Grover Norquist is arguably the one of the most powerful men in Washington. He does not hold any public office. Instead, he is a lobbyist with a heavily enforced pledge not to raise taxes or to eliminate loopholes. The new congress will have 219 house members and thirty nine senators who have signed this pledge, most of whom are Republicans. Also many 2012 Republican presidential candidates such as Gingrich and Romney have signed the pledge.
This pledge is interesting in several ways. First of all, once a person signs this pledge, he or she is held to it for life. If a candidate breaks his commitment, Norquist's organization, Americans for tax reform, will work to defeat this person in congress by funding their opponents in the primaries. Secondly, there is an exception to the rule. If someone votes for a bill that raises taxes or eliminates loopholes, but there is no net increase in taxes, the pledge isn't considered to be broken. Also, much of the pledge seems to be about branding the Republican party.
Norquist admits that he wants to brand the Republican party to be known as the party that will not raise taxes. He claims that tax raising Republicans damage the Republican brand. In a "60 minutes" interview, he compared Republicans who raise taxes to a rat head in a coke bottle. If a Republican raises taxes, a person may not vote for a Republican ever again, just as if some one finds a rat head in a coke bottle, they may not want to buy a coke again.
The more closely the pledge and Norquist and are examined, the more ridiculous they appear. Norquist claims that the pledge is not to him, but to the voters. However, he said that there is no circumstance that he would release anyone from the pledge. Since Norquist doesn't release his organization's financial source, it is hard to know whether he truly gets it from the average voter, or from corporations and other interest groups who favor lower taxes. The organization doesn't have to release from where it gets its money because Americans for Tax reform is a non-profit. All of this suggests that Norquist formed this pledge for his own interest, and the interest of large corporations, not for the benefit of the American people. What is even more shocking is that Norquist says he wants the size of government to be where it was at the turn of the 20th century. This is 8% of GDP, about a third of what it is now. This was a time before the highway system, social security, medicare, medicaid, the FDA, EPA, and before the U.S. became the world's most powerful military.
Fortunately, it appears that the Republican party is starting to crack. Many important Republicans, such as Senator Allen Simpson (Wyoming) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (Georgia), Representative Peter King (New York) and Senator Lindsey Graham ( South Carolina) have recognized the folly of the pledge as well. Chambliss said "I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge". Allen said if Noquist ran for president, his platform would be "...no taxes under any situation even if your country goes to hell." I hope that other Republicans will also ditch the pledge. If they don't, the prospects for a budget deal, especially a one that is balanced looks bleak, and the country is likely to enter another recession.