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Who’s Afraid of Grover Norquist?

November 22, 2011

How did a stubble-faced lobbyist with minimal name recognition beyond the Beltway become the godfather of the American Right, the scourge of RINOs, the maker and destroyer of political careers? Why did Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming call Grover Norquist the most powerful man in America? Who IS this guy, and why is everyone afraid of him?

When you see him interviewed on television (he appeared on 60 Minutes this past weekend), Grover Glenn Norquist doesn’t inspire terror. If anything, he might remind you of a more self-possessed George Costanza, the hapless but eternally resolute second banana from Seinfeld. Plump-faced and effusive… same feline grin, eyes narrowed as if to purr… same air of nervy self-satisfaction while savoring a borderline-illicit triumph. He even sounds like Costanza, minus the New York accent. And no writer of fiction since Dickens could have conjured up a more fitting name for a wonkish power broker. Grover Norquist… he’s just too good to be true.

Norquist has never held public office. A child of relative privilege — son of a Polaroid VP and the bearer of two degrees from Harvard — Norquist insinuated his way into the Reagan administration back in the money-mad 1980s. The Gipper entrusted him with the birthing, care and feeding of a new organization — Americans for Tax Reform. This fledgling activist group was supposed to embody Reagan’s small-government philosophy, but under Norquist’s stewardship it grew into a monster… a take-no-prisoners anti-tax lobbying group with tentacles that gradually spread across the political landscape of the republic. The stranglehold persists to this day, to the extent that any Republican candidate with a whiff of moderation about him can forget about winning a GOP primary. Norquist sees to that.

What does he believe in? Quoth the redoubtable Mr. Norquist: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” We get the picture. In more wonk-friendly terms, Norquist wants to shrink the federal government to a mere eight percent of GDP — approximately where it was during the McKinley administration, before income tax, Social Security, welfare, Medicare and other Democratic aberrations ruined everything for the fiscal tightwads in our midst.

As you might suspect, Grover Norquist is a devout libertarian, a man so fiercely opposed to government spending that he managed to cajole or coerce 279 (count ‘em!) current members of the House and Senate (that is, nearly all the sitting Republicans) into signing his notorious “pledge.” What sort of pledge? Simply this: I will never agree to raise taxes at any time, for any reason whatsoever.

Every one of the current GOP presidential candidates has signed the pledge — with the notable exception of Jon Huntsman. (And we wonder why poor Huntsman, the appealingly “normal” Marilyn Munster of this grotesque crew, ranks dead last with Republican voters.) Every Republican on the farcical debt-reduction “super committee” was a confirmed Norquista. No surprise there, given their flat refusal to raise taxes on the rich or close loopholes during an earthshaking deficit crisis. After all, what’s the future of the country compared to an oath administered by a powerful lobbyist? For these stooges, the question was a no-brainer.

It’s as if half our lawmakers are walking around, zombielike, with a secret red “N” tattooed somewhere on their persons and an electronic chip implanted in their brains. Or maybe they’ve been replicated by pods from outer space, their renovated souls menacing, alien and strangely numb. This isn’t Eisenhower’s GOP. It’s not even Reagan’s GOP. The party of Lincoln now belongs to Norquist.

Of course, Norquist himself would pooh-pooh the notion that he’s in charge. He’s merely the facilitator, he’d insist. In his 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, Norquist denied wielding personal power over the representatives who signed the pledge. No, “the tax issue is a powerful issue,” he countered, dismissing his reputation as a power-mad dictator. In the Gospel According to Grover, the representatives are responsible solely to the constituents who elected them. If they vote to raise taxes, they’re breaking their oath to the voters. And if they break that oath, Norquist simply uses his group’s vast financial resources to ensure that they never return to office.

During his interview with Norquist, Steve Kroft distilled this system into two pithy sentences: “If they sign the pledge and break it, they’re toast. And if they don’t sign the pledge, they’re toast.” Replied Norquist: “Ah, but if they sign it and keep it, they win the primary, they win the general [election], and they get to govern. And I make all this possible.” (Contented grin.)

Right now, at least 37 Republican lawmakers are expressing “buyer’s remorse” over their pledge. After all, some of them signed it back in the 1990s, an era of optimism and prosperity that, in retrospect, looks more and more like a lost Golden Age. In fact, a recent Gallup poll revealed that only 26 percent of Republican voters are in favor of freezing taxes under all circumstances. But try telling it to Grover.  

For Norquist, Republican consistency on the tax issue is the same as establishing and maintaining a commercial brand. He compared GOP politicians who raise taxes to rats’ heads found in Coke bottles. One of those self-confessed “rats’ heads,” the aforementioned Senator Simpson, describes the Norquist philosophy as “no taxes under any circumstances even if your country goes to hell.” A Republican and a proud pledge holdout, Simpson fears no retribution. (O Norquist, where is thy sting?) More of his fellow Republicans should follow the old man’s example. Instead, the remorseful ones have been begging Norquist to release them from their pledge.

How piteous… how undignified… how disgraceful when you think about it… and how totally characteristic of American politics in our broken-down era. The fringe has succeeded in terrorizing the mainstream. Members of Congress are cowering before the shadow of a freak-show ringmaster, a mere lobbyist. Yes, Norquist has the financial support to drive them out of office by running well-funded tax purists against them. But what’s a single lobbyist against thirty-seven elected representatives who want to reverse course on taxes during a crisis?

If they had any backbone among them, those thirty-seven sensitive souls would unite. They’d persuade more of their colleagues to join them. Then they’d confront Norquist en masse, make him sweatand heave the S.O.B. out of Washington.

But chances are they won’t, and then Norquist will enjoy the last laugh. He’ll smile that feline smile and cackle contentedly to himself as he crosses their names off the list of the living. He’ll start to look a little less like George Costanza and a little more like Seinfeld’s diabolically demented neighbor down the hall. Yes, Newman will be running the United States government.

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118 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob Anderson permalink
    November 22, 2011 9:07 pm

    My god, Rick, what a great column! You have of course hit the nail on the head, though you haven’t mentioned who Norquist works for, who her serves. But that’s ok. This is still great stuff.

    Personally, if I were running a revolution, I would order Norquist’s head on a pike. I would likewise order that it be put up, way up, onto a pole on Pennsylvania Avenue as a warning to others. But sadly I’m not running a revolution, so I can’t achieve such things.

    At least not yet.

    Again, congratulations on writing such a perceptive column.

    • November 22, 2011 11:43 pm

      Thanks for the high praise, Rob. (I really sweated over this one.)

      I remember reading somewhere about the various big-money interests that support Norquist… I’ll have to delve a little further into the matter.

      As a moderate, I probably wouldn’t put his head on a pike; I might just stick him into one of those carnival dunk tanks and let the people plunge him into the drink… over and over again, for several weeks. Then I might exile him to Zimbabwe.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 23, 2011 11:22 am

        Robs thoughts were on Norquist are attractive to me I admit, (but then I’d literally pay and I’m not kidding or exaggerating to see Larry Summers tarred and feathered and put in a small sail boat to find another country to ruin, the man cost the US trillions, Harvard billions while making himself millions, and when his mess was apparent he stilll was impatiently waiting to be made Fed Chairman, talk about a man with a sense of self entitlement on a grand scale,(well I know I don’t sound very moderate this a.m.)) but we are a civilized people so I will support Rick here. Only I’d choose Somalia so he can experience freedom from government oppression first hand

      • November 23, 2011 12:53 pm

        Good one, Ian. Somalia would be the ideal destination for all these “government is the enemy” folks.

      • B.H Fair permalink
        January 19, 2012 10:57 am

        Even though this article was imformative I have read almost every article on Grover Norquist and the ATR and feel that this one started out great and got a little too bias for me. Say what you want about him but the ATR is a pledge to the people, Grover is just the one who has supported it and help start it. If you are a Republican or any member in Congress you are pledging to the people, not Grover. Even though it seems to be a common misconception.Like I stated earlier this is a great article, but dont point all fingers at Grover.

  2. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    November 22, 2011 10:29 pm

    Nice rob. You have shown your true colors.

    Generally, liberals are much more restrained in their hate.

  3. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    November 22, 2011 10:30 pm

    Rick,

    I had expected better from you.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      November 22, 2011 10:41 pm

      I don’t know what a DBA is, but I know what it means. Callow, smug, self-satisfied persons who do not know suffering under our system and do not care.

      In other words, fodder for the revolution if it comes.

      I will wear your contempt, sir, like a badge of honor. And for the record, I’m not a liberal. I am a progressive left-libertarian besieged by anger about what I see in our country.

      As to Rick, I’m not surprised that you would condemn him. The man I’ve known these past 16 years has grown as a human being in ways you can’t, or won’t. That’s all to his credit. And it is all to your discredit that you would find so mild an essay about what is so screaminly obvious.

      I would recommend a new set of glasses.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 23, 2011 11:46 am

        Apparently DBA means Database Administrator. If so, how comical, how pompous!

        New Glasses? Geez you ARE becoming conciliatory, I believe you recommended a good stiff beating for me!

    • November 22, 2011 11:46 pm

      But Rich, I’m a moderate and you’re a conservative. Of course we’re not always going to agree. You can’t really expect a moderate to embrace a man who bullies his fellow Republicans into moving further to the right.

    • Kent permalink
      November 23, 2011 12:37 am

      Rich, I am Centrist Ideology and lean Center-Right. Not Moderate, nor libertarian, but hold each of them higher than the Dems./Rep. Both Dems/Rep. are extremist on the political scale. They seem to have fun tearing the country apart when they get their turn. The country isn’t in “childhood” anymore…it is grown up and we need to find solutions.

      I like the libertarian Norquist disliking taxes, but seriously…the politicians should of had more loyalty and self-respect to the people of this country than to sign up a permanent pledge. Signing this pledge makes them not 100% perfect…It makes them 100% slave.

      The oath they took in office was to use good personal judgement. To sign up to a lobbyist over the American people knowledge is betrayal. Any promise is certain to failure at some point. To say that taxes will never be increased into infinity is insanity.

      The only way to solve this now is term limits for all politicians in order to keep Norquist on his feet. This will make the “rich” secret donors spend a lot of money on unknown politicians all the time when an election comes up in order to win.

      This means our country is now using money to buy off our supposed to be Government Representatives. It is now a Plutocracy!

      • November 23, 2011 1:04 pm

        Kent: The triumph of Grover Norquist is Exhibit A for the unsavory influence of lobbyists in our government. I think it’s almost treasonous for elected representatives to sign a binding pledge to a lobbyist… but of course he had them all by the short hairs. With his financial backing, he has the power to run Norquist-friendly candidates against those who don’t comply. The irony is that only 26% of Republican voters agree with Norquist that taxes should never be raised. And only 20% of the total electorate agrees with him. So it’s pretty arrogant and presumptuous (not to mention evil) to make representatives sign a pledge that contradicts the will of the electorate.

  4. November 22, 2011 11:44 pm

    Why is it that we presume that everyone to the right of the president is taking orders from someone else ?

    Norquist’s pledge is no more binding on republican members of the house an senate than those of any other president – I see we are out of Iraq, and Afghanistan, we are no longer engaged in torture, and this is the most transparent administration ever – ya know like those pledges.

    The power of Norquist’s pledge is that an increasingly large number of citizens – particularly ones who vote are taking it seriously.

    The GOP just offered the most watered down tepid limp version of a balanced budget amendment possible – a version that was as likely to result in tax increases rather than spending cuts – and the very democrats who voted for something with much more teeth last time around, voted this one down.

    I was unaware that Norquist considered himself a libertarian – he is not a particularly significant feature in any of the libertarian environs I frequent – but based on your assertion I checked him out further – and he does seem to hew to libertarian values on more issues than just smaller government and taxes.

    As to an 8% of GDP federal government – this country operated with less for most of its history. Federal spending during the Civil war did not top 8%. We grew from an inconsequential british colony to one of the three most powerful nations in the world with federal spending below 8% of GDP. A period during which this country grew by almost every measuable standard at twice the rate it has at any time since the new deal.

    But fine – you can not live with 8% what about 16%, that is twice Norquists number, ALL government spending – not just federal spending was below 16% except briefly during WWI for the entire history of this country prior to the Great Depression. Federal government spending at 15% of GDP was an acceptable number during the progressive heyday of the 1950’s.

    During tough times you can find a majority of people who would be happy to raise taxes on somebody else, regardless, we do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.

    And I am with Norquist, much of the tea party, …. on this. If we can do nothing else – starve the beast. If it requires a US default on our debt – as horrible as that might be, better now that the worse default that is inevitable later if we do not bring spending under control.

    It is specifically because so few posters on this blog grasp – as the overwhelming majority of us do, that the federal government spends atleast twice what it ought to for the value it provides, that this blog is not moderate – atleast not unless moderate means in thrall to the left.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      November 23, 2011 12:18 am

      Oh god will you PLEASE shut up! You remind me of my cousin Rick, an “executive manager of wealth” at a major bank. Neither he nor you have the ability to see what is right in front of you. Sadly, that will not prevent it from knocking you on the ass.

    • Kent permalink
      November 23, 2011 1:03 am

      Dhii,

      Norquist is a Libertarian Extremist. He has founded a non-profit group called “American Tax Reform” and is unrelenting. He has found out how to work the system in one of the main political parties. That is something good for Libertarians. Unfortunately, he now holds the “balls” to almost all politicians on the Republican side…including any that decide to become a politician in the future. This is scary stuff!

      It is good to cut back on extra spending when you can’t afford to pay the main bills, but it also makes since to go out and get some more revenue during tough times. This is common sense.

      What Norquist is doing is noble for tax reform, but coercion and blackmail positions of politicians? If it isn’t natural for all Republicans to choose to keep taxes low…why subject them to something they are not? Because of coercion and blackmail to keep their cozy careers.

      Thus, time limits should be necessary. I actually think that this is a good thing. We need to keep Government fresh with people from Main Street and not people who know how to manipulate the system over the new people coming into Congress.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 23, 2011 10:07 am

        Kent, your comment reeks of moderate common sense. I agree with almost all of it….I don’t understand the big deal over asking the candidates of a party that is generally elected to keep taxes low (as you say) to promise not to raise taxes.

        Democrats are similarly beholden to Richard Trumka, the NAACP, the Sierra Club stc…the only difference is that, in this horrible economy and with a president who has chosen to make tax increases the big issue (as opposed to balanced budgets, spending cuts, tax reform etc) Norquist’s political pressuring has gotten more attention.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 23, 2011 10:15 am

        I understand that you are not condoning Norquist’s tactics, by the way, just making the observation that coercion is a nasty way to get things done. I agree, but I don’t think that handwringing over one coercive political thug is going to get us anywhere. Making sure that politicians are not secure in their cozy- and extremely lucrative – careers requires a great deal of organization and democratic activism. Norquist has formed his group, moderates should form theirs. As I’ve said before, I don’t know if that is possible, or if organizing moderates is like herding cats, but I do know that there has to be a strategy that ultimately impacts elections.

      • Kent permalink
        November 23, 2011 10:36 am

        Priscilla, You said exactly what I am thinking. We should now have a Centered Party that people can run to get away from both Repub. and Dems and their cohorts “Tea and half of the Occupy”.

        The only thing left to make is a middle Party.

        Norquist isn’t a “Libertarian” per se….He’s a “Libertarian Republican” or in some a “Liberty Republican”.

      • Kent permalink
        November 23, 2011 10:38 am

        All it takes is a platform, flag, motto, and some human energy to get noticed. Probably start in showing up in “Occupy” places. Some will meet the “quotas” to become in the Party.

        Some need to stay out as some are spies for the opposing parties. Then reorganize again to make a greater amount of meetings and appointments.

  5. Priscilla permalink
    November 23, 2011 12:10 am

    Eh, I don’t know…this whole Norquist thing is way overplayed, in my opinion. It’s all political – GOP candidates play to their base, Dems play to theirs. Bill Clinton has clearly stated, as recently as last month, that raising taxes in a weak economy is a very bad idea and that he would not do it. Huntsman’s plan eliminates all deductions and credits in favor of three drastically lower rates of 8%, 14% and 23%…. lower than the Bush rates, yet you seem to think that he is in favor of hiking taxes ( he is also the only GOP candidate who has pledged to repeal Dodd-Frank). Huntsman is unpopular with Republicans basically because he is critical of the ultra-conservative base in a way that Romney is not, despite the fact that they are near identical in policy. But you’ve got to win the base in order to win the nomination.

    The “super-committee,” which was a sham to begin with, failed because the Democrats refused to negotiate on the tax INCREASES that the Republicans proposed. Doesn’t matter if you thik that they were meaningfull or not – tax increases were on the table, and they were ignored. I think it was quite a savvy political move by Obama, but that’s another story.

    Norquist is not as powerful as you portray him. Al Sharpton, a far more undignified and disgraceful power broker, holds at least equal sway in the Democrat party.

    This whole tax increase, class warfare thing in my opinion, is testimony to Obama’s successful populist demagoguery.

    It will be an interesting election.

  6. November 23, 2011 12:13 am

    Why is it that you presume there must be some powerful interest behind everyone on the right, but that argument never arises with respect to the left – yet a far larger percentage of large political contributions go to democrats than republicans.

    http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php

    • Kent permalink
      November 23, 2011 1:11 am

      Dhlii,

      Yes, powerful forces on the left and right, indeed!

      • November 23, 2011 10:18 am

        The argument here is always that money=power. If that is the test, then the democrats are the party of corporate plutocracy.

      • Kent permalink
        November 23, 2011 10:42 am

        Dhlii, I would argue that both parties votes are bought and sold on the Plutocracy market. George Soros on one and the other side.

        We vote them in based on how the money affects us via media stories. Then once they are in lobbyists and money from “special donors” influence them to make choices that many people in America might not enjoy.

        Money does equal Power. But then again owning all the money is power over money.

  7. November 23, 2011 12:20 am

    Dave, Dave… You’ll be a lot less frustrated with me (and this blog) if you just realize that libertarians have a different view of economics than moderates do. Of course I’m to the left of you — I’m a MODERATE. That doesn’t make me a leftist; I don’t believe in confiscating private property (yet).

    I can appreciate your concern that federal spending is just “feeding the beast” — and that we’ve established no limit to how large that beast can grow. But you also have to understand that taxes are lower now than at any time during our lives, and that wealthy Americans weren’t exactly suffering when they had to part with more of their income in the good old days of the ’50s-’80s. (And remember, too, that they didn’t enjoy the same extreme income advantage over the middle class that they enjoy now.)

    Also, by what right do fiscal conservatives insist that the Bush-era tax cuts shouldn’t expire on schedule? They were meant to expire for a reason. There’s really no excuse, especially during a severe budget crisis, for anyone to insist on keeping taxes as low as they are now. We have to pay off the debt — and sorry, we can’t do it by forcing senior citizens to eat cat food. There’s a lot of budgetary fat that can be trimmed, but there’s also a lot of room for the government to collect more revenue — not only from rich people who are paying record-low taxes right now, but from the 47% (or whatever the exact figure is) who pay no income tax at all. (I think every wage earner should be contributing something to the system, even if we tax the working poor at just 1%.)

    As for the giant corporations that pay no income tax… we have to stop subsidizing these monsters. It’s a disgrace that a humble secretary has to pay more tax than GE. And the worst of it is that they’re sitting on piles of cash and STILL not hiring anyone. We could use the tax revenue from these behemoths to start a federal job program that will create jobs instantly, put money into the hands of consumers, and feed the economy. (Call it trickle-up economics… the next big thing!)

    • Kent permalink
      November 23, 2011 1:18 am

      Rick,

      From what I gather we all agree that the country is a mess. The question is now…Who is going to solve it?

      I feel as though King Arthur hasn’t arrived as of yet! People and economies are in panic mode. Our credit rating is set to drop soon again.

      When do we get this United Centrist Party started to include Centrists, Moderates, Independents, and some Libertarians who understand Government has some purpose?

      “Occupy” is ripe for a takeover. To go in with a flag and flyers and an agenda will reorganize and sweep into the real problem. Government! Everyone in the country will identify that that is where the problem is located.

    • November 23, 2011 11:08 am

      Economics is difficult – we can not conduct controlled experiments to determine the rules. But we can study human behavior and history and discern them. We may not have the rules of economics down to the level of certainty of say physics, but we actually do have them pretty much to the point to refute much of the left. Regardless, economics is what it is – not what we wish it to be. This president in particular, has been confronted starkly with the fact that you can not dictate the rules of the game from washington, and expect that things will work that way.
      There were differences, but both Reagan and Obama were elected in the midst of very difficult economic times. Both told us to look forward, not back – and psychology is very important in economics, but as the different results demonstrate there is more to it that just psychology.

      Yes, I am libertarian, and you are to the left of me. But you are also to the left of most of this country. You can use whatever definition you wish, but by mine that is not moderate.

      The strongest and longest economic stretch since the depression occurred during that period of time when taxes were the lowest.

      Further taxes are still very high compared with most of this nations past, and they are high in comparison with what most economists consider optimal – somewhere between 15 and 23% of GDP for the entire government.

      I have beat the crap out of the income inequality argument repeatedly in the past, if you have something new to offer, I would be happy to respond. Regardless, why do you care how well others do if you do well yourself ? All you have to do is remember to know we are all (even the poor) much better off today than in the 70’s.

      Many of us insist the Bush era’ tax cuts should not expire because:

      It is an incredibly bad idea economically.

      They were actually intended to be permanent when created, the expiration was a political compromise. I will be happy to expire the Bush tax cuts, when we are ready to let anything else that government has done expire. The patriot act keeps getting renewed. Most of the programs in the federal government today were started as temporary measures. Entire departments were often temporary.

      If the purpose of tax cuts is to “starve the beast”, because you beleive government is too big, too wasteful, too inefficient, too …… then giving it more money is a bad not a good thing.

      Because there is good reason to beleive that increasing taxes on the “rich” is really t so does tantamount to increasing them on the rest of us. “Income inequality” tends to go do, but so does overall prosperity. The portion of the cost of government paid by the rest of us increases as taxes on the rich increase. And finally, most of the time government revenue does not increase, but government spending does.

      I do not think anyone is asking social security recipients to eat cat food.
      The current fight is over whether to switch to a more realistic cost of living measure.
      Regardless, if you honestly beleive/beleived that social security was a retirement program, and trusted the politicians who imposed it, then you should suffer the consequences as it becomes insolvent. I am opposed to bailing out Fannie and Freddie, Wall Street, GM, and social security and medicare. It is idiocy to prop up failure. Some Projections for the unfunded liabilities for these programs are as high as 100T, more conservative ones are 50T. Regardless, the money just does not exist to bail them out.

      Implicit in your tax the rich proposal is the presumption that increased taxes will bring more revenue – there is significant economic data to doubt that. Lets split the baby and say you get half the declines in the rate of growth, and half the gains in revenue. You will still be in worse shape than before. For tax increases to work, you must get nearly 100% of the projected revenue increases – which just will not happen, and no decline in the rate of growth – which also will not happen.

      You can confiscate all the wealth of the riches americans and at best pay off the deficit for this year. The deficit benefits of tax increases are both imaginary and symbolic, but the harms are real.

      The fundamental difference is that I accept that government – the federal government in particular, has grown too large and you do not. Most Americans – real moderates, would accept freezing it as it is for several years until we get past this. No one in Washington not even republicans is talking anything so draconian. The scheduled sequestration resulting from the super committee failure will “cut” defence spending the most – 10% over ten years. Yet the 2022 defence budget will still be larger than today – that is what Washington means by “cut”. That is not even a freeze. You are essentially arguing to feed a budget that will increase significantly faster than economic growth.
      There is not actually a credible argument that government needs to grow as fast as the economy does. There certainly is not one that it should grow faster.

      I am opposed to collecting more revenue – PERIOD. 18.2% of GDP is FAR too much. I do not care who you tax to get it.

      I am going to skip your corporate tax diatribe, except to note that as with taxes on investment, ultimately all taxes are paid primarily by the middle class. It does not matter how you impose the tax, pretending that taxing others is not taxing you is wilful blindness.
      Lets raise corporate taxes to 50% – no 90%. What do you think will happen ? Lets pretend that somehow businesses manage to survive and thrive – and ultimately they will. All that means is that prices must rise to reflect the additional cost imposed by taxes.
      All corporate taxation is. is double taxing ourselves. Originally Cain was for the so called “fair tax” a national sales tax to replace all other taxes. That was actually more sane than his 9-9-9 plan. Myriads of different taxes (and deductions and subsidies) is economic stupidity. It severely distorts the market – it distorts our effort to use our income to acquire what we want. Any time an individual or business makes a decisions based on the tax consequences, they are by definition doing something economically stupid.
      In a prefect tax system, you want a single means of collecting revenue. You want to avoid all possible instances of double taxation. Corporate taxes are nothing more than double taxation.

      If it makes you feel better eliminate all personal income taxes and fund the country entirely through corporate taxes – there is nothing wrong with that. But do not operate under the delusion that taxes on corporations are not taxes on you.

  8. November 23, 2011 12:26 am

    I am’ ready to take a versions of Norquist’s pledge.

    I will vote against any candidate of any party at any level federal, state or local that votes to raise taxes – possibly in perpetuity.

    No one has paid me. I am not somehow enthralled by the monehy of powerful political interests.

    You paint a dark and sinister picture of mister Norquist. While I was unaware of his libertarian leanings in other areas, I think pretty much everyone with any political knowledge has known for decades that Norquist is Mr. No on taxes. It is not a secret, it is not sinister. If he has more power today than before – it is because he is winning hearts and minds. If you don’t agree – fight back with arguments.

    I heard alot of criticism of Norquist in this post, but I actually heard little or no counter argument.

    Norquist seems to be your enemy – you are opposed to his cause, but you have made no case for why we need more taxes – it is not readily apparent. There is no compelling reason government is entitled to ever more. Even the social safety net you are worried about was promised to us for far less money. Roosevelt actually promised individual contributions would never exceed 2% of wages. Medicare was going to save money. As was virtually every other program.

    With the growth we had in the 19th century just for the past two decades, the median US income would be twice what it is now. Federal government at 8% of GDP sounds pretty attractive to me. I suspect that it would sound attractive to a bottom quintile with average wages twice what they are today to.

    • Kent permalink
      November 23, 2011 1:32 am

      Dhlii,

      We can go back to the 8% GDP. That would be noble for Government to leave us alone. Unfortunately, much has changed.

      The elderly don’t live with Ma and Pa anymore. They have to live alone and can’t provide for themselves. Here enters Social Security, Medicare, etc.

      The industrial revolution and two World Wars forced men and women of adult age out of the house and left “gramps: alone to fend for himself.

      Now if you want to go back to 8% and no Government programs that is fine. I would like that also, but reality says that I don’t want to be euthanized because no one will take care of me when I am old and gray. We lose our relatives too early, our wisdom and history as well.

      Note: In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there were many discussions about how to deal with social issues. One being sterilization and the other euthanasia. The beginning industrial age workers could not take care of relatives while working at a factory/job out of the house. Now it is worse if without some Government programs as we are now a mobile society.

      • November 23, 2011 10:54 pm

        Yes, much has changed. But honestly it either has little to do with the size of government, or if it does, it to is reversible.

        My in-laws spent the six years before they died living with me. We chose to do that because we are a family. My elderly father is still living at home, and can well afford to do so, but i stop by regularly.

        Are you arguing that it is a good thing that modern era government incentives have not only destroyed poor nuclear families, but most extended families. It is probably desirable given many improvements – including longer lifespans, that seniors remain autonomous longer – as long as they wish. But parents and children are supposed to come together at the beginning and end of their lives.

        I do not want euthanased, and I have already made it clear to my children that when they become adults they are leaving home, and when I become elderly, I am coming to their home.

        The Civil War, Nearly all the industrial revolution, and WWI were all accomplished with a federal government below 8% of GDP.

        Our norms have been altered in myriads of mostly negative ways by the bizare incentives that government has imposed on us – many in the form of the social safety net. These alterations are neither necescarily good, nor permanent.

        Reduce government and we will change again. Maybe revert, maybe something different, almost certainly something better.

        The fundimental difference between libertarians and most everyone else, is that we trust the overwhelming majority of people to take care of themselves – and to do so far better than government ever can. We trust and know that even the poor will do so.

        The premise of much of the left is that people – particularly poor, and minorities are incapable of doing for themselves. There is a reason the left is associated with elitism – because its core values are that they are better than everyone else. The poor are inferior and to be taken care of by their betters.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        November 23, 2011 11:24 pm

        This is actually in response to dhlii (no reply link):

        You’re a genuine piece of work, you know that? If your in-laws live with you, then I can only assume that’s because you can afford it, and I’m willing to bet a substantial amount of money that part of the reason you can is because of their social security checks and medicare. And that’s the problem with your “back to the 19th century” nonsense.

        Many people – and in our ever-shrinking economy, soon most people – cannot afford to take their parents into their homes. And then there are those, like me, who will flatly refuse to do so because of a lifetime of abuse: physical as a child, emotional and verbal as an adult. Public pension plans like Social Security mitigate this reality. People like you want to shove your ideals down other people’s throats while claiming that government shouldn’t interfere in their lives in proactive, positive ways.

        But then that’s hardly surprising from someone who baldly states that after kicking his children to the curb at 18 he will expect them to take care of him when he is in his dotage. Our society is rife with this kind of hypocrisy, and I’m frankly sick to death of it. What infuriates me is that I *know* in my gut that it is for the above reasons that the California elder abuse law was adopted by the federal government, so that anyone who “fails” to take care of their elderly parents can be prosecuted and imprisoned. Some already have been in California, including one man dragged from Massachusetts in chains after not having seen or spoken to his parents for over thirty years. The moral depravity of all this should be self-evident. That’s it’s not speaks volumes about our country in this era.

      • Kent permalink
        November 24, 2011 2:12 am

        Dhlii, I believe that you believe that you can tell your kids they are out at 18 years old. My parents told me this at 16. I moved into my grandmothers house at 16 because of this. Went to college and got out from others telling me what to do. I sympathize for individual responsibility.

        Now my parents are in their 60’s and not doing the best. To think that I am going to put my self under more pressure while I am trying to raise my kids and create my own future. No Thanks! They had their chance and I have mine. It’s called the “working years”….adulthood.

        The Industrial Age brought about a change that people left the family and regions of the country to find employment (yeah, selfish isn’t it?).

        Government came in to fill in as best as possible to help. Now we have a balance between Government and Family trying to keep the elderly living a stable life. It is very costly and frankly Government isn’t smart with money and isn’t making our lives any better economically either. But they tried. Now, we the people have to fix the Government in order to fix the Social Security that is looming on current retirees and future retirees.

        You might be the exception, but most don’t have the money as most are not “loaded” with money. As I have said before, it is a “discipline” to have and keep money. I tell this all the time, but to acquire it and keep it isn’t easy.

        You speak individual responsibility. Then if this is the case, why are you taking care of your elders? Why should your kids take care of you? Do you honestly think that your kids would bow to your wishes whenever you choose? Are you a dictator? Or is religion or fear making them want take care of you when they probably have so much to take care of as middle-age adults?

      • Kent permalink
        November 24, 2011 2:55 pm

        Dhlii, I will be euthanized when I get old with alzheimers. I won’t know the difference on a machine or standing around looking confused.

        Put me to sleep, then cremate. I will come back another sentient being later. Let the younger generations live their life.

        Think about this:

        “I was in the universe before I was born, I was in the Universe after I was born. Each state is temporary in time.” So If I go back to the original state it is only temporary.

        The universe is only 13.4 Billion years old.

        The Universe is calculated to last 100 Trillion years. My atoms will reappear again in some sentient form and that forms self-awareness of one’s universe they are in.

  9. Priscilla permalink
    November 23, 2011 12:33 am

    Actually, the reason that the Bush rates were set to expire is that they had to have sunset provisions, or else they would have fallen under the Byrd Rule. The Health Care Law dealt with similar procedural obstacles. Had nothing to do with economics or good public policy.

  10. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 23, 2011 11:12 am

    I’ve made a pledge to give up being an internet philosopher king and get up from behind the computer when not working. Haven’t read the news ar any commentary in a week other than the stuff they put on my e-mail page. Already the list of changes in my life and improvements is impressive.

    Ah, but Norquist, you hit a soft spot Rick.

    He deliberately destroyed the last moderate decent intelligent president we had, a man who’s sensible budget policies are considered by many to have set the stage for the Clinton Prosperity. He did it to terrify Republicans and it worked beautifully. Since that “victory,” Republican have been absolutely wacked on tax policy, I think they are probably destroying themselves along with the country, but we will see.

    When you cut taxes you get little if any Supply side economic benefit (As my favorite conservative renegade economist growled, “Taxes are ridiculously low and Where is the F******* growth?”

    Then, when you try to put the rates back it does actual harm, whos e size is a matter of contentious debate. Tax cutting is idiocy, especially now. Free Candy for the everyone, larger servings the better off you are! Bleh.

    Today we are going to finish our Christmas shopping! So, I won’t be around to get into a perpetual argument with our conservatives. But I can imagine…..

    • Priscilla permalink
      November 23, 2011 12:47 pm

      Ian:”Tax cutting is idiocy, especially now.”

      That is very true. But raising taxes now is insane. The Bush rates have been part of the tax code since 2001-2003. To refer to leaving a decade old tax code in place as “cutting taxes” is just liberal rhetoric.

    • November 23, 2011 11:13 pm

      Taxes are not nearly as low as they were during the 19th century.
      And the US has grown over most of the past three decades at a rate 1%/year faster than europe – and that is why the EU is in deep do do right now, and we are atleast a decade away from their problems. We have time to avoid the disaster that is unavoidable for them. However great our pain will be in resolving our difficulties it will pale in comparison to Europe.

      If Clinton had been able to keep his zipper shut he would have been a great president.
      If Obama had governed like Clinton we would be strongly into recovery now.

      But Clinton made economic mistakes – including on taxes.
      The 1993 Clinton taxes increases weakened a post recession recover – growth averaged 3.2% – respectable, but abnormally low post recession.
      After Clinton CUT taxes growth increased to 4.2% from 1997-2000.

      Bush only looks good economically in comparision to Pres. Obama, But the Bush cuts were intended as recession stimulus. For political reasons the were skewed to favor the middle class – I appreciate that personally, but from an economic perspective that diminished their stimulative effect. Regardless, the recession was very weak. I think moat everyone would be happy to give the rich a huge tax cut, in return for economic conditions equivalent to most any in the past 30 years.

      If Pres. Obama had taken Clinton’s “its the economy stupid” to heart, and done what was necessary to foster recovery rather than pursue the pent up unrealised liberal agenda of the past 30 years, there would be a strong economy now, and democrats would control the government for the next 40 years.

      I would also point out that Clinton worked for 6 years with a Republican house and senate, and reduced deficits, and government spending – including specifically on social welfare programs. Though there was much partisan acrimony, the country did well.

  11. November 23, 2011 10:54 pm

    One of the other facets of the income inequality debate that has surfaced is the differences between each of the quintiles – and what has changed over the past several decades.

    As an example, bottom quintile families are more likely than ever to have less than a single wage earner – the average is 1 wage earner for each two families. This means something different than you are likely to perceive. It means that working class and middle class families are leaving home earlier. Basically where we had multiple generations living together longer before – we do not now. This is a choice, not something that is happening by force. Essentially younger people feel they have enough wealth and financial stability to start their own household earlier. And when they do, they are recorded as a new family in the lowest quintile, and the familiy they left typically drops a quintile too. This sounds bad but it is not. The two families have more total wealth than what was one before. Sufficient that they choose to exist separately – but statistically they are seen as two poor families not one middle class one.

    Conversely upper quintile families have an average of more than two full time wage earners per household. Essentially a substantial portion of the increase in income for upper quintile households, is because more and more all adults in those households hold full time and often high paying jobs. A doctor and his wife used to be an upper middle class family – now two married doctors, are in an even higher quintile.

    This should factor into your thoughts about taxing the “rich”. Set tax rates too high and even wage earners such as employed professionals, can choose to earn less, work less hard – because they will keep less. At the upper margins it takes only small changes in tax rates to disincentive working harder. Higher tax rates will produce the income equality you desire, but not by improving anything for anyone.

  12. AMAC permalink
    November 24, 2011 1:14 am

    I will attempt to stay on topic with this article. Yes it is an example of the right’s lobbyist power, yes we can easily find 1 to 1 ratios between the left and the right on lobbyist organizations, but more importantly it is an example of the power of political lobbyist having a net negative effect on our political landscape. I went to some Norquist web sites and biographies. He is very entrenched in the lobbyist end of politics. He is on the board of directors of many other lobbyist organizations. If money does not equal power, how has he managed to manipulate so many politicians to sign oaths that many don’t agree with? How can he hold them accountable to his agenda minus money? Many of these lobbyist organizations remind me of the television evangilists. You can’t help but assume they believe in their profit from their beliefs more so than the actual beliefs.

    • Priscilla permalink
      November 24, 2011 1:46 am

      Keep in mind that Bush 41 was defeated largely because he broke his “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge. If we held Obama to his “pledges” (all bills posted online for 5 days before voting/signing, elimination of cap gains taxes for small businesses, hiatus on 401k withdrawals and , of course, no jobs for lobbyists) he would be toast even by his most ardent supporters’ standards. It’s interesting that the media is all of a sudden fascinated by Norquist…might it be that they want the next Republican candidate to “break his pledge”?

      • Anonymous permalink
        November 24, 2011 8:54 am

        Methinks thou doth protest too much.

      • AMAC permalink
        November 24, 2011 1:28 pm

        Priscilla,
        I think that Bush 41 making the pledge was a mistake. Promising future action without having the advantage of knowing future circumstances is always a mistake. I am not a big fan of higher taxes. I think that given the current circumstances, a temporary tax hike across the board is required. I can promise to never raise my hand in anger towards another human being, but what about if I or my family is being attacked? A dumb scenario, I know. But making these oaths is rediculous.

      • Kent permalink
        November 24, 2011 2:31 pm

        Priscilla,

        One thing I have learned is that “promises” is another way of saying “100% guarantee”.

        How is this possible when a President or anyone has to depend on others to get it done?

        The only way to “100% guarantee” is to focus as a top priority. Do it yourself. Dictators can do this. Monarchs and other forms of Government can do this, but seriously any person who has to depend on others can expect a higher chance of failure.

        That is not a risk that I would take.

        I would prefer that a politician says: “under current circumstances it is one of my top priorities and I will do my best as I work with others”.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 25, 2011 10:34 am

        AMAC and Kent, No doubt about the fact that “politicians” and “broken promises” go together like “macaroni” and “cheese” (ok,ok, I could have done better with that one, but I’m still thinking about food from Thanksgiving!)

        All the more reason that all of the outrage over Norquist seems somewhat contrived. I agree that any politician who pledges never, ever to raise any taxes ever again is making a promise that will likely be broken. On the other hand, it’s all in how these promises/pledges are reported and perceived. Why is a problem for any GOP candidate to promise not to raise taxes any more than it is for Democrat candidates to promise that they would never “borrow money from the SS “trust fund,” – which many Dems have done, repeatedly.

        I’m not arguing for tax cuts here, I’m saying that the framing of the debate on taxes needs to change from tax cutting and tax raising to budgeting and tax reform. Ginning up divisiveness and class resentment is not a productive way to get things done, unless the only thing you want to get done is your own re-election.

      • Kent permalink
        November 26, 2011 8:13 pm

        I second that Priscilla. Budget and tax reform.

  13. November 24, 2011 1:18 pm

    Everyone starting with Rick seems to miss that Norquist power comes from people.
    Bush I was defeated – not because he pissed off Grover Norquist, but because he pissed off alot of voters.

    Regardless, of Rick’s rant’s it is not Norquists money that scares politicians, it is that a huge body of voters share his views.

    • Kent permalink
      November 24, 2011 2:15 pm

      Dhlii, I seem to believe that Norquist’s power originated from himself. His “individual responsibility” that he believes in drove him to where he is today. He did the work, he did the fund raising, he did the pledges.

      Like he said, “all I did was show the people what I think they need to know”. His power is all his own and it has multiplied or in other words became “fruitful”.

      The people that side in his views give him “representation” and respect (power) because many people don’t have the time to do research on which politician is raising taxes and keeping them low.

      Norquist should be a an “individual representative” in Congress. He articulates his mission clearly. That is what is lacking in Congress and has a strong backing.

      It is the huge body of voters that share Norquist’s views that scare politicians. Rightly so, since Government is taxing the crap out of everything and not taking the blame for screwing up everything and then demanding more money to bail themselves out by going after the “rich”. If Government had not bailed out the banks we would be in worse shape, but would of survived another day. We would probably still hear Government saying they need a bailout from the “rich”.

      • November 28, 2011 8:27 pm

        Norquist has only three tools to accomplish what he wants.

        The votes of those who agree with him.
        His use of money – again given by those who agree with him.
        And finally his power to persuade.

        He has no other power.

        Beyond that neither you not I have any right to tell Norquist or anyone else what they “should” do. If he wishes to run for office – fine. But he has chosen to work differently. His efforts to influence politicians are atleast as legitimate as those of move on, or anyone person or organization that choses to act to change government to conform to their wishes.

        Beyond that i can not understand the rest of your arguments.

  14. November 24, 2011 1:18 pm

    It says something of the differences between the left and right.
    Voters on the left do not expect politicians to keep their promises – not the easy ones, not the hard ones. Voters on the right have higher expectations of those they elect.

    Essentially the right values integrity more highly than the left.

    For the right promises are something you should not make if you are not going to keep, for the left promises are whims to be sacrificed to other political objectives.

    Priscilla’s observations regarding Pres. Obama are telling. There are myriads of promises that he made that I could get behind, that truly would improve government, and most of these were not particularly hard to accomplish.

    Kudos to the few on the left who have the courage to criticise this president for failing to live up to his promises. It is irrelevant whether I agree with them or not. Atleast they have integrity. There are those on the right who similiarly suffer from amnesia when their party is in power. Norquist is not one of those.

    People should not make promises if they are fungible. Doing so is a character flaw, and character matters.

    I find it extremely interesting the left – and apparently “moderates” want politicians that are good economically and do not care about character, yet they expect business to sacrifice economics to a distorted view of integrity. Clinton is a hero, Arnal a villian.

    • AMAC permalink
      November 24, 2011 1:23 pm

      That observation is almost as idiotic as, “Libertarians value logic more than others.” I don’t think either party values integrity more than the other. I would argue that politician from either party seem to be lacking in the integrity department.

      • November 28, 2011 8:18 pm

        I was not arguing that the politicians were somehow different, but that their constituents were different. Nor am I arguing for hard and fast rules. Bush II made numerous promises that he never attempted to follow through on.

        Regardless, Rick and the rest of you are making a very strange argument.

        All Norquist is doing is expecting politicians to keep one of the promises they make, and asking voters who agree to punish them by withholding their votes if they do not. His power to do the latter is because a substantial number of voters concur. I find it hard to see any distinction between this and the myriads of means the left typically uses to express displeasure – except that voting is the most legitimate means.

        The argument against Norquist essentially is that it is evil to expect politicians to keep promises.

        I will be happy to agree that whether on the left or right, politicians should not make promises they do not intend to keep. We are also all free to hold politicians to those promises.

        Absolutely the right does not hold every conservative politician to every promise they make – but atleast in this specific case they are doing so. I have seen myriads of instances of voters and activists on the left legitimately protesting the actions of politicians on the right. But this is an not a protest against your political opponents, this is a strong expectation of those you support. When is the left willing to punish its own – not its enemies, for failing to live up to principles ?

      • November 28, 2011 9:52 pm

        Dave: You could find arguments to justify the devil himself (God is too persnickety… Satan has more of a handle on human nature… hell is warm in winter), but he’d still be the embodiment of evil. Norquist is a bully, plain and simple. Yes, the representatives are free not to sign the pledge, but then the Norquist lobby and its deep-pocketed backers will simply run a well-funded candidate against the holdout and drive him (or her) from office. I don’t see real freedom of choice here for the politicians who won’t rule out tax hikes under any circumstances; it’s more like blackmail. Sure, we have the choice not to pay the blackmailer, but then we take the dire consequences. We’re manipulated into a choice between principles and survival… a choice none of us should be forced to make. (That’s why blackmail is a crime.)

        And it’s not as if Norquist is even catering to the majority of GOP voters. In a recent Gallup poll, only 26% of registered Republicans agreed with Norquist that taxes should never be raised. (For the general electorate the figure was 20%.) So you can see that Norquist is simply using his power (which derives from his big-money supporters) to impose an agenda that only a small minority of politicians and the people actually want.

        A politican’s only pledge should be to the people who elected him, and to the country as a whole. We can’t have petty despots running our legislative branch behind the scenes.

    • Kent permalink
      November 24, 2011 1:54 pm

      Dhlii, Do you think through what you say? You contradict, generalize, and spout out expectations that what you see is what you always get. You seem to think you got everything figured out.

      Why don’t you write a book to get your thoughts all out? That way we all can figure out what it is you’re talking about.

      Your “individual responsibility” as you speak of means that each person does what each person wants to do. In other terms, each person on the left and right can disregard character, integrity, etc….

      As a Libertarian that believes in “individual responsibility”. You among all people, should be accepting that all people act on their own behalf and can think on their own no matter what political party they are included.

      Now, it may be true that there is a slant to the left that character as a whole is less important than the agenda. I would think that it could also sway the other way as well over time depending on the issues at hand.

      • November 28, 2011 7:52 pm

        Character only matters in your relationships with other people. It matters when you expect something from someone else. It particularly matters when you expect to make the rules by which other people live.

        I do not expect other people to live their lives conforming to my values. If you wish to adopt and live by the values of either the left or the right for yourself – I have no right to interfere. What I ask is that those of the left and right give me the same rights and curtsey.
        The only distinction between government action and private action, is that government has the legitimate right to initiate the use of force.
        It is this right that demands limited government. Whenever we say Government MUST do something, what we are saying is but for governments ability to force the rest of us to go along, the thing we are after would not happen.

        Kent, though my thoughts and words are my own, they follow themes shared by some of the greatest thinkers of the past several centuries.
        Maybe I am wrong, but if so, I am in excellent company. Are you claiming to see contradictions that no one else has found in the past three centuries ?

        While there is significant difference between individual responsibility and the freedom to do as you please – I will be happy – within limits to own the latter too. That limit is harm to others. If my or anyone else’s actions do not harm you then what is your right to say no ?

  15. R.H. permalink
    November 27, 2011 11:21 pm

    “Yes, Newman will be running the United States government.”

    I wonder if Grover picked up a few tips from Sir Humphrey Appleby* when it comes to getting elected officials to unconsciously hand over their power to a lobbyist or a bureaucrat, and let them run the country?

    *-Sir Humphrey was a character on the British hit comedy “Yes Minister” and “Yes Prime Minister”. Humphrey was played by the great late Nigel Hawthorne.

  16. November 28, 2011 9:37 pm

    It is not really possible to make absolute promises. At the same time, honestly I see nothing in the current circumstances to justify tax increases for anyone, or tax increase of anykind. Government at all levels already takes far too large a slice of the pie.

  17. November 28, 2011 10:43 pm

    Kent;

    I do not think you understand my perspective on individual responsibility and liberty.

    They go together. I am not truly free, if I am not responsible for myself. When I cede a portion of my responsibility to the state, I cede my freedom at the same time.

    Our relationship with the state is uniquely different from all other relationships we have.
    The state is the only actor with the right to initiate the use of force.
    It is all that distinguishes it from any other person or organisation.

    My employer can fire me, but he can not imprison me.
    No one else can take anything from me without my consent without using force.

    My moral responsibilities to my neighbour, my relatives, all others are real, but not forced.
    I care for my children, I care for my parents. I expect the same.

    The industrial age was not responsible for the destruction of the extended family. Families remained together through several generations, in urban as well as rural settings. In some instances even today they still do.

    I have no idea what “the working years are”. I have worked in one capacity or another since I was 5. My father is 84. He has slowed down, but still works. I can not imagine life without continuing to contribute as best I can. While i love the work I do. I would – and have done work I hate rather than not work at all.

    I have considered disability – I would still do whatever I was able. I would do so to meet my needs, I would do so because being independent to whatever extent I can be is better than being dependent. Because freedom is one of my needs.

    If freedom is not both a right and a human need, then why have it at all. If it is best for the state to care for us when we are older, why not always. If we are to be dependent later why not now ? Why not let the state chose our jobs, or pay, our educations, our food, our mates, …. ?

    If we are not to be trusted with our own healthcare and retirement, then why trust us with anything ?

  18. Priscilla permalink
    November 29, 2011 12:26 am

    Rick, I’m glad to see you recognize that Norquist’s influence, although considerable, has not significantly changed the views of the average voter, nor of the average GOP politician.

    I stand by my original comment in this thread, which is that Norquist is no big deal. He’s all of a sudden being portrayed as a bully and a villain, in order to blame the GOP for the failure of the “super committee,” and more broadly, to blame Republicans for the overall failure of both Obama and Congress to deal with spending, entitlement reform, crushing debt, etc. How else to explain why Norquist, who has been around and hounding candidates to take his pledge for years, is only now being written about daily in the mainstream press that heretofore ignored him, as if he has some sort of sinister power. I’d be interested in seeing an article comparing his power over the GOP with, say George Soros’s or Richard Trumka’s power and influence over the Democrats.

    Norquist strikes me as your average Washington lobbyist and power broker, who has had the good fortune to have founded an organization that focuses on the issue du jour. He’s been around since the 80’s, but no one outside of DC ever heard of him until recently. Now, if the mainstream media is to be believed, he says “jump” and guys like Mitt Romney meekly ask “how high?” I don’t think that is the case. Many Republicans (and I believe many libertarians) criticize his heavy handed tactics, but politics is a tough business, and if kowtowing to Trumka’s union thuggery is part and parcel of being a Dem politician, then, unfortunately perhaps “signing the ATR pledge” is part of getting elected in some red districts.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      November 29, 2011 12:56 am

      I’ve been following Norquist’s “career” for some time now, and he is the face and voice of those much more directly powerful than he who devoutly wish to starve government into insignificance. So you are both right and wrong; nobody on the Hill is frightened of Norquist himself, but they are very afraid of his paymasters. As well they should be, as should we all.

      • November 29, 2011 1:18 am

        The critical issue for GOP politicians today is failing to live up to the promises of fiscal restraint they have made in the past will result in political challengers from within that one way or the other will cost them their jobs.

        Whether it is Norquist or the Tea Party, it is the willingness to see a democrat even a liberal take office rather than a spendthrift republican that is changing things.

        Rick and the media has fixated on the pretty much meaningless OWS.
        While the Tea Party is not all that quietly engaged in a civil war within the republican party.

        Too many on the left and this site see no difference between any group to the right of the president. NeoConns, Social Conservatives and Fiscal conservatives are all seen as alike. Whether you understand the differences or not, the fiscal conservatives have the upper hand in a way they have never had before – not even during the Reagan administration. This has happened because of the economy, but it has also happened, because they are have thrown the guantlet at the rest of the republican party – deliver on fiscal restraint or lose elections.

        This is also critical – and again the left and this site are blind to this because an overwhelming majority of americans are sympathetic to fiscally conservative principles – even if they are queasy about other conservatives. Libertarians have no interest in either the social conservatives like Santorum, or NeoConns like Chenney, nor statists like Romney and Huntsman. We know why those are bad choices.

        Real moderates – of which libertarians represent the center-right are moving in that direction too. While the left and pseudo moderates think OWS represents something meaningful, and Norquist something evil, the rest of us – a majority encompassing both the right and center, want government we can afford.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 29, 2011 10:28 am

        Rob, who are the paymasters? Are you referring to big corporate types?

        Dave, If Santorum, Cheney, Romney, Huntsman, and, of course, Obama, are all bad choices, who are good choices? Ron Paul or Gary Johnson? Leaving aside the problems that each of these two candidates have, I think that libertarians have the problem of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

        The way I see it, you can’t ignore 100+ years of politics and wipe out institutionalized social programs and safety nets, because there are millions of people who rely on them. And we’re not going to end crony capitalism in one or two elections. Our progress, or, better put, descent, into huge, all- powerful government has accelerated under the Obama administration. I would guess that your position is that a “statist” like Romney will simply continue to take us in that same direction, albeit more slowly……that the difference is whether we go over the cliff via high speed rail or in a trolley. And that may be true….but, I think it is a mistake to believe that slowing down the process is insignificant.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        November 29, 2011 11:34 am

        This is in reply to Priscilla.

        The “paymasters” are the ones who actually run things in this country. The Koch Brothers, the Wrigley Family, the Seagrams, the Du Ponts, the Gettys, the Rockefellers, and so on. They operate behind the scenes, and only rarely appear on center stage as the Kock Brothers recently have. The last time we got a good look at a lot of them was during the Iran-Contra hearings in ’87, because they were subpoaened to testify before Congress over their role in funding the Contras in Nicuragua.

        I’ll never forget when, in ’92, my parents took the loooong trip up the interstate that runs from Florida all the way to Maine (can’t remember the number). They took hours and hours of video, and one of the things that was fascinating was the number of gigantic mansions and castles lining the eastern seaboard, mainly in New England, but also New York and Maine. I had never, up until that time, heard of these places, nor could I imagine who could possibly afford to keep them as family homes. A few of them were partially open to the public, as Hearst Castle is here in California, but the majority were private residences. You really have to see them to believe them.

        Those behemoths are the residences of the American ruling class. There is no other string of properties like that anywhere in the United States, though there are isolated estates that are quite impressive, like the Hearst Castle. The fortunes required to keep those residences is staggering, and the people who maintain them believe that this is *their* country. Along with Iran-Contra, they’ve had their fingers in just about every scandal and problem in this country for the last hundred years. An example is the Hunt Brothers of Texas, who provided the slush fund used by Nixon’s CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) that wound up being used as hush money during Watergate.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 30, 2011 10:47 am

        Rob, Certainly our system allows for wealthy people and organizations to “invest” in political candidates and to influence legislation through lobbying. And even more certainly, this has corrupted the political process in ways that have hurt the rest of us, and made it even easier for those with an enormous amount of money ( and I’m talking about the super rich here, not the $200K “rich” that Obama wants to slam with higher tax rates) to protect their status and wealth at the expense of the rest of us. That is one thing upon which the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement would certainly agree.

        But, since the devil is always in the details, I guess my question to you is this: How would destroying the paymasters – by taxing them out of existence, forcing them to flee the country, imprisoning them, or confiscating their property, among other things that you have suggested – solve the problem of corruption and make things fairer? Are we to believe that any movement or government that would destroy a class of Americans would be any more decent or fair than the one that we have now?

        I’m not trying to be argumentative, really, just trying to understand where the class warfare argument ends. In my mind, it can only end in chaos and repression, and I am hard-pressed to understand the opposite view.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        November 30, 2011 11:08 am

        Again, in response to Priscilla –

        The top tax rate in the 50s and much of the 60s was 90%, and I don’t recall any economic apocalypse. On the contrary, it was the height of our nation’s prosperity. I know that loopholes kept most of the wealthy from actually paying 90%, and I think that such a rate – if enforced without loopholes – would be confiscatory.

        My ideal tax rate would be 60% without loopholes for the wealthiest, with one deduction allowed – 15% for philanthropic giving. But that giving would have to pass the sniff test. No BS like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation attaching a mile of string to every disbursement in an attempt to influence education, for example. Also, the creation of or bequests to *any* kind of think tank would not count as philanthropy. No, only real giving would do the trick. Taxation below that margin would likewise be progressive.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 30, 2011 5:25 pm

        Whoa, Rob…we actually agree on a lot of this stuff. You have a no BS approach, that is for sure. It is true that when we had that 90% tax rate, no rich person ever actually paid that….while the super rich have always been able to shelter, defer and give away money to avoid paying their fair share, the middle class is screwed every which way. When tax rates go up, it’s the middle class that has to fork over the dough (and I’m including the $200K folks in that group), while the rich just change their behavior in order to make sure that the increased rates don’t affect them at all. As a result, the government doesn’t realize the revenue from the increased tax rates, and raises them again. Screwing over guess who?

        Of course, I think that 60% is way high, if you’re not going to allow deductions. I mean, jeez, more than half your income to the government which is going to piss it away for the most part? So we disagree on the actual numbers, but we at least have a starting point of agreement that the rich should pay a higher rate, little or no deductions. And I agree with your take on mega foundations and think tanks that serve as tax shelters for the elite.

        I am also glad to hear that you do consider rates above that to be confiscatory. But, how would you keep the government from raising the rates to confiscatory levels once they have eliminated deductions?

  19. Ian permalink
    November 30, 2011 11:52 am

    Its just your denial on Norquist, Priscilla. There is a clear and coherent path between Norquist, his targets, his actions, and the results. Alan Simpson is not the mainstream media he is a former highly fiscally conservative Republican Senator. You cannot explain his strong denunciation of Norquist’s power over the GOP away so simply with the usual blame the media riff distraction. Simpson is right on target and he is in a far better position to know than you or I are who is wielding power in politics.

    By the way I had a hearty laugh over the comment that Al Sharpton has equal sway over democrats, you must have heard that from El Rushbo?

    Sharpton has no influence, at all that I know of, he’s a nut job. Almost any sensible democrat in office would cross to the other side of the street if he saw him coming. Sharpton does have a constituency but its one that has much more power when they avoid Sharptonism than when they embrace that kind of nonsense I’d love to hear a coherent story someone can concoct of Sharpton’s great influence on the Dem party. Its gonna take some huge Micheal Moore like leaps of logical error. Sharpton has no issues that resonate with any influential segment of voters and no mechanism for subjugating Dem politicians en masse. Norquist has an issue and a mechanism.

    The Simpson comments on Norquist are intriguing to me because what I want to see in American politics is that both parties disown their worst and most extreme factions. Simpson did that, Bravo, and others are going to have to join him in repudiating the extreme right. That’s correct I do mean Rush, Hannity et al. or the GOP is going to become marginalized in the mid future.

    To be fair and moderate and hit the Dems, during the Democratic convention that nominated Kerry, Jimmy Carter showed up on TV with Micheal Moore, gushing about how much he loved Moore’s recent Farenheit 911 idiot conspiracy theory book. I was disgusted, perhaps I was not alone? Following that, the Dems got the first ever in history negative bounce in the polls from a nominating convention. Coincidence? I think not. Embracing extremists is not smart policy and this time around this mistake hangs most severely around the necks of the GOP.

    It would be a better policy to take Norquist’s huge power seriously and denounce it than to try to equate him with the nearly powerless Sharpton, which is just funny.

    Now, to try to find the part of your statements that I think moderates can potentially agree with you on, I can agree with you that its necessary to make at least some progress in the area of shrinking the share of government (all levels of govt. in the US as a share of gdp to be technical) and I think that is an issue that can resonate with almost anyone; 45% of GDP and growing is harmful, government should not be that expensive.

    Norquist is a separate issue, the tax and fiscal irresponsibility issue, and his tremendous influence on GOP politics here is a loser for the GOP, not to mention the country.

    Another long winded speech, Ooops. Back to my life.

    • Priscilla permalink
      November 30, 2011 5:43 pm

      Ian, I’ll gladly back pedal on Sharpton, if you think that he is a buffoon with no power (I certainly agree on the buffoon part- makes you wonder why the Dems allowed him to fully participate in the primary debates in 2008 if he is so powerless, but whatever). So, enlighten me about how Richard Trumka’s influence on the BHO admin is no greater than Norquist’s….or George Soros. While you’re at it, you can explain to me how Alan Simpson is a ” highly fiscally conservative” Republican. A bit of exaggeration there.

      Nope, you are buying into the spin. The spin being that the supercommitte failed because the Republicans refused to raise taxes because they have all taken a blood oath and are puppets of Norquist. When, in fact, it was the Republicans on the committee who proposed a tax increase, which the Democrats refused to negotiate, fearing the blowback from Obama’s campaign.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 1, 2011 3:41 pm

        **2004 primary. You start getting old and the years run together….

      • Ian permalink
        December 1, 2011 5:32 pm

        I can’t really figure out how you can dispute the Simpson of Wyoming was quite a fiscally conservative politician. His record says he was. I’d be interested to know on what basis you dispute that?

        But, good choice on backing away from the Weird Al claim. Moderates destest him, but only conservatives believe he has any real power in the Dem party.

        Ah, you refer to BHO, remind me please what the H stands for again?

        As to me buying some spin on the super committee, well no, you guessed wrong there. I don’t think there was any real chance they were going to agree and both sides played politics in an election year, huge surprise there! I think that falling back on the across the board cuts that come with that failure was the beast <– funny typo of all the bad options.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 2, 2011 2:00 am

        Yeah, Ian, I don’t know what made me think that a former Democratic presidential candidate, who has been courted as a mayoral and senatorial candidate by Obama and currently has his own show on MSNBC, has any influence in liberal circles. It’s only those gosh darned conservatives who think he’s anybody…..

  20. Ian permalink
    December 2, 2011 8:24 am

    I can’t find any reference to Obama courting Sharpton as a candidate for the Senate or Mayor. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but I can’t find it.

    Looking for info linking Obama and Sharpton I found this fairly balanced article in the CSMonitor:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/0406/Obama-s-nod-to-Al-Sharpton-asset-or-liability-for-2012-reelection-bid

    I have to alter my thinking on Sharpton I guess. Sharpton is a sort of black George Wallace. Wallace did actually change and repudiate, sincerely repudiate, his younger self. I accepted that his change was real, it WAS real. Something of the sort has happened with Sharpton, there has been some evolution, some mellowing. I don’t forget the past but I can consider the present as well. I haven’t seen or heard him on TV or radio. My impression of him has always been tied to the worst of the Tawana Bradley situation, I may have been too harsh.

    When I looked up Sharpton on WIki yesterday after posting I found that many of the things he was involved in over the years were just causes, and he protested things anyone with a soul should have protested. He was also a fame seeker and a racial arsonist. A complex story.

    He has standing in the African American community because he has put in the hours and the years. Conservatives take great pleasure in the wedge politics that work with Obama. Whites may often tend to think he favors minorities and minorities may fear he favors whites. He has a thin line to walk.

    As to racial politics in 2011: One side of the Herman Cain situation bears noting; there really is at least a fair sized segment of conservatives who are not nearly the racists they once were. Times change, slowly, but they change. One of the few hopeful things I can point to this cycle is that a segment of the right really did accept Herman for his beliefs and not his color.

    • Ian permalink
      December 2, 2011 8:44 am

      Intention clear I’m sure but wording awful. A segment of the right really did judge Herman by his his beliefs and not his color.

  21. Ian permalink
    December 2, 2011 2:17 pm

    “Grover Norquist’s tax pledge isn’t really about public policy; it’s a chastity belt Republican politicians wear to show that they haven’t been defiled by the Washington culture.”

    Guess who made that brilliant observation?

    To make it clear that this was not a compliment I’ll surround it with context:

    “The Democrats talk and look like a conventional liberal party (some liberals, who represent, at most, 30 percent of the country, are disappointed because President Obama hasn’t ushered in a Huffington Post paradise). Meanwhile, many Republicans flock to Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich because they are more interested in having a leader who can take on the mainstream news media than in having one who can plausibly govern. Grover Norquist’s tax pledge isn’t really about public policy; it’s a chastity belt Republican politicians wear to show that they haven’t been defiled by the Washington culture……

    ……In normal circumstances, minority parties suffer a series of electoral defeats and then they modernize. But in the era of the two moons, the parties enjoy periodic election victories they don’t deserve, which only re-enforce their worst habits.

    So it’s hard to see how we get out of this, unless some third force emerges, which wedges itself into one of the two parties, or unless we have a devastating fiscal crisis — a brutal cleansing flood, after which the sun will shine again.”

    Well, I’m glad DB thinks the sun will shine after the coming flood, it echos something Pat Riot said awhile back. How many years do we need to wait for that sunshine, will I live to see it?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/opinion/brooks-the-two-moons.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

  22. December 3, 2011 10:37 am

    Why do we care who the “paymasters” are ?

    Norquist receive money from people who believe in what he does. As does Sharpton, Move-On, Labor unions and myriads of other advocacy groups both left and right.

    Without censorship, without making decisions based on political objectives or points of view it is impossible to reign in those advocating one set of political views without reigning all political advocacy. The central premise of advocates on the left and right of free speech in the past was that bad and undesirable speech is most effectively countered with more speech. What everyone here seems to find most objectionable about Norquist is that he is effective. Should we then reign in Unions, Minority organizations, women’s groups when they are effective in their advocacy ?

    As in most elections, I will likely have to choose between candidates with views that are anti-antithetical to mine. All of us face this – libertarians more than most. And there is nothing wrong with that. As I repeat over and over, libertarians are the only political group not seeking to impose their will by for on others. No I do not expect to see Ron Paul or Gary Johnson, or …. feature prominently in this election – though the cycle is still young, and one thing that should be clear to most everyone is there is a huge body of “anybody but Romney” voters in the GOP. If Gingrich tanks maybe Paul will be the next Romney challenger. Huntsman only manages to get into the debates through arcane rules. His numbers are at best insignificantly better than Johnson’s. I would be interested in knowing what you think are the significant problems of Johnson and Paul ? I am not aware that either strapped the family pet on the roof of their car for a 1200 mile trip, flagrantly cheated on their spouses, or ….

    Regardless, this country has never been nor will be “libertopia”, but it has done better and worse on issues of freedom, and anyone open to facts and history should easily be able to grasp that greater freedom has always left us better off, and less worse – and not just by economic measures.

    I actually do beleive you could step in and wipe out 100+ years of idiotic government. The immediate consequences would be extremely bad – possibly the worst recession this country ever had, but it would also be very very short lived – and the recovery would be the most robust we ever hard. There is no reason that growth in this country can not be 7-8% annually.

    But that is not going to happen. More realistically, we can limit those programs that are politically sacred – atleast for the moment, to their current cost. We can get rid of those programs that do not work. We can stop government from automatically growing further.

    You will not end crony capitalism so long as government has power that business sees as useful. Pretending that all kinds of new laws will work is lunacy.

    The perfect is the enemy of the good, but in government doing nothing is often – usually better than doing something. When I can not get the candidates I want, I vote against incumbents, for gridlock, and for the lessor of two evils. I want to see all elections providing a “none of the above” or do over option.

  23. December 3, 2011 10:53 am

    Alan Simpson’s bonafides as a deficit hawk are highly suspect. By Ian’s standard’s he is highly conservative – but by those standards most of the country is highly conservative. Regardless, in the past he has voted for numerous tax increases and government expansions. At the moment he is the darling of the political left, but that has not always been so. In fact the very Simpson-Bowles report that is being hyped by the left, was excoriated by them when it came out.

    Over the past 30 years cutting government spending has been confronted numerous times. There have been myriads of 2:1 and 1:1 deals cutting two dollars of spending for each dollar of tax increases. The tax increases always proved real and immediate. The spending cuts never materialised. When we have actually cut spending only then should there be any discussion of increasing taxes.

    Canada was faced with a near Greek proportions crisis more than a decade ago. A “liberal” government cut government spending across the board fairly dramatically. They also increased taxes – $1 for each $7 on spending cuts. Canada did not join the list of failed states, it even preserved its social safety net that the left lusts after. But it did cut spending drastically, the crisis was averted, its deficits declined dramatically, and continue to do so. Further, when mush of the rest of the world went into a recession in 2008 – Canada did not. Canadian housing prices have climbed continuously for more than a decade – at a rate slightly slower than those in the US – but without the sudden collapse experienced here. They are currently running significantly higher than ours.

    • Ian permalink
      December 3, 2011 5:27 pm

      So almost everybody is conservative compared to me? Meh, as my son would say.

      OK, OK, inquiring minds wish to know. I just took the “Political compass” test.

      http://www.politicalcompass.org/test

      Results:

      Economic: -3.5 on a ten point scale in either direction (grades of -10 = communist and +10 = neo liberal) so I’m somewhat to the left on economic questions, nor surprise to me. but certainly also in the middle third.

      Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.67 meaning that I am slightly to the libertarian side, also no surprise to me.

      According to the chart I’m in the same neighborhood as the dalai Lama and Gandi. (Did they take the test?)

      I’m a moderate, as I knew all along.

      If the dhlii lama takes the test I’d predict something like +9 and -10.

      Is this the test you once mentioned to me?

      • Ian permalink
        December 3, 2011 6:01 pm

        According to the Pew quiz

        http://www.people-press.org/typology/quiz

        I am a “post Modern,” which is the most moderate of their 4 grades to the left of center. There are also 4 grades to the right.

        I think highly of Pew but not of this test as I disagreed with both possible answers for many of the 20 questions, a more nuanced approach would be more accurate.

        Yet, I think it placed me where I belong, slightly to the left of center.

        I could not find any other test that was not laughable and probably a scam to sell me something or recruit me.

      • December 3, 2011 7:13 pm

        Ian: On the Political Compass Test, I’m even more moderate than you. I scored 2.25 to the left of center on economic issues and 2.05 into libertarian territory. What puzzled me is that no world leaders were charted in our neck of the woods; most seemed to be in the upper right quadrant (conservative authoritarian). Even Gandhi was pretty far to the lower left of us. I’d suspect that we’d be fairly close to JFK if he had been on the chart. And it’s good to know that I’m qualified to run this blog.

        Nyah-nyah, Dave! ;)

      • December 3, 2011 7:26 pm

        I agree that the correct answer for many of the questions is neither of the choices provided. Looking at what Pew claims are the traits of Post Moderns, they do not seem to fit with my perception of you from this web site.

        “The government can not afford to do too much to help the needy”
        “Wall Street helps the economy more than hurts it”

        I do not recall your views – if they were ever expressed on war, race, homosexuality, immigration and religion,

        I would offer this as an alternative to the Pew Quiz.

        http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz

        It is more nuanced in that you need not answer each question yes or no – though I did not find a need to answer maybe. equally important, the questions were asked less ambiguously. And finally
        it recognises that political leanings are at-least two dimensional rather than linear. That Pew is going to place people who beleive in unrestricted immigration, are anti-war, favor drug legalisation, favor unrestricted speech, oppose corporate welfare, on the right because they also beleive in limited government seems ludicrous to me – but then many here seem to think anyone favouring fiscal discipline is ultra conservative.

        Regardless, I would note that even Pew places libertarians to the left of republicans. The Koch brothers and Norquist self identify as libertarian. It is reasonable for the hard left to see everyone else as ultra conservative, the fact that so many here see the far left edges of replicans and conservatives – even those past those edges as evil ultraconservatives bent on societal destruction say more about so called moderates, than it does about the Norquists of the world.

      • Ian permalink
        December 3, 2011 7:41 pm

        Dhlii

        1. Wall street helps more than it hurts, yes I’d agree. I don’t hate capitalism, I just hate some parts of it. Wall street has good and bad guys and aspects. I’d police the bad actors. Libertarians don’t think there are any.

        2. The government cannot afford to do too much to help the needy. Agree. Right now, it can’t afford to do to much period, its in hoc. And, in general, believe it or not, I believe in the risks of moral hazard and I supported welfare reform. The Government should help, yes it should just not “too much.” Its a reasonable position. Libertarians think there should hardly be a government and that it should not help the needy if it did exist.

        Its silly for Pew to place libertarians where they did. Its simply an enigmatic group that had to be placed somewhere. Economically if there is any group more conservative than libertarians I guess they would have to be anarchist libertarians, no government at all, no regulation.

        Fiscal discipline includes paying ones debts when they are due, even if they were incurred during a drinking binge.

        Your scores if you’d like to say?

      • December 3, 2011 7:36 pm

        Rick;

        I did not see the scoring that you are referring to, but though I find the Pew quiz interesting, and even it places libertarians far closer to the center than anyone else here would, the entire quiz seems heavily skewed to the left. 2010 Gallup claims that 42% of americans identify as conservatives, and 20% as liberals – that can not be reconciled with Pews breakdown. If Pew places you in the center, you are likely on the left.

        The only significant distinction between libertarians and liberals on specific issues (as opposed to core values) is economics. If you are libertarian on social issues and to the left of center on fiscal ones – then you are a liberal, pretty much by definition.

      • December 3, 2011 9:59 pm

        Dave: I didn’t take the Pew test; I took the first one that Ian mentioned: http://www.politicalcompass.org/test. I scored closer to dead center than any of the 16 political leaders on the chart except for one Jose Zapatero (but he was less of a libertarian than I am). I scored just slightly to the left on economic issues, undoubtedly because I disagreed that what’s good for the big corporations is always good for the people.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 5, 2011 4:49 pm

        I took the tests: I was “libertarian” on the Pew test. On the compass test, I was +2.14 right on economics -1.46 social libertarian. Pretty damn close to the center.

      • December 5, 2011 6:23 pm

        Priscilla: Ha… can’t believe I’m more of a libertarian than you! I always think of myself as a hopelessly outdated moralist, an old Roman republican bemoaning our decadence and cultural decline. But I could tell, as I was answering the individual questions, that I was a bit more laissez-faire on social issues than I would have suspected. On economic issues I knew I’d score slightly to the left. Still… you, Ian and I are positioned squarely in the moderate camp.

  24. December 3, 2011 11:03 am

    Ian;

    There have been myriads of black and minority conservatives in the past. Cain is not an aberration. Cain’s problems are not because he is black, just as Romney’s have nothing to do with his mormonism.

    Nor have conservatives suddenly become less racist. The most significant change is that people like you are beginning to grasp that prejudice is far less of a problem among conservatives than you previously claimed.

    As that is clearly not true, conservatives must have changed – because it is not possible that your prior perception was wrong. There is real prejudice in this country – and there will still be decades from now. Some of it will be from conservatives – though far from all of it. But we are rapidly approaching a point where the left needs to concede that prejudice is an insignificant factor in the causes of most of our social problems.

  25. December 3, 2011 11:32 am

    Rob;

    Set the upper margin tax rates wherever you like.
    In the past when the rates were dramatically higher – the taxes were not nearly as broad, and the loopholes were enormous. Anoyone with a decent accountant could avoid paying taxes.

    Put differently – when the tax rates on the rich were higher – the total portion of real income that the so called rich paid taxes on was far lower.

    More interestingly – uniformly the lower the marginal tax rates have gone the greater portion of the cost of government has been paid by the rich.

    All taxes are by definition confiscatory. Government is taking what someone else earned. Some taxes are necescary, but a tax is no more or less moral because of its scale.
    What is true is that high marginal taxes are economically harmful – all taxes are economically harmful, but the magnitude of the harm is greatest on taxes on investment.

    The prosperity of the 50’s and 60’s is tepid in comparison to even the present.
    Would you honestly chose to be poor in the 50’s ? I will be happy to compare the conditions of the 50’s to any other period of economic growth in our history. Most of the 19th century saw economic growth nearly double that of the 20th century. From the end of the civil war to the end of the century the nation absorbed an unprecedented number of immigrants – and simultaneously prospered. All of us trace our ancestor back to immigrants (even the Indians), most of us back to THOSE immigrants.

    Why do you beleive you are entitled to tell Bill Gates what he must do with his money ?

    I personally think much of Gates’s charitable giving is stupid and inneffective. I think the entire world would be better off if his and Buffet’s and all the other billionares money remained well invested. But it is his to do with as he pleases.

    Of course he is trying to influence education with his contributions.

    What do you want ? To require charitable contributions only to failed institutions ?

    Gates’s contributions may succeed or fail, but atleast we will have some idea afterwards how his approach to improving what is readily recognized as a failed system works out.

    You remarks are the epitomy of what is wrong with statist solutions. You wish to punish gates and other solely for trying to pick winners and losers differently from the way you do.

    Whether I agree with his choices or not, Gates is actively trying to do some good with his money. He is exorcises his skills and intellect to make what he believes will be the most effective use of that money. You and I both think his choices are wrong – but there no real objective standard for measuring that – except future success or failure. There is no special reason to beleive the people running existing charities or schools are better at determining what works than gates. In fact there is every reason to beleive specifically in education that they are worse.

    Rather than increase tax rates and play games with what is and is not charitable giving – eliminate all tax deductions – ALL. Get the government out of the business deciding winners and losers, let Gates or whoever do as they wish with their money.

    • Priscilla permalink
      December 3, 2011 3:37 pm

      Dave , I don’t think the government has the right to tell Bill Gates what to do with his money. I was agreeing with Rob that Gates shouldn’t be able to use his ” charity” as a tax shelter. At least, I think that’s the point he was making.

      • December 3, 2011 7:42 pm

        Like Rob I have major problems with much of What Gates is doing – though unlike Rob, I do not see where I have the right to dictate to him what he must do.

        But Gates billions have mostly already been taxed. I am sure his accountants work hard to derive every possible benefit they can for his charitable giving, but Rob is the first person I have heard argue that Gates motivations for giving more than 1/3 of his wealth already and almost all by his death is tax avoidance.

      • December 3, 2011 7:44 pm

        Priscilla: That’s how I interpreted your comment, too. Do I agree? I’d have to think about it some more. Most of us middle-class types use our donations as tax shelters (not that we donate only for that reason). I’m wondering if nonprofits would suffer if we took away their tax-deductible status.

      • December 3, 2011 9:22 pm

        Eliminate ALL tax deductions and then you do not have to concern yourselves with the motivations of others.

        This entire rant about Norquist, as as well as Rick’s rant about limiting political contributions is actually about judging other peoples motivation for their own choices.

        Tax deductibility often is, but never should be the reason for anything.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 4, 2011 9:00 am

        I think that Rob’s point about foundations like Gates’s is that they are not charities in the true sense of the word. They exist to support causes about which their wealthy founders are passionate, and many could be described as strategic philanthropies, meant to steer or change society in a particular direction. Hence, the miles of strings attached to which Rob alluded.

        Philanthropic charites tend to give towards basic individual and community needs: food, housing, child care, schools, etc.

        I’m not against strategic philanthropy, I just don’t think that that type of giving needs to be protected and encouraged by tax deductions. And I am sure that the line between the two types of philanthropies can become blurry, but,as it stands now, too many very wealthy people are able to withhold taxes, sheltering them in foundations so that they, not the government can decide how the money is spent. While I agree with Dave that, in a perfect world, that is their right, I don’t think that in difficult economic times it is a good idea to allow the wealthy elite to put their “free” dollars into tax shelters, while calling for the middle class to cough up more and more of theirs to Uncle Sam.

  26. Anonymous permalink
    December 4, 2011 11:37 am

    OWS threatens to take over the subways, and burn down NYC.
    Roseanne Barr wants to bring back the Guillotine for Wall Street bankers.
    Unions in WI issue death threats against Republican political candidates,
    A Sarah Palin effigy is Hung in LA.
    Rob wants anyone who disagrees with him to “Shutup”

    And what “moderates” fixate on is the “evil” Grover Norquist, whose “crime” is successfully persuading republican politicians to live up to commitments they make.
    And argue about what the difference between a “legitimate” charity and a “strategic” one.

    • December 4, 2011 11:38 am

      Sorry that was me.

      • Ian permalink
        December 4, 2011 12:26 pm

        I had no doubt it was you.

        As you have said many times, OWS has no impact, so why do we need to worry about it?

        So, you wish to compare a man who has actual power and a lot of it, to some loonies exercising the free speech rights you libertarians love so well. (If it were me I would not let hate groups such as Nazis and the KKK march.)

        You’ve thrown us a red herring.

        Grover is fighting your fight, he is your hero, you’d prefer we would not notice his work until its too late!

        Sorry we moderates are so disappointing but you are going to have to accept that we don’t want to starve the beast, at least not in the same draconian way you do because we don’t think that government is practically useless.

        Where DID you come out on that test, my guess of + 9 -10 was about right I take it?

      • dhlii permalink
        December 4, 2011 5:37 pm

        I have taken the Pew test several times. I have not seen these +- numbers you are refering to. I have come out as libertarian in every political quiz I have taken. Pew places that barely to the right of center.

        As I have pointed out repeatedly – No one is actually offering anything that constitutes “starving the beast”. The most extreme Republican proposals that have actually come to a vote ask no more than to slow the growth of government – yet you find this intolerable. Yes I want much more. But what you call “not in a draconian way” is continuing the growth of government, and you are unwilling to offer or accept any limit on the growth of government.

        Norquist has political power BECAUSE his advocates for views that are more popular.

        Norquist is doing nothing more than exercising his free speech rights. I fully support OWS’s right to threaten to burn down NYC – which BTW is a real crime in my state and probably NY. My views on free speech are absolute – or nearly so.

        In the previous thread on OWS they were hero’s, they were more important than the Tea Party. They were important advocates for fairness. They were the 99%. Now they are powerless fringe loonies.

        You are essentially arguing that right and wrong are relative to political power – is that the argument you really wish to make ?

        I am not surprised that you have no trouble banning “hate groups”. And this is precisely
        Why you are far more dangerous than those you excoriate.
        Why you are a statist and nowhere near moderate

        First they came.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came%E2%80%A6

        I have no problem with your noticing Norquist.
        I have no problem with your disagreeing.
        Where we part company is when you decide Norquist must be reigned in by government.

        Contribute to whatever anti-Norqusit groups you wish, collect and contribute as much money as you can talk all you want.

        But when you advocacy changes from expressing your views to silencing those of others, you join the dark side.

        What freedom of yours, what right, what liberty is Norquist seeking to take from you ?
        What an possibly justify your suppressing his rights ?

      • Ian permalink
        December 4, 2011 6:06 pm

        I’m really confused. Where did I advocate the state making an attack on or removing Norquist’s rights?

        I simply believe in a public discussion and exposure of what he is doing and if I have said otherwise I’d like to know where that was. If I said that (which I don’t think I did) it was hyperbole or humor.

        You’ve made me dangerous by putting words in my mouth. Calm yourself.

  27. December 4, 2011 12:21 pm

    I do not believe that it is possible today to donate money to any cause and owe less taxes as a result than you would had you never made the money you donated.

    Put differently, all charitable contributions cost atleast as much as the amount you donate. Those that are deductible do not also cost you taxes on money you gave away.
    If Gates or anyone else gives away a dollar, tax deductible or not, that ALWAYS costs them atleast one dollar. If it is not tax deductible, it likely costs 15-50% more.

    The anyone is even debating “good” vs. “Bad” charitable contributions shows “The Fatal Conceit” that some of us are smart enough to make choices for all of us is still thriving.

    I find it difficult to comprehend that intelligent people after imposing solutions that have failed, insist on more of the same.

    The reason we should eliminate ALL tax deductions, is specifically because of these kinds of debates. It is ludicrous to the extent of being actually evil to presume that any of us can better decide how someone else should direct their efforts – particularly when they are doing so to better the world. I personally think many of Gates’s choices are wrong – but it is not my right to dictate. And there is always someone to tell you that a different approach is superior.

    The Gates foundation has “strategically” targeted two areas for their attention. Medical care – particularly the eradication of diseases that we know how to eliminate, and education.

    Liking or not liking the “strings” the gates foundation attaches to its gifts is insane. If you can not live with those conditions – do not take the help.

    Certainly the effect of Gates charity would be different if made as cash to the homeless – as it would be different if it were college scholarships for women and minorities.

    Even the “charitable” efforts the left has imposed on government come with strings and are directed by political interests rather than actual value.

    The “difficult economic times” argument changes nothing. What basis is their for believing any elite few are best able to determine what charity is acceptable during difficult times ?
    The argument against “strategic” charity suggests that we should abandon efforts to address health or education and focus only on the homeless – or whatever other group we believe is the most disadvantaged by current conditions.

    There is no differentiation between “Strategic” and “Philanthropic” charities. I know of know charity in existence that will give money to anyone and any cause that asks. Every charity is “strategic” – it chooses where to target the limited resources it has. The argument that one groups giving should be treated by government differently from another, is solely a value judgement by others that a different strategic objective is better.

    If you disagree with Gates’s choices – make your own, with your own money.

    • Priscilla permalink
      December 4, 2011 3:34 pm

      Dave, Its not a matter of whether or not I disagree with Gates’ choices. It’s that I do not operate my own tax exempt foundation… My point is not that these foundations should not exist, but that they are being used as tax shelters for money that would otherwise be collected by the government. And that would be fine, if everyone had the ability to create and operate these philanthropies and choose how our money is spent. But most of us have to let the government take it and spend it. And, I see your point about tough times being irrelevant, but I think it’s a lot easier to accept the fact that the wealthy can control their money in a way that the middle class can’t when the middle class is not being hammered with taxes.

      • dhlii permalink
        December 4, 2011 4:49 pm

        I understand, but you are still not grasping what I am saying.
        The only “tax break” Gates got from the Gates foundatation, is that he did not pay taxes on the money he gave to the foundation. He still owed taxes on all income EXCEPT that he gave away. I do not believe there is any tax shelter today with tax consequences larger than the taxes on the gift itself – During the great progressive Heyday of the 50’s with that 90% tax rates this was not true. But today I am pretty sure the IRS considers any tax break greater than the taxes on the investment/contribution to be “abusive” and actually criminally illegal.

        The foundation itself is tax exempt – though anything it pays to someone else such as wages is likely taxable.

        As I have repeatedly said, I would personally eliminate all tax deductions – all like absolutely all, no deductions for dependants, medical expenses, ….no deductions period.

        But given we do not live in that world, The gates foundation is impossible to separate from myriads of other tax exempt organizations. Move-on and Cato are likely tax exempt and are both more controversial than Gates.
        The Catholic church, Thomas Road Baptist, International Society of Krishna Consciousness are all also tax exempt, and all frankly more controversial than the Gates foundation. And any money given to any of these is likely tax exempt. Gates may have some control over the activities of his foundation – though I suspect it is less than you imagine, regardless, he has no ability to use money he has contributed to the gates foundation for his own personal benefit.

        Nor is Gates ability to do this somehow greater than yours. You are perfectly free to create your own tax exempt charitable foundation. My guess is that you can even do so cheaply or even for free. Though you will have to file all the required paperwork and tax returns each year, in return you will have the same ability as Gates to direct the resources of that charity to whatever cause you wish.

        Or more simply – you can just contribute your money tax exempt to any of the existing tax exempt entities of your choosing.

        I suspect that if you want you can ever contribute to Americans for Tax Reform should you chose.

        My point is not that these organizations should not exist either. It is that neither you nor I nor anyone else should have to power to decide what constitutes tax deductible charity and what does not.

        If I give $20 to a homeless person – that is not deductible.
        If I spend 200 hours/.year volunteering at a shelter – that is not deductible.
        If I take care of my elderly father – that is not deductible.
        If I give to the political cause of my choice – that is.

        The only way we avoid have to chose between what is and is not tax deductible – is to eliminate all exemptions, lower taxes and let everyone do as they please with their money without regard for taxes.

        But for the tax implications, You and I are agreed that no one should be able to tell someone else how they must spend their money – unfortunately you and I may be alone in that.

        Another place we depart is that no one else here grasps that anything beyond a flat tax is telling someone else how they must spend their money. Contrary to assertions from Rick and Rob, if there is one tax rate the poor and rich contribute proportionate to the benefits they receive from government. A person earning 45,000 contributes 1/10 the amount someone earning 450,000. But even that would have been unfair according to our founders – who believed that each person should pay exactly the same amount to support the government.

        Regardless, when you take more from one than you do from another, you are absolutely saying – you have less right than those who earn less to decide for yourself what is done with your income.
        What the left – and anyone who believes in income redistribution is on the left, does not grasp is that what they call fair is trivially arguable as egregiously unfair.

        None of us have more rights that we are willing to grant to those we despise. If we are willing to take rights from the rich because they are rich – we have no basis to argue when the same rights are taken from us.
        If government can take 80% of the income of people earning more than $1M, then it can take 80% of the income of anyone.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 4, 2011 8:49 pm

        Well, on general principles I think that we agree. On the other hand, I do not think that private foundations are accessible to the average taxpayer…..I believe that the paperwork and legal filings alone would be beyond the financial reach of the average middle class person, and I believe that most, if not all, foundations must be state and/or federally chartered, and the political ramifications of that requirement pose a de facto obstacle to all but the very rich. I have been involved in filing a 990 form for a local YMCA for which I serve on the board and it is a onerously lengthy and detailed document.

        I guess what I am opposed to is the lack of equality of opportunity to shelter one’s property (in the form of income) from the clutches of the government, and the hypocrisy of billionaires like Warren Buffet, who claim that the rich should pay more income taxes, all the while knowing that his team of accountants will make sure that he remains firmly in control of his money. In the case of mega-rich guys like Buffet and Gates, the issue may be that they are so freaking rich that they have no idea what it means for the average “rich person” (say a small businesperson) to have most of their income exposed to taxation. I don’t know, but I do know that Buffet owns something like 5 or 6 insurance companies in order to protect his fortune from estate taxes when he dies…..but he supports the estate tax.

      • December 5, 2011 12:07 pm

        Charitable deductions and foundations do not shelter the assets and income of the rich from the government. All they do is prevent any of us from being taxed on what we give away. A charitable foundation is an independent body – even where it is setup and controlled by someone like Gates at best it allows Gates during his own lifetime to control the charitable use of money he has already given away. There is no way that he can personally benefit – beyond the satisfaction of doing charitable work.
        If setting up charitable foundations and non-profits is to tedious for the rest of us – the blame falls on government not the rich. This is just another example of the effectiveness of government regulation. I would also point out that whether we are talking charity or giant corporations, this is not an “unintended consequence” – regulated enterprises use complex regulation to keep others out. Government actively seeks to reduce the population of regulated enterprises, because it is easier to deal with fewer larger entities.

        I have some problems with Buffets hypocracy. His claim to have paid less taxes on his income than his secretary has been well disected elsewhere, and unless his secretary is incredibly well paid or he is using very distorted definitions of income tax his claim is blatantly false.

        That said it it my understanding that neither Buffet nor Gates intend on leaving much to their heirs. Buffet in particular has generously provided a start to even remote relatives – but no more.

        There is actually ample evidence that the estate tax is incredibly destructive – regardless of who it is applied to. We as a nation were expected to bail out Wall Street to prevent “systemic failure”, yet the estate tax essentially means when people die whatever they have created must be destroyed to feed the state. I would hope that Buffet and Gates have done something about their estates rather than see the billions in businesses they own being dismantled to feed the beast.

        Ultimately even estate taxes serve the Wealthy in a way. What will happen to Gates and Buffets shares of the market when they die ? Either they will be dismantled or they will be bought by other wealthy people at fire-sale prices in order to pay taxes. Reality is slightly more complex, but the effects are the same.

        We continue to ignore than government taking wealth out of the economic system – no matter how it does it, makes the economic system smaller and harms us all.

  28. Ian permalink
    December 4, 2011 12:45 pm

    Rick,

    We had very similar scores really. But OK, you are more moderate than me and I certainly think you are qualified to run the site!

    I would love to know where our moderate conservatives and libertarians fall out on that scale!

    I’ve fallen off the wagon, I must fight the impulse! I got so many things done when I paid no attention to the world for a week. Cured my dog’s ear problem, learned the first 30 seconds of the Mendelssohn violin concerto, relearned the Vivaldi Spring concerto, and cleared the trees that were hiding the sort of spectacular cliff on the back end of my property. Did crunches and push ups. Lost a few pounds. Joined another band as an electric violinist. Got my work done on deadline with time to spare.

    I could do that or I could depress myself by watching the country slowing go to seed, scare myself to death thinking of a Newt Presidency, and obsessively argue with conservatives online.

    • dhlii permalink
      December 4, 2011 5:04 pm

      I have taken myriads of political quizes and I fall into libertarian in all of them – including pew.
      And in polls by values rather than self identification or party identification, the majority of americans are atleast nominally libertarian

      http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/poll-finds-a-shift-toward-more-libertarian-views/

      June 2011 – 63% of us believe government is doing to much that should be left to business or individuals.

      50% feel government should not favor any particular set of values.

      I do not see most of the posters here as agreeing with the majority on either of these. Since both views are majority rather than plurality views, and are both issues of significance it is hard for me to imagine any definition of moderate that is at odd with either of those views.

      • dhlii permalink
        December 4, 2011 5:06 pm

        This also strongly sugests as I posted earlier than Pew has placed the center further left than it actually is.

    • AMAC permalink
      December 6, 2011 12:27 am

      Just FYI, I took the PEW and Ian’s poll. Ian’s only had about 10 questions. Ian’s poll placed me at 50% on personal issues (center) and 40% economic (1 click left). Pew place me 1.05 right on economic and 1.4 statis. I was within 1 grid line of dead center on both polls, with Statis, Right tendencies 1 mark from center. That must be my business background! I took another from an email sent to me, and think I may have purchased a vacuum!

      • AMAC permalink
        December 6, 2011 12:31 am

        So sorry Ian. I meant Dhilli’s poll. Working late going into Christmas break and also taking a Number Theory class at a local college. My mind is scattered! Pew had a couple of pages, Dhilli’s had about 10 questions. I suppose the results of his are incorrect as well, as I posted in the center. If you don’t like the results, change the test!

  29. Ian permalink
    December 4, 2011 5:58 pm

    Dhlii,

    Aren’t you the one who has claimed repeatedly that polls are no guide to what should really be done?

    But since you like polls now, how about the many, many ones that show that a strong majority of Americans across political parties and income groups believe that the increase in the income and wealth gaps is a serious problem that should be addressed through tax policy? I can repost Bruce Bartlett’s list of these polls if you’d like to see the evidence.

    If you wish to think that Libertarians are moderates be my guest. Part of effectively fighting any battle is a realistic assessment of the strength of your position and your opponents position. There is no such thing as a nominal Libertarian, that would be like being slightly pregnant. You are or you aren’t a person who wants almost no government, taxation, or regulation of business. Libertarian presidential candidates get far less than 1% of the vote each cycle, as befits their extreme beliefs. Your extreme beliefs.

    To make an analogy, Paul Krugman is part of a small extreme and he is sure that he is right about everything and cannot seem to recognize how little support his ideas have or how little chance there is that his views in their extreme form will be politically victorious in the end. You are his reflection. Tellingly, you thought that the pew poll had “correct answers.” It was an opinion and philosophy poll, there were no “correct answers.”

    You are certain you are correct about everything, there are correct answers that only you among us poor ranters here know. Your views never change by a whisker (even if you are willing to be pragmatic about how fast your favorite policy changes will take place) nor do you really note when others compromise or change. You want to argue with the hard left, so you place us there against all the evidence. We in the center are way, way to the left of you because you are so far to the right on questions of economics and government.

    Your favorite characterization of Rick’s and other’s opinions is “Rant.” Anything that disagrees with your absolutely correct unshakable knowledge is a “rant.” Dismiss the center as “ranters” all you want, it simply demonstrates how out of touch with reality you are much of the time.

    You’ve been on the right track a small percentage of the time, but most of what you believe is poorly founded, distorted, and highly politically unpopular in the radical form you put it in. Much more moderate forms of your tendencies do have support, but they are hardly the same policies when they are moderated, as you have noted.

    As has been shown, I know pretty accurately where I belong in the spectrum, I’m a somewhat left of center moderate. You have demonstrated over and over that you have no clue where you belong in the spectrum other than that you are a libertarian. That makes you much less effective. Considering most of the things you are for, I encourage you to stay clueless.

    • dhlii permalink
      December 5, 2011 11:15 am

      I am having trouble digesting most of your argument here.

      Polls are no guide to what should be done, they are a guide to peoples views.

      Beyond that I have been looking more carefully at the Pew poll you referenced. Like virtually every political poll has a plurality of conservatives at twice the numbers of liberals.
      Pew has conservatives at almost 40% – a near majority.

      I also looked at Pew’s description of “Post Moderns” unless you are hanging to the left edge by your fingernails based on what you have written here it does not sound like a good fit to me.

      The core of libertarian values is liberty. Statism is is to liberty what conservative is to liberal – politics is more than one dimensional. Views on drugs, war, the scale of government all derive from that principle of liberty.

      Individual liberty is not a core conservative value, Progressives dominated the Republican party and Jeffersonian Classical Liberals found their home with democrats until the new deal. Modern conservatives are more interested in transferring federal powers to the states, than actually reigning in government as a whole.

      I have been perfectly happy to seek common ground without sacrificing principles. I would be ecstatic to see the tiniest baby steps towards more freedom, and less spending, even just freezing spending, more limited government – or atleast not continuously growing government.

      I will compromise on policies, but not principles. You seem to be willing to compromise on principles but not policies. .

      You proposed a freeze on spending – but you are violently opposed to everything the Republicans have proposed as draconian – yet not one house proposal is nearly as harsh as freezing spending.

      We are all concerned about the corruption of government and its manipulation by special interests. We part company on the source of the problem – most see it as money, I see it as power. Government power will always function as a lure.

      I respect that Rick (and all of us) are trying to discern and formulate a moderate political philosophy. I would hope that moderates are looking for one with a solid principled foundation rather than one resting on shifting sands.

  30. Shirley permalink
    December 5, 2011 4:55 pm

    Its sad there arn’t more sites with bloggers comments like this because American Voters need to know who they are voting for and who is buying these Elections.
    Some Americans doesn’t read about a Candidates like they once did, but in today’s world you need to know who you are casting your vote for.

    After what we elected in 2010 i read about everyone, because Joe Walsh, Michael Grimm should have never been elected. I feel Grimm is criminal, and Walsh is a on Drugs and etc.

    I have been re-searching and reading about Grover Norquist for awhile now, what i have read i’m not liking. Why would the Republicans Party get tied up with a person like Norquist. This guy has the Republicans involved with “Islamist Institute Grover Norquist”,
    Norquist is saying that he and Karl Rove is best friend and Newt Gingrich is his Butt Bubby, what ever that means.

  31. Rob Anderson permalink
    December 5, 2011 5:10 pm

    Economic Left/Right: -8.00
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.74

    No surprise there.

    • December 5, 2011 6:36 pm

      Wow, Rob… nobody can call you a wishy-washy moderate! (Not that I’m surprised.) I wonder, though, how a political leftist can also be a libertarian, since classic left-wing solutions usually impose some degree of control over the individual. There’s probably some wiggle-room if you contrast social issues with purely economic or political ones, but there’s still that tendency on the part of leftist revolutionaries to engineer a utopian system that becomes mandatory for everyone. Maybe this is where Chomsky comes into play, and I confess I’m not all that conversant with his beliefs.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        December 5, 2011 7:01 pm

        It’s simple, Rick. I’m not a communist or any other type of tyrant. I’m a social democrat, which only seems radical because the framework of our national debate has been skewed so far to the right. For example, adjusting social spending so that people do not die on the streets like animals can only seem radical to someone who is radical the other way, who has no moral or ethical guidelines allowing them to see what is screamingly obvious to someone like myself. Likewise, some people have slipped so far into barbarity in their ways of thinking that not only do they think the minimum wage is too high, they don’t think it should exist at all. They are literally incapable of seeing the moral depravity of their position, that a person should be paid next to nothing for their labor if that’s what “the market” decides. Never mind that “the market” is just the societal expression of human avarice and greed.

        None of this makes me a saint, any more than it took a saint to be a refusenik in Stalin’s Russia or an anti-fascist in Hitler’s Germany. All it took, and all it now takes, is to see things as they are.

      • Anonymous permalink
        December 5, 2011 9:59 pm

        Because political values have more than one dimension. Probably more than two. But on the traditional two dimensional model, one axis is libeal vs. conservative, the other is freedom vs. authority.

        This is why you can be libertarian and conservative or liberal – as well as statist and either conservative or liberal.

        Though in general libertarians are centerists because the extremes of liberalism and conservatism both tend towards statism.

        Contrary to the perception here valuing liberty, limited government and fiscal responsibility are NOT core values of either the right or left.

      • AMAC permalink
        December 6, 2011 12:38 am

        Dhlii, Statists and Libertarian spectrums have their extremist as well. I would estimate that you are on the extreme end of the libertarian axis. You make some good points, as do all here. I would not consider an extreme libertarian to be a centrist. Almost everyone can agree we need to reduce government spending, that does not make you the center. What you advocate is nowhere near the center. I am not attacking you or your beliefs, but you seem to have place yourself at the center and drawn the line. In your reality, moderates are lefties, and libertarians are moderates. If you are the center, the right must be very thin.

  32. December 6, 2011 11:53 am

    Rob;

    Why is it that we are only free to see the world in your terms ?
    People do die on the streets in this country – though far fewer than anywhere else in the world or any other time in history. But most because of what government program, social safety net, and money can not provide. Cures for addiction, mental illness, criminality.

    Nature grants us many rights – but these do not include, food, shelter, good health, or protection from nature itself. These we must work for. Worse still nature gives to each of us more than our rights entitle us to – but it does not distribute its gifts equally or fairly. We have no right to be as smart, strong, handsome, or skilled as anyone or everyone else. Life is not fair. But for most of us – even the poor, life is good.

    If the minimum wage is such an excellent idea – lets raise it – how about tenfold ? That won’t happen – we all understand what would happen, anyone who could not produce enough to justify that wage would not have a job. That is not depravity, immorality or barbarity. It is more than a law of economics – it is a natural law.

    It is immoral barbaric and depraved to legislate wages such that the less skilled and productive of us are unemployable, dependent on the rest of us for charity rather than able to care for themselves – not matter how poorly. Depriving them of crappy paying jobs, deprives them of the opportunity to develop the skills and track record to get better ones.
    Minimum wages are theft – not from the rich, or big business, but from the poor, the unskilled, the untrained. It is a theft of dignity and opportunity.

    It is also elitist. The left constantly rants that people can not be trusted to take care of themselves – and then enslaves the least of us in public charity that makes that claim true.

    You say you are not a tyrant or communist. Social Democrats are not doing so good today. The soviet economy was supposed to dwarf our in a decade or two – almost a century ago. The standard of living in the EU has declined relative to the US (both have been growing) by 1% a year for 30 years – not much, but over 30 years that is a huge difference – the bottom quintile in the US have more wealth than the middle class in Europe. And Europe is failing. Merkel and Sarcozy just announced that any further government bailouts will come with strings – EU countries will be required to add balanced budget requirements to their constitutions. Europes already high taxes are going higher – on the middle class, there is no more revenue to be had from the so called rich.

    I would rather you were a communist. To each according to his need, from each according to his ability, is at least a noble aspiration. You say you are not a tyrant, but what you advocate requires power at the cost of freedom. A benevolent tyrant is still a tyrant. The tyrants you say you would oppose came to power by promising the very things you advocate. The enabling legislation that granted Hitler near absolute power in Germany was the “Law for the Alleviation of the Misery of the People and the Nation”. The tyrants of the past have gained and secured their power by promising and sometimes accomplishing precisely what you demand of government.

    The Market you decry is just the economic facet of individual liberty. Freedom – economic or otherwise means people making their own choices, both good and bad. It means grasping that 7 Billion people each planning and pursuing their own individual objectives with no structure beyond what they voluntarily impose on themselves will succeed where elite government planners can not.

    It means trusting individuals.

    You can not server two masters. You can not oppose Tyranny and totalitarianism favor freedom, and at the same time transfer individual liberty to the state for the good of the people.

    When you impose a solution from above, you do so at the expense of everyone’s freedom – even those you wish to help. Even if you succeed, you fill their bellies temporarily at the expense of their souls.

    The Wiemar Republic was the product of German Social Democrats, and Nazism its consequence. Greece, and Italy are among its modern progeny. If Social Democrats can take credit for Europe’s successes – they are stuck with responsibility for its failures.

    he benefits o

  33. Andy Tonti permalink
    July 19, 2012 3:39 pm

    Mild-mannered, middleton Republicans out there!! Can you be at all proud of what’s happening to your GOP?? You may agree that raising our taxes is a big dealbreaker
    today, but somebody has to pay for those tax cuts!! And it will be us – by substantial cuts
    in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, assistance programs for new homeowners, the less fortunate (yes, yes, the poorer of us and the homeless), and many more worthwhile entitlement programs… Think hard about where your vote goes in November, and who’s really going to feel the effect of the GOP agenda afterwards. Raising taxes is alway hard to accept, but under our regressive taxation code, you’ll continue to see wage and growth stagnation, forthcoming recessions, and certainly real declines in the standard of living we’re accustomed to.

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