Grover Still Matters

By James Kwak

Last week I wrote a post arguing that Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge is alive and well and still a binding constraint on Republican lawmakers. The media continue to push the story of Republicans renouncing the pledge, however, and who knows, I could turn out to be wrong. Maybe some Republicans will vote to reduce deductions without a compensating reduction in marginal rates.

Even in that world, however, the pledge will still have a major impact. All this focus on the pledge makes it seem as if the few apostates—Peter King, Lindsey Graham, etc.—are making some enormous, admirable stand on principle. In fact, all they are saying is that they might be willing to close a few loopholes and keep tax rates where George W. Bush left them; they are still adamantly opposed to increases in tax rates (even though those increases, set to take effect on January 1, are the result of Bush’s choosing to use reconciliation to pass his tax cuts).

The specter of the pledge has allowed them to dress up a tiny concession—conservatives should want to get rid of distortions anyway, since they distort economic choices—as a major move to the center. In return for breaking the pledge, they can demand that Democrats agree to major changes to entitlement programs.

The tactical beauty of the pledge is that it credibly committed the Republican Party to never increase taxes, thereby forcing Democrats to meet them not in the middle, but all the way over on their side. (See the tax compromise of December 2010 and the debt ceiling compromise of August 2011, for example.) Even if a few signatories break free, it will still have much the same effect.

11 thoughts on “Grover Still Matters

  1. I agree with roughly 95% of what Mr. Kwak says in above post.

    However the last two incredibly wussy-like paragraphs written by Mr. Kwak explain completely why the Democrat party has been eating crap the last 3 decades with a disgruntled look on their face. I know Mr. Kwak has a demanding job along with family responsibilities and I respect that, but I am wondering how he could have really thought through the issue (perhaps this is one of those posts he should have saved for a week later after it fermented in his mind a little more) and not once used the word FILIBUSTER???

    This late November, after being well-rested from Thanksgiving Holiday, Democrats in the House and Senate need to contemplate in their minds one important question: Are we FINALLY going to grow a pair of testicles???

    The answer lies here:

  2. Until then, I suggest Congressional Democrats watch this video of Thomas Ricks on FOX, and observe how a few liberals know “how it’s done”:

  3. The pledge might be alive and well as far as still being on paper. But Grover Norquist ideas about the GOP, are DOA. He got duped during the Reagan administration while his back was turned by the book smart ones. It takes more than street smarts to mislead the MSM’s cohorts.

  4. In addition, that pledge was a one way street. The real bargain in the 80″s was that you can’t raise taxes above the rate, at the time at which you signed the pledge. It’s not to continually lower them, and then pledge to never raise them. The gullibility of congress is starting to show it’s true colors and intentions.

  5. As much as Republicans like to bag on Obama for being a “community organizer who has never held a real job” they still insist on paying fealty to this unelected activist who has himself never actually held a real job.

    I saw him on Piers Morgan last night. He really needs to do himself a favor and stay out of the public spotlight. He does not come across well at all.

  6. “…they can demand that Democrats agree to major changes to entitlement programs.”

    Mr Kwak are you advocating that our debt burden (the real one, on a present value basis) be funded only by tax increases and not by major changes to entitlement programs?

  7. A Republican primary candidate in the future who challenges a pledge signer, who would hold true to the Norquist pledge, only has to use the following strategy or argument to over come his opponent::

    “Our current congressman would rather hold true to a pledge to Norquist then to represent the needs of his district. I believe in keeping taxes as low as possible to not affect the balance between taxes that can limit growth and the expansion of the economy through business. But when my district has X people on government social services, I need to represent all the members in my district after this election and if we need to tax businesses more, and unfortunently those who make more than 250,000 on all types of income, then we must.

    “Currently, in this economy it is businesses lack of hiring or lack of wage increases to keep workers off of government programs that is causing part of government’s financial problems, and yes we have over spent in other areas and this needs to be delt with through reductions and limits, but if you as a group who make more and gain more from traditional government services such as roads to not only move product, but to bring your workers to your business to work and to purchases services; gain the most from free trade to move goods and bring them in, etc.; do not want to pay more in taxes then you as a group must figure out a way to hire more people and pay them living wages, or government is forced to provide social servies to make up the difference. I do NOT believe in raising Taxes or providing services that people and businesses can proved better on their own, but if you are NOT providing those services then government in an ethical society must.

    “Finally, people and businesses can threaten to move to other countries to hide from taxes for a while, but improved economic conditions in those countries will follow and the same expected rights will become the norm eventually.”

  8. @A Republican primary candidate in the future who challenges a pledge signer, who would hold true to the Norquist pledge, only has to use the following strategy or argument to over come his opponent::
    Uhh yea, congratulations, you just made the 35 year missing persons list.

  9. Filibuster abuse has been very bad by Republicans, but when you’re discussing fiscal issues in late 2012 and early 2013 the facts that the President is a Democrat and the House is Republican are way, way, way more germane. Senate Republicans will not need to filibuster anything that gets through the House on these matters. In fact, one could more easily imagine that some hypothetical fiscal deal proposed yet this current Congress might be stopped by recalcitrant Senate Democrats….and bravo for them if it avoids a miserable bargain. Next Congress might be trickier, however.

  10. Grover who? Give me a break. Grovers are a dime a dozen, but only when they’re in demand, i.e., when Wall Street needs a reptilian pinhead to slither out of his beltway stinktank and divert the public’s attention. Look at the cute little puppet, not the evil puppeteer.

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