Norquist's Goal: Drown Government in the Bathtub
The real agenda at the core of today's Republican Party is to decimate government as we know it and return us to the world of the Gilded Age.
That was, according to Webster's, "a period of U.S. history in the 1870s noted for political corruption, financial speculation, and the opulent lives of wealthy industrialists and financiers."
It was followed by the Progressive Era and the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.
The Gilded Age was a time with no federal income tax, an unregulated stock market where manipulation was rampant, no 40-hour work week, no minimum wage, no child labor laws, no Social Security, no Medicare, no protections against the poisoning of the air and the water supply.
In short, government was free to subsidize large business by building railroads and other infrastructure but not to ameliorate the conditions of post-industrial life or establish the preconditions for a vibrant middle class.
Grover Norquist is a lobbyist, leading conservative activist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. He has been referred to as "King Grover" because of the sway he holds over the Republican Party with his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge."
In Republican primaries, failure to sign and abide by the pledge will likely determine the result. According to Sean Lengell of The Washington Times, as of late 2011, 238 of 242 House Republicans and 41 out of 47 Senate Republicans had signed the pledge.
The ultimate endpoint of the pledge is to create a debt so huge that we will have no choice but to eliminate or severely restrict popular government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, student financial aid and many more.
It would be political suicide to confront any of these programs directly, so the "starve-the-beasters" have cut taxes and spent lavishly on wars and tax exemptions for favored interests - hoping that, in desperation, pushed to the precipice of a financial cliff, we will either do their dirty work for them or fall off instead of fighting back.
In an interview with Mara Liasson, shortly after the Bush tax cuts passed in May 2001, Grover Norquist said: "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."
Speaking in 2004, Norquist said: "And we've had four more years pass where the age cohort that is most Democratic and most pro-statist, are those people who turned 21 years of age between 1932 and 1952 - Great Depression, New Deal, World War II, Social Security, the draft - all that stuff. That age cohort is now between the ages of 70 and 90 years old, and every year 2 million of them die. So 8 million people from that age cohort have passed away since the last election; that means, net, maybe 1 million Democrats have disappeared - and even the Republicans in that age group."
On "60 Minutes" in November 2011, Steve Kroft interviewed Norquist.
Kroft: "I mean, you did say that your ultimate ambition was to chop it in half and then shrink it again to where we were at the turn of the century. You're talking about 1900, not 2000."
Norquist: "Well, the - I think -"
Kroft: "Eight percent of GDP."
Norquist: "Yeah. We functioned in this country with government at 8 percent of GDP for a long time and quite well."
Kroft: "That was before Social Security. It was before Medicare. It was before welfare assistance, unemployment assistance. Is that the federal government you envision?"
Norquist: "Each of these government programs were set up supposedly, in name, to solve a problem. OK. Do they solve the problem? Could the problem be better solved through individual initiative? I mean, I think we've found under welfare that we are doing more harm than good."
Kroft: "Do you feel the government has any obligation to the poor or the elderly or the unemployed?"
Norquist: "Yeah. It should stop stepping on them, kicking them and making their lives more difficult."
So it appears that Social Security and Medicare, both of which played an essential role in ensuring the dignity of my Republican parents' last few years of life and ameliorating the suffering of their terminal illnesses were, in reality, "stepping on them, kicking them and making their lives more difficult."
Modern chronic annual deficits have averaged 2.4 percent of GDP. From 1967 to the current recession, we spent an average of 20.6 percent, while taking in 18.2 percent. The original "borrow-and-spender," Ronald Reagan, and the first President Bush presided over average deficits of 4.25 percent of GDP. Before President Clinton, the last surplus was achieved in 1969.
With Social Security amounting to 20 percent of our budget, Medicare and Medicaid another 21 percent, national defense 20 percent and interest on past debts 6 percent, there is no way to reduce our budget by 61 percent and protect defense spending without cutting Social Security and Medicare.
Let's face it, with revenues at 15.8 percent of GDP, we are historically undertaxed. 1950 was the last time they were lower. Beyond taxes, the rising cost of health care will need to be brought under control in a way that maintains a basic guarantee to seniors present and future.
Tom Goergen lives in Southern Pines. Contact him at tgoergen @nc.rr.com.
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