One of the impediments to a congressional deal that would avert the dreaded “fiscal cliff” seems to have been removed or at least greatly diminished after this past election.
According to the Congress-watching newspaper The Hill, “Grover Norquist’s majority in Congress is all but gone.”
Norquist is – or, perhaps now, was – one of the most powerful influences on Congress that most people never heard of. He was head of something called Americans for Tax Reform whose signature feat was to convince new members of Congress, mostly Republicans, to sign a pledge never to raise taxes.
While every Congress legislatively starts anew, Norquist insisted the pledge was binding for the entirety of the member’s career. And his goal was clear – small and ineffectual government. As he often said, “My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
The pledge applies not only to tax increases but to loophole closings and elimination of deductions that are not offset by cuts in federal spending elsewhere. It was a successful recipe for fiscal paralysis and why two major wars and the prescription drug entitlement have never been paid for. They were funded by borrowing, but we seem to be drawing close to the end of our line of credit.
The Hill says, “About a dozen newly elected House Republicans refused to sign the anti-tax pledge during their campaigns, and another handful of returning Republicans have disavowed their allegiance to the written commitment.”
With the GOP loss of seats in the House, fewer than the 218 signees (there were 238) needed for a majority remain, and in the Senate 39 members who were signers of the pledge remain.
The great 18th century political theorist Edmund Burke said, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” In this case, substitute Grover Norquist for “your opinion.”
The decision of whether to raise taxes, and whether this decision is good for the constituents, should rest solely between the representative and the people.