GROVER NORQUIST, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform and one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington, is receiving a deluge of press. This is most broadly because fear of a fiscal cliff is revitalizing debate around the feasibility of Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which commits signatories to “oppose any and all efforts” to raise taxes and curb deductions. 238 current House members and 41 Senators have signed the pledge.
But it’s also because of public renunciations by a few notable signatories – Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) – all of whom have either hinted at or openly committed to reneging. This has provoked a torrent of speculation about the future of Norquist’s clout, mixed with some intra-party mudslinging in which Norquist himself has played no small part. (See the Atlantic’s “Timeline of GOP Snubs of the No-Tax-Raise-Pledge”).
Finally, Warren Buffet’s provocative Op-ed in the New York Times on Sunday opened with this:
“Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. ‘This is a good one,’ he says enthusiastically. ‘I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.’ Would your reply possibly be this? ‘Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.’ Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist.” (Norquist responded by calling this argument “silly”)
Here’s what other notable voices are saying:
“So far, the renunciations of Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”amount to a trickle, not a flood. But we’re seeing the first signs in years that on the question of taxation — one of the fundamental responsibilities of government — the GOP may be starting to recover its senses.” – Washington Post (Eugene Robinson)
“I think Republican leaders who can find a sensible, rational way to defend a break in the pledge stand plenty to gain. After all, their oaths of office were made to their country. They should do what they deem fiscally sound for their constituents, not make decisions based on fear of a bespectacled man who has called Republicans who vote for a tax increase “rat heads in a Coke bottle.” – Washington Post (Jenna McGregor)
“By any standard other than the absurdly high one he has set himself, though, Mr Norquist continues to dominate Washington’s tax debate. Almost all revenue-raising proposals hinge on eliminating deductions, rather than raising marginal rates. If Mr Obama does succeed in raising the income-tax rate for the richest, it will have taken him two elections and all manner of fiscal face-offs and crises to get his way—and success is still far from assured. Even scrapping an economically nonsensical subsidy for ethanol, it seems, is still a highly controversial move. Grover is not over yet.” – The Economist
“This is where Mr. Norquist can give some ground. If taxes are going up anyway because the Bush rates expire, and Republicans can stop them from going up as much as they otherwise would, then pledge-takers deserve some credit for that. Mr. Norquist says it violates his pledge to eliminate deductions without lowering rates, but at the current economic and political moment it is also a service if Republicans prevent tax rates from going up. Speaker John Boehner deserves some leeway to try to mitigate the damage by negotiating a larger tax reform.” – The Wall Street Journal