Renounce the Norquist Pledge
By Edward N. Squire Jr.
Special to The Pilot
To House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:
You've taken the oath to "support and defend the Constitution ... against all enemies, foreign and domestic," and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same."
My questions pertain to how you reconcile conflicts between your oath of office and another pledge that you have made to lobbyist Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. By signing his pledge, you oppose any "increases in marginal income tax rate for individuals and businesses, as well as net reductions or eliminations of deductions and credits without a matching reduced tax rate."
I would ask: Shouldn't an initial promise affect future promises related to it? May one alter a promissory note without the permission of the note's holder? Absent any such permission from Mr. Norquist, wouldn't prior allegiance to his pledge take precedence over subsequent allegiance to your oath?
You may contend that such conflicts don't exist, but the Constitution suggests otherwise. Article I, Section 8, says, "The Congress shall have the Power to lay and collect taxes." In pledging never to raise taxes, haven't you and other pledge-signers ceded power to Mr. Norquist?
How would the signers of our Constitution feel about this? I understand that about 257 Republican members of Congress have taken this pledge, many before being elected. Why bind oneself to the pledge first and to the oath second?
Now, Mr. Norquist says his pledge is "self-enforcing." But how does he spend his organization's money, a significant portion of which appears to come "from wealthy individuals, foundations and corporate interests," according to CBS News?
While he hasn't said that he uses donations to unseat pledge-violators, he certainly calls attention to them as he monitors their electoral fates. I am thus left with this question: Do Republicans fear his power, or do they simply, in their heart of hearts, believe in this man and his mission?
Americans for Tax Reform believes that "All consumers should be taxed one time at one low and flat rate tax," and that all taxes on capital gains and dividends should be eliminated.
But aren't the current income tax rates flat now? According to The Economist, the bottom 20 percent of earners make 3 percent of the income and pay 2 percent of the taxes, the middle 20 percent make 11 percent and pay 10 percent, and the top 1 percent make 21 percent and pay 22 percent. If dividends and capital gains were to be exempted, would that not in effect turn a flat tax into a regressive tax?
I've heard Mr. Norquist assert that the pledge is not to him but to the "American people." What does he mean? Shouldn't "American people" include all of one's constituents, wealthy or not? What would the average taxpayer say about having to pay disproportionately more in taxes than do the wealthy? I know what I would say. Are the Norquist goals really fair to the majority?
I appeal to both of you to therefore organize your colleagues and renounce your pledges. Americans are watching your fiscal cliff negotiations. They have been seeing the all-too-predictable Republican intransigence over raising taxes for the wealthy. But of course, isn't this exactly what your pledge calls for?
As he continues to draw more critical attention, Mr. Norquist's views may increasingly be seen as unfair and counterproductive for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Republican former Sen. Alan Simpson, co-chair of the Simpson-Bowles Commission on the Debt and Deficit, put it this way: "No taxes under any situation, even if your country goes to hell."
I think it's time for you to put a stop to Mr. Norquist's riding herd on the political lives of Republicans. I think his injurious influence has gone on long enough. I think it's time for you to distance yourself from his pledge, as have at least six congressional Republicans. Please exert your leadership in setting the example for the rest of your party members.
Why do so? First, it will enhance trust in you as serious negotiators who are acting in good faith. Second, it will serve the best interests of your constituents. And third, you won't be letting your country down.
For the sake of our entire nation, please act now!
Edward N. Squire Jr., of Seven Lakes, is a precinct chair in the Moore County Democratic Party.
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