The Republican’s Debt and Deficit Blackmail

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
GOP blackmail

(By The Pragmatic Pundit)

Republicans have been using debt and deficit blackmail as a bargaining strategy since the days of Ronald Reagan.Reagan’s brand of politics was successful at promoting the notion that federal government spending on social programs is mostly wasted on pointless handouts to lazy recipients. He carefully cultivated the impression that “government spending” meant “free money” for people who were nothing more than moochers.  Sound familiar?

Ronald Reagan was swept into office on the same Republican fearmongering-propaganda that grips the country today…”spending is out of control, the country is going bankrupt and government is too big.”

There is no denying Reagan inherited an economy that was in a deep recession, but his response to the debt crisis was far different than Republicans would have us believe.

Despite his “small government” rhetoric, Reagan expanded the federal government by 7%, employing a larger federal workforce (those greedy public employees) than any President in history other than Johnson who presided over the Vietnam War.

He did enact a huge tax cut, but then raised taxes eleven times; increased defense spending; ballooned the federal deficit to the largest peacetime deficit in history; raised the debt ceiling 17 times and accumulated a debt burden that equaled the previous 200 years of American history, turning the United States from a creditor nation into a debtor nation.  For the first time in the history of the nation, the United States borrowed in order to cover federal budget deficits.

David Stockman, Reagan’s economic wizard and the architect of the trickle-down budgets wrote:

“The Reagan deficits were intentional, designed to cut revenue as a way of pressuring Congress to cut programs Republicans wanted to destroy….The plan… was to have a strategic deficit that would give you an argument for cutting back the programs that weren’t desired….”

The “small government” mantra and “debt and deficit” narrative continued after Reagan left office and another Republican, Bush (41)  took the helm.

Daily News 1990:  Legislators Say There’s No Money.

During the tenure of these two Republicans, deregulation and imprudent real estate lending contributed to a Savings and Loan crisis and quite possibly the stock market crash.  Between 1980 and 1994, more than 1600 banks were closed or received financial assistance from the FDIC.  Over 1,000 banks with total assets of over $500 billion failed.  The number of savings and loans declined from 3,234 to 1,645.Taxpayers assumed the bill for a $124 billion bailout, while corporate scandals and bankruptcies made matters worse. Enron represented the biggest corporate scandal in history, while Worldcom MCI filed the largest bankruptcy in history.

That was the economy Republicans left for Bill Clinton and they were singing the same song: “spending is out of control and the country is going bankrupt.”  
 
CNN – 1995
Americans blame GOP for budget mess

Buffalo News 1995
GOP FRESHMEN AREN’T COMPROMISINGTHIS OUTRAGEOUSLY PHONY BUDGET CRISIS

Then as now, Republicans focused solely on cutting the social safety net and entitlement programs.  Remember welfare reform?  Republicans take credit for Clinton’s 1993 deficit-cutting package, but the truth is the balanced budget passed without a single GOP vote in either house of Congress.   By the time Clinton left office, there was a surplus.Bush/Cheney inherited the Clinton budget surplus and immediately began turning it into a deficit.

Despite their opposition to entitlements, Republicans passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 expanding the program (can’t privatize it, figure other ways for private corporations to extract money from the program).  After being debated and negotiated for several months, the bill finally came to a vote  on a November morning at 3 am while America slept.  Among other things, the bill prohibits the federal government from negotiating discounts with drug companies.  Read the curious legislative history.

Bush launched wars with Iraq and Afghanistan and introduced tax-cuts that primarily benefited the rich.  None of these expenditures were offset and they all were kept off the books, giving the illusion that the country was in a much stronger fiscal position than it was.  Republicans admit under Bush they  “spent like drunken sailors”,   but when the spending was taking place, not a single Republican rebelled.  Remember, running up debt and deficits is a strategy.  
 
Six weeks before President Obama was sworn in, the economy collapsed and the Republicans began their familiar chant…“spending is out of control and the country is going bankrupt.” 
 
Newly installed Governors cut the federal workforce; remember, Reagan ( the man Republicans credit with economic problem-solving) increased the federal workforce to one of the largest in history.  They cut employee pay and pensions, while they delivered more tax cuts to the wealthy.  They busted unions, destroying employees last firewall between workers and employers.  All of these acts redistribute the treasury from the middle class and working poor to the wealthy.

It isn’t ideology that drives the Republican insistence on spending cuts, it’s a strategy.  Think about it…the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House for four consecutive years.  They could have fixed Medicare and Social Security, but for some reason, there’s never a problem unless a Democrat is in the White House.Listen to how fervently they defend cuts to defense.  Why?  Afterall, defense workers are unionized public employees.  Because there isn’t a department that shifts more taxpayer money to the private sector than the Defense Department.  There is no other federal vehicle that allows the wealthy to extract more money from the treasury, convert more taxpayer revenue to the private sector than the Defense Department.

Throughout history, since 1783, tax cuts for the wealthy and increased defense spending and union busting have increased the gap between the revenues and the expenditures. Shareholders and those on Wall Street have enjoyed inflated returns, while the wages for workers have taken a beating.   It’s a 21st century Gilded Age.

In the final analysis, the real targets are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid; any program that supports the less fortunate.   Republicans have a long-standing, deeply-held  antipathy for both Social Security and Medicare. Not only did Reagan advocate that Social Security should be privatized, he was at the forefront of a coalition against Medicare with the same arguments we hear today.

How did the public ever buy the idea that Republicans are good stewards of the economy?   Studies have been done comparing every phase of economic growth, during Democratic and Republican presidencies and congresses, and they all show stunningly better performance when Democrats are in power.

The trickle down miracle never worked because lower taxes don’t generate more revenue, they generate deficits.  It is a fact that is so mathematically  basic, it borders on common sense.

Enough Preemptive Freakouts

Friday, November 30th, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

The Preemptive Freakout du Jour is, of course, whether President Obama is about to “cave” in tax and budget negotiations with House Republicans. Last weekend, senior White House advisor David Plouffe said that successful negotiations would require concessions from both Republicans and Democrats:

The only way that gets done is for Republicans again to step back and get mercilessly criticized by Grover Norquist and the Right, and it means that Democrats are going to have to do some tough things on spending and entitlements that means that they’ll criticized on by their left.

Cue the Angst Mongers:

Okay. Deep breath.

Note the speculative scare words, such as “could be a raw deal for the middle class,” and “We have a lot of questions here about where this is going to end up, don’t we?”

Never mind that President Obama has plainly stated that Social Security is “off limits” in these negotiations. Never mind that the math is the math and, despite the chart Ed Schultz showed about the current deficit, a new report by the Congressional Budget Office shows that our long-term deficit is driven almost entirely by rising health care costs for seniors:

The aging of the baby-boom generation portends a significant and sustained increase in coming years in the share of the population that will receive benefits from Social Security and Medicare and long-term care services financed through Medicaid. Moreover, per capita spending on health care is likely to continue to grow faster than per capita spending on other goods and services for many years.

If progressives criticize conservatives for ignoring data they don’t like – and we should – then we can’t ignore data we don’t like … and the CBO’s data are very solid.

To solve our long-term deficit problem, we must flatten the growth curve on health care costs, and President Obama began working on that with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included funding for computerized medical records and comparative studies of treatment outcomes. The Affordable Care Act also includes provisions to reduce Medicare costs, but Christina Romer – former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers – wrote in June that Obamacare was only the first step in addressing the health care cost curve:

A natural approach is to strengthen measures already enacted. Once the payment advisory board has a track record, for example, perhaps it could be empowered to suggest changes in benefits or in how Medicare services are provided – say, along the lines of successful demonstration projects.

Likewise, the Bowles-Simpson bipartisan fiscal commission recommended, as part of overall tax reform, limiting the amount of health insurance benefits excluded from taxation. Like the excise tax on high-priced plans, this change would probably increase pressure to keep costs down.

Even larger departures from the current system may be needed. The law creates health insurance exchanges where individuals and small businesses can buy coverage. Including a reasonably priced public plan as an option could exert downward pressure on the price of private health insurance policies by increasing competition.

Yet Dr. Romer did not expect progress anytime soon, concluding:

Sadly, serious debate over further cost-savings measures may be a long way off. Some Republicans seem more interested in just limiting the government’s share of health care expenditures than in slowing overall spending. And some Democrats seem more interested in just preserving existing government programs than in making the entire health care system more efficient.

For the sake of the nation’s fiscal health, and the health and economic security of American families, it’s time to embrace cost containment in health care as the next great legislative challenge.

These are real challenges that demand serious discussions of alternatives and their benefits, costs, risks, and tradeoffs. President Obama and leaders in Congress will debate those. I don’t like all of the options currently on the table. I may or may not like all of the solutions eventually adopted. It’s too soon to know.

But it’s a whole lot more entertaining to have a Preemptive Freakout because … well … President Obama always caves in to Republicans anyway, right? Except he doesn’t:

In policy terms, Obama clearly had gotten the better deal. The trouble was that the political world and the public had been conditioned to see this episode as primarily a clash over the top-tier tax cuts – and on that Obama had not gotten what he wanted. Consequently, the media depicted the compromise as a loss for Obama, and progressive Democrats squawked mightily about the continuation of the tax cuts.

As Corn concludes:

In a recent White House meeting with labor leaders and progressive activists, Obama signaled he is ready to fight the GOPers – and this time dare the Republicans to block continuing the tax cuts for the middle class. But no one ought to forget that Obama, a progressive in his policy preferences, remains a pragmatist. What happened two years ago is not an indication that Obama is likely to yield in the new face-off, but that he will be assessing the political dynamics in gridlocked Washington and be willing to bargain hard for a good deal with true benefits. That’s not caving in. It’s governing.

Yes, it’s governing. But governing is messy, and full of compromises and deals that look icky as we watch them happen. As John Godfrey Saxe famously said: “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”

Or Saxe would have famously said that, if so many people didn’t wrongly attribute his quote to Otto von Bismark and Mark Twain. Those mistakes happen when people substitute ‘sounds true’ rumors for actual facts. Just sayin’.

And yes, Ed Schultz, I’m sayin’ it to you, and the others who are busy with their Premptive Freakout. Enough. Go climb a tree and nibble on a macadamia. It’s a lot better for your blood pressure. And mine.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

Weekend Reading List

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles about how Mitt Romney would be a servant of the right wing if he were to become President, how Romney’s “jobs” plan would destroy jobs, the cost of Romney’s plan to abolish Medicare, the flimsiness of Republican’s Benghazi criticisms, and why progressives should not cast a third-party “protest” vote.

 

Mitt Romney, Servant of the Right – a good overview of just how reactionary the agenda that Mitt Romney is running on is, which disproves the fantasy that Romney would somehow be a moderate if he were to become President.

Party Animals - recent history shows that were Romney to become President, his Administration would be run by the same right-wing Republican insiders that ran the George W. Bush White House.

Mitt Romney Has No Real Jobs Plan - an in-depth report on how Romney’s “jobs” plan relies on failed economic theories and would actually cost jobs, rather than creating them.

The Benghazi Controversy, Explained – an accounting of the Benghazi attacks that shows just how flimsy are the Republican criticisms of the Obama Administration’s response to the attacks.

Transforming Medicare Into a Premium Support System – an independent analysis finding that Mitt Romney’s plan to end Medicare as a guaranteed universal insurance program for seniors and replace it with vouchers would increase costs for the majority of seniors.

The Case Against Protest Voting - an argument that the importance of who gets lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary is a sufficiently compelling reason for any progressive to resist calls from some on the left that they should vote for a third party as a “protest” against President Obama

 

 

White House Burning, Part II: Two Views of Government, a Long View of Debt

Monday, October 15th, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

This week I am exploring Simon Johnson and James Kwak’s White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters To You. Previously we considered the history of our federal debt and the relationship of government, money, and credit. Today we look at our long-term debt outlook. Next we’ll conclude with the authors’ proposals for a sustainable budget that preserves essential programs and services.

Simon Johnson is a professor of entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He is a member of the CBO’s Panel of Economic Advisers and of the FDIC’s Systemic Resolution Advisory Committee. He was previously the chief economist of the IMF.

James Kwak is an associate professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. In 2011–2012, he is also a fellow at the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance. Before going to law school, he was a management consultant and co-founded a software company.

Johnson and Kwak founded The Baseline Scenario economics blog and also wrote 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown.

The Party of Fiscal Responsibility

If the debate over our federal debt were really about the risks of debt, President George W. Bush and a Republican Congress would not have passed budget-breaking tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Economic growth in the 1990s – fueled by Baby Boomers in their peak earning years, boosting both tax revenues and our overall economy – left a budget surplus in 2000. A fiscally responsible party would have recognized those Baby Boomers would soon be retiring, and proposed saving the current budget surplus to pay for the Social Security and Medicare benefits those Baby Boomers would soon need.

Indeed a fiscally responsible party recognized and proposed exactly that in the 2000 presidential election campaign. The party of fiscal responsibility were Democrats, as Vice President and presidential nominee Al Gore said:

We will balance the budget every year, and dedicate the budget surplus first to saving Social Security. Putting both Social Security and Medicare in an iron-clad lock box where the politicians can’t touch them – to me, that kind of common sense is a family value.

Texas Governor and Republican nominee George W. Bush proposed not fiscal responsibility to prepare for the future, but tax cuts to boost current consumption:

I believe that cutting the taxes will encourage economic growth. I believe cutting all marginal rates will keep the economy growing. I believe we ought to get rid of the death tax. I believe we ought to get rid of the earnings test on Social Security. I believe we ought to mitigate the marriage penalty. I believe we ought to use this time of prosperity to get money out of Washington and into the pockets of the taxpayers.

That pattern has not changed over the past twelve years. While Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan howl about our federal debt, their budget proposal is vague and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that it could push the debt up to 96% of our GDP by 2021.

How did Republicans become the party of fiscal irresponsibility?

Two views of government

Conservatives often call for a “return” to our nation’s true roots of: limited government, little regulation, and low taxes. Yet as we saw in E.J. Dionne’s Our Divided Political Heart, that history is more myth than fact.

However, Johnson and Kwak note that scientific and technical advances increased the scope of government. We learned how public utilities could reduce disease and improve public health, and the need to weigh the risks from pollution against corporate profits. The Great Depression highlighted the need for insurance to ease the suffering of market failures and allow seniors to retire with dignity. Science and technology also increased the need for a better educated population who could both develop and use new technologies. And as advances in medicine pushed health care costs beyond families’ budgets, we saw the need for effective, affordable health insurance to pool the risks. This was less a “government takeover” than increasing awareness that the often brutal hardships of middle- and low-income families’ lives were not inevitable.

Faced with that choice, the authors write, the inevitable result is redistribution of wealth. The only question is who the redistribution favors:

In a low-tax/low-benefit world, your bank account is a little bigger (if you make enough to pay taxes), but you face more risk of running out of money in retirement or not being able to afford health care; in a high-tax/high-benefit world, your bank account is a little smaller, but you face less risk. Since rich people are better able to self-insure, they gain less by pooling their risk with other people, so they might be better off in a low-tax/low-benefit world; poor people cannot self-insure, so they gain the most from risk pooling, and they will be better off in a high-tax/high-benefit world. Compared to current policy, reducing benefits so we can keep our low tax rates is a form of redistribution from the poor to the rich; raising taxes so we can maintain today’s benefit levels is a form of redistribution from the rich to the poor (assuming that the tax increases are progressive).

Thus we get then-Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX), now chairman of FreedomWorks, admitting why Republicans really talk about deficits and the federal debt:

Balancing the budget in my mind is the attention-getting device that enables me to reduce the size of government. Because the national concern over the deficit is larger than life. [...] If you’re anxious about the deficit, let me use your anxiety to cut the size of government.

Or, at least, to cut taxes. Tax cuts are usually popular, but spending cuts are not. So the Republican playbook has been to cut taxes but not spending while a Republican is in the White House, then howl about deficits and force fiscally responsible Democratic presidents to take the political fallout for raising taxes or cutting spending.

A long view of debt

That understanding sets the stage for the authors’ long-term outlook for our federal debt. Our current $11 trillion debt is partly due to the 2001 Bush tax cuts ($3 trillion), partly due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ($1 trillion), and mostly due to the 2008 financial collapse that cost nine million jobs and wiped out an estimated $7.8 trillion in projected GDP growth from 2008-2018. That lost revenue coincided more families eligible for unemployment benefits, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and tax expenditures such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. Many displaced older workers also chose early retirement and applied for Social Security benefits.

Our current fiscal crisis will pass, but the long-term debt dangers lie in our primary government insurance programs: Social Security and Medicare. For Social Security, the issue is simply that more people will soon retire and they will live longer. Thus, their benefits will exceed then-current Social Security revenues and deplete the program’s existing trust fund.

For Medicare, those issues are compounded by rising health care costs. That is partly a function of medical advances that offer new tests, new drugs, and new procedures, such that treatment for a given illness costs more now than it did even two decades ago. It’s also partly a function of our fee-for-service model that spurs providers to prescribe as many tests, drugs, and procedures as insurers will reimburse. The authors acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act attempts to limit the growth of health care costs, but argue there isn’t yet enough data to know whether or how well those provisions will work. Their projections assume health care costs will continue to rise as they have the past two decades, and that would create a serious, long-term debt Medicare debt risk.

But as the authors emphasize, privatizing Social Security and Medicare would not eliminate or even reduce those costs. Indeed, turning those tasks over to private, for-profit investment firms and health insurance companies would likely increase net spending for retirees, with the costs borne by retirees and their families or – for those who could not afford it – other public programs that shelter and care for the indigent.

The Baby Boomers will retire, and will need health care in their senior years, and we will all pay for it, one way or another. Given that, the authors argue, both moral and economic factors suggest we should preserve Social Security and Medicare in their current forms, which are less expensive and far less cruel than the alternatives.

But there’s no such thing as a free lunch … and tomorrow we’ll see how they propose to pay for the government we need.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

Grover Norquist – Romney Will Do As He’s Told

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

(By Fay Paxton, cross-posted at The Pragmatic Pundit)

At the conservative “Defending the American Dream Summit” in Washington, Grover Norquist, the Republican tax-cut Svengali said about Mitt Romney:

“All we have to do is replace Obama. …  We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go…. We just need a president to sign this stuff….Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States…. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.”

The summit was sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a front group started by oil billionaire David Koch of Koch Industries.   The AFP funds the “Tea Party” and special interest groups that work against Democratic initiatives, opposing protections for workers, the environment, labor unions, health care reform, stimulus spending, and cap-and-trade legislation.

Regarding the “legislation that has already been prepared”,  perhaps you also remember ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).  The corporate funded organization that rewrites the laws that govern our lives.  Through ALEC and the model legislation written by the organization, corporations have a voice and a vote in our daily lives.  You didn’t really believe Citizens United was an accident did you?

The Ugly Duckling

How and why do you suppose a candidate who was so poorly thought of became the celebrated nominee?  Here’s what leading Republicans have said about Romney:

Rick Santorum: “”We need someone who’s bold and courageous, someone who’s willing to go out and say, ‘I’m for these things because they are my convictions,’ not because I put a finger in the air and that’s where the public is today…..Why would we pick someone who’s had a record that is as a liberal governor of Massachusetts to lead our country at a time we need fundamental change?”

Gingrich:  “This is a campaign of people power versus money power…. He understands a lot about finance, but finance is not the free market, and Wall Street is not Main Street, and giant businesses are not small businesses.”

Michele Bachmann:  “If you look at Mitt Romney, he…has been very inconsistent on his positions. He has been on both sides of the abortion issue, on both sides of the issue of same-sex marriage.”“They (voters) want to know what’s the truth. They’re not interested in a chameleon.”

Rick Perry:  “I happen to think that companies like Bain Capital could have come in and helped these companies, if they truly were venture capitalists, but they’re not…..They’re vulture capitalists.”

Rush Limbaugh: “ Mitt Romney is not a Conservative….Romney is a flip-flopper like John Kerry was; he’s gonna be saying one thing here when he gets to the White House is gonna turn into a moderate. I can think of things, like 2006 or 2007, Romney in Massachusetts says, “I’m not a conservative Republican, I’m a moderate.”

“The Massachusetts healthcare law that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed in 2006 includes a program known as the Health Safety Net, which allows undocumented immigrants to get needed medical care along with others who lack insurance.  Uninsured, poor immigrants can walk into a health clinic or hospital in the state and get publicly subsidized care at virtually no cost to them, regardless of their immigration status.”

Mike Huckabee:  “I think a lot of people are deceived, and you have to ask do people want to elect a president who has been dishonest in order to get the job and said things about his opponents that simply aren’t true?”

Sarah Palin:  Romney should both release his tax returns and substantiate his claim that Bain Capital created 100,000 jobs.

Senator Marco Rubio:  “There are a lot of other people out there that some of us wish had run for President, but they didn’t.”

Sheldon Adelson:  “He’s not a bold decision maker…”

Former GOP Virginia Rep. Tom Davis:  “He may not be Mr. Personality, uh, you know, this is a guy who gives a fireside chat and the fire goes out.”

Rudy Giuliani:  “I’ve never seen a guy change his position so many times, so fast, on a dime.”

Former Reagan OMB Director David Stockman:  “I don’t think that Mitt Romney can legitimately say that he learned anything about how to create jobs in the LBO (leveraged buyout) business. The LBO business is about how to strip cash out of old, long-in-the-tooth companies and how to make short-term profits. All the jobs that he talks about came from Staples. That was a very early venture stage deal. That, you know they got out of long before it got to its current size.”

David Frum:  “…..the problem is that Romney hasn’t shown backbone to stick with his positions.”

George Will:  “Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate… Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis…”

And last but not least:

John McCain:  compiled a 200 page Romney opposition research book which is available online thanks to BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski.

Now they all support Romney for President?  Flip-flopping must be contagious. But then again, like Grover Norquist said, “….We just need a president to sign this stuff….a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen…. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Credit for Photo of Grover Norquist, head of the Americans for Tax Reform – NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / Getty Images

The Unelected Tyrant Who is Imperiling Our Nation

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

(By Jillian Barclay, cross posted at HubPages)

If you want to run for office as a Republican candidate and you want to win, you must take an oath and swear to Grover Norquist that you will never, ever, ever raise taxes. Defy Norquist and you will be denied an elected post. Go back on your oath and the consequences are swift and harsh: you will lose your position. When asked what happens to someone who goes back on his word and violates the pledge, Norquist says, “Ask George H. Walker Bush how his second term was?” Who is this dictator that can single-handedly decide winners and losers? Where did he come from? Why does he have so much power?

The answers to these questions are more than complicated. Like everything with the modern GOP, Norquist has more tentacles than an octopus and he is clearly the self-annointed and appointed ruler of the Republican party today. His past is full of scandal and corruption, yet with the exposure of each and every scandal, Norquist only continues to increase his power base. Most people in America have never even heard of him. Those that have usually know very little about him.

Grover Norquist was born in October of 1956. He is a native of Pennsylvania and his father was vice-President of Polaroid. Norquist went to Harvard where he graduated with a BA, as well as an MBA. His first entry into the world of politics came when he was barely a teenager and young Grover offered his services as a volunteer for Richard Nixon’s 1968 Presidential campaign. From there, Norquist’s early career included work as both an a economist and speech writer for the Chamber of Commerce. Today, he is the President of Americans For Tax Reform, a group he founded in 1985. He serves on many boards of many conservative groups, including the NRA and the Nixon Center. He also co- founded the Islamic Free Market Institute.

According to the website of Americans For Tax Reform, Norquist currently has more than 1100 signers of his Tax Protection Pledge on the state level. On the federal level, his site boasts that as of 2009, 172 members of the House and 34 members of the Senate had signed, including Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska and former-Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Although latest figures have not been published, most believe that every single Republican in the House and Senate right now, with the exceptions of Olympia Snowe of Maine and Dick Lugar of Indiana have signed ‘The Norquist Pledge’. Not only does Norquist recruit candidates on the state and local level, he is always working behind the scenes to find what he considers appropriate candidates on the federal level.

Norquist’s philosophy of government is simply stated. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

Norquist believes in tax cuts and deregulation, so much so that the only two things that the federal government should be a part of are the miltary and police protection. That means that Norquist is against:

  • government involvement in education
  • environmental controls or regulation
  • FEMA
  • Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid
  • regulations or consumer protection that control any aspect of business or banking
  • the CDC, the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration

The list could go on and on. Government agency? You name it; Norquist wants it gone!

Norquist has been instrumental in most, if not all of the GOP efforts to ‘starve the beast’ of government. The theory is so basic that it does not require a degree in economics. The more and more you cut taxes, the higher and higher the deficit goes which, in turn, makes politically unpopular cuts to government programs more and more feasible politically.  Consistent with this strategy, Norquist was directly instrumental in the design of the the Bush tax cuts. Norquist NEVER intended that they be temporary. The Bush tax cuts were to be the beginning. More and more tax cuts were and are planned. The economy does not matter, the global status does not change anything. The goal is to cut and cut and cut.

Mr. Norquist was the co-author of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America which was precipitated upon the goals of conservative America: shrink government, decrease taxes and regulation, promote a limited view of entrepreneurial activity, and at the same time, get rid of any public assistance programs and greatly limit tort protection. During Norquist’s tenure at the Chamber of Commerce, he learned the power of binding together and promoting a huge network of conservative business owners. Norquist knew that if conservative people were put into key positions, they would have access to change public policy, with or without public support.

The Scandals Or Why Isn’t Norquist In Prison?

Grover Norquist has been a player during many scandals. The first controversy that he was involved in was weapon sales to the Contras during the Iran-Contra scandal. While Oliver North went to prison, Norquist went free. Every single scandal, Norquist seemed to have a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card.

* “Casino” Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist were friends for years. Norquist managed Abramoff’s early campaign to become chairman of the College Republican National Committee. Norquist was directly implicated in the funneling of money for Abramoff during the gambling scandal that sent Abramoff and dozens of others to prison. Norquist did not go to prison.

* The K Street Project Lobbying scandal had Norquist’s name all over it. After the elections of 1994 in which the GOP overwhelmingly took control of Congress, Norquist and his buddies, Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff, along with Tom Delay, pressured lobbying firms to hire key Republican party members. They also designed spread sheets and dossiers, showing political contributions and then bartered access to politicians. The more money donated, the more access. The less money, the less access. The ‘pay to play’ game became illegal after this scheme was unearthed. Tom Delay went to prison, Abramoff went to prison, Reed barely escaped prison and Norquist came away again unscathed. Reed, once disgraced, has since come back as the head and founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which is eerily similar in its goals to every other conservative organization. On a side note, Rick Santorum was also a player in the K Street scandal. He was, by most accounts, the Senate liason who met with the lobbyists every week and ‘scheduled’ access to his Senate colleagues in the pay to play scandal.

* In the not so distant past, Norquist has been accused by some conservatives of being a supporter and money launderer for Islamic terrorist groups. His one time partner and the co-founder of Americans For Tax Reform, Kahled Saffuri, previously worked for Abdurahman Alamoudi at the American Muslim Council. It was with $20,000 from Alamoudi, that Norquist founded the Islamic Free Market Institute. While that sounds innocuous enough, just a few years after that, Alamoudi was arrested with well over a quarter of a million dollars given to him by Moammar Gaddafi (Libya) to finance the support of jihad. Alamoudi is serving a 23 year prison sentence. Alamoudi was so well-placed that it was he who helped establish and approve certain Muslim chaplains in the military. Many, both conservative and liberal, have questioned not only Norquist’s ties to Alamoudi, but Alamoudi’s ties to the Department of Defense.

* Most recently, Senator Tom Coburn, (R), from Oklahoma is waging a war with Norquist. Norquist has called Coburn out for violating the pledge and Coburn has fired back, saying in his defense, “…which pledge is the most important? Is it the pledge to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who claims to speak for all of American conservatives when, in fact, they don’t.” Perhaps Coburn should ask one-term President George H W Bush how well his second term worked out. Maybe Coburn doesn’t realize that Norquist has stated that Coburn will face harsh consequences for his violation of the purity pledge. Perhaps, Coburn is not aware that Norquist has over 100 thousand big time corporate donors, just ready to do his bidding. Coburn, on April 25th bumped it up a notch and said, “Norquist is chief cleric of Sharia tax law”. Norquist has stated that “Coburn lied to get elected!” The war is heating up. This is going to be a good one to watch!

    Norquist Is The Most Powerful Man Not Sitting In The White House!

    Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC host of the Last Word calls Grover Norquist “the most powerful man in America that does not sit in the White House.” O’Donnell may be correct. Norquist has ties to countless corporations, including tobacco and big oil, lobbyists, and most of the conservative think tanks in the country. The ever-powerful Koch brothers are supporters. Norquist is the self-appointed managing director of the hard core right and he takes his position seriously.

    If you have never heard of him, it is time to get acquainted. This man has influenced EVERY Republican legislator beginning with President Reagan. Go easy! Start with Wikipedia and go from there. The articles are endless, perhaps because his power is endless. He is the GOP king maker, but he is the real king! The ruler of the Republican party! And don’t forget! The road to any GOP-controlled White House is conditioned upon a signature on a ‘pledge’ to the king,

    Sources of more information about Grover Norquist

    * Washington Tax-Cut Advocate Grover Norquist Aided Abramoff

    * Grover Norquist | Right Wing Watch

    * CPAC, Islam & Norquist Americanpatriotcommission Blog

    * Nonprofit Groups Funneled Money For Abramoff – washingtonpost.com