Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Breaking Norquist’s oath: Is the GOP starting to recover its senses?

Grover Norquist
I've never seen a likable photo of this guy.
Since taxes are the price we pay for civilization I have always considered Mr. Norquist a quintessentially destructive barbarian determined to destroy the United States of America in any recognizable form.

By breaking their oath, Republican "deserters" are accomplishing two important ends.

On one hand they are acknowledging the need to restore sanity through acknowledgment that Life plays out across polar fields in which phenomena rise and fall -- inevitably -- according to sine wave fluctuation. Any assumption that phenomena can move in just one direction is demonstrably insane.

It is also true that by breaking their oaths, Republicans (and other conservatives) admit that Impossibly Pure Principles are just that.

And so by participating in the sinful behavior of oath-breaking, they acknowledge that "absolutism" is not politically viable and that, ironically, compromise is "absolutely" necessary even though it requires deliberate destruction of one's deepest principles.

"The terrible thing about our time is precisely the ease with which theories can be put into practice.  The more perfect, the more idealistic the theories, the more dreadful is their realization.  We are at last beginning to rediscover what perhaps men knew better in very ancient times, in primitive times before utopias were thought of: that liberty is bound up with imperfection, and that limitations, imperfections, errors are not only unavoidable but also salutary. The best is not the ideal.  Where what is theoretically best is imposed on everyone as the norm, then there is no longer any room even to be good.  The best, imposed as a norm, becomes evil.”  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton -


Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson
Opinion Writer

Breaking Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge

Maybe the fever is breaking. Maybe the delirium is lifting. Maybe Republicans are finally asking themselves: What were we thinking when we put an absurdly unrealistic pledge to a Washington lobbyist ahead of our duty to the American people?
I said maybe. So far, the renunciations of Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledgeamount 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.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) was the first to shake off the cobwebs, announcing last week that he would no longer consider the no-taxes promise exacted by Norquist’s pressure group, Americans for Tax Reform, to be holy writ.
“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” Chambliss said. “If we do it [Norquist’s] way then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that. . . . I’m willing to do the right thing and let the political consequences take care of themselves.”
Welcome back to consciousness, Senator. The year is 2012, your party just got whupped in an election, we’re facing a “fiscal cliff” and your party’s view — that we should starve the federal government of needed revenue — will only hurt your constituents, not help them.
Also showing signs of life are Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who said Sunday that he would violate the pledge “for the good of the country,” and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who drew an analogy: “If I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a declaration of war against Japan. I’m not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed, and the economic situation is different.” On Monday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he is “not obligated” to the pledge.
In truth, the anti-tax pledge never made a bit of sense. The signer gives his or her oathto “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses” and to “oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”
Translation: No new tax revenue. Ever.
Tax rates are allowed to go down but not up. So Norquist wants the George W. Bush tax cuts — originally a temporary measure — to be considered permanent. He is struggling to persuade Republicans not to take an obvious route: Allow the cuts to expire on Jan. 1, then quickly reinstate them for middle-class taxpayers but not for the wealthy. That way, pledge-takers could claim never to have voted to raise taxes, just to lower them.
Norquist also opposes the option mentioned by Graham, which is to leave rates unchanged but raise new revenue by capping deductions for “upper-income Americans.” According to the pledge, Norquist decrees, tax rates would then have to be cut so that the net effect is no new revenue.
No one is caving,” Norquist confidently told the Wall Street Journal last week, as spidery cracks appeared in the ceiling of his bunker.
The truth is that Grover Norquist is neither a sorcerer nor an ogre. He is a genial man who has dangerously loopy ideas about the proper size and scope of government. He has an absolute right to free speech. And under current law — which, to be sure, should be changed — the corporations and tycoons who fund Americans for Tax Reform have a right to remain in the shadows, anonymously using their enormous financial resources to influence tax policy for selfish benefit.
Republicans who signed the pledge — and who now find themselves in a box — have only themselves to blame. To boost their own political fortunes, they lied to the voters. They pretended it was possible to provide the services that Americans need and want without collecting sufficient revenue. They sold the bogus promise of not just a free lunch, but a free breakfast and supper, too.
This is a big, complicated country that faces big, complicated challenges. There are no simple, one-sentence solutions. It is ridiculous to think we could ever tame the national debt through budget cuts alone, without a penny of new revenue. It is crazy to believe in some Arcadian fantasy of a federal government whose reach and responsibilities are no greater than they were in horse-and-buggy days.
President Obama has been trying to wake Republicans from this silly, self-defeating dream for four long years. Now, perhaps, a twitching of eyelids.

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