent and corporations. While adamant in their opposition to the President’s call to raise taxes on individuals earning over $200,000 per year and families earning over $250,000 per year back to Clinton-era levels, they have advanced an alternative proposal.

Based on figures provided by the Government Accountability Office and an analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Tax Policy Center the alternative plans distribute the costs as follows:

Apparently the Republicans don’t mind raising revenues as long as it is visited even more on the back of the middle class. And Grover Norquist? Well, a pledge is only as good as its enforcement.


*"You see, the growing surplus exists because taxes are too high and government is charging more than it needs. The people of America have been overcharged and, on their behalf, I am here asking for a refund."

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