For years, a group of scientists have maintained a "Doomsday Clock", a symbolic clock-face which indicates how close humanity is to a catastrophic destruction through man-made causes. The closer the clock gets to midnight, the greater the imminence of the impending doom. If there were a doomsday clock for the American economy, it would be at about fifteen seconds to midnight, and Grover Norquist is trying to speed up time.
For those who don't know, Norquist is president of the deceptively innocent-named Americans for Tax Reform. This organization, under Norquist's leadership, has become the primary economic influence on the Republican Party - effectively forcing nearly all Republican members of Congress to sign a "No Tax Increases" pledge. While this has been brilliant marketing, Norquist's single-minded insistence on adhering to the narrowest possible interpretation of this pledge has directly led to the current budget impasse and very possibly to the first ever default on American debt.
Norquist is defining tax increases as *any* increase of US Government revenues. Not content to limit his opposition simply to new tax increases, he has waged a fundamentalist jihad against governmental revenue acquisition - including expiration of tax cut legislation and the closure of tax loopholes in his definition of tax increase. As a result, he demands the government close the largely GOP-created deficit solely through spending cuts.
As a marketing strategy for Republican elections, this is great. There is perhaps no greater soundbite than to say "I want you to keep your money, not the government." The problem, though, is that this is a fallacy. Cutting federal spending on infrastructure, healthcare, education, and other vital areas of the economy will simply transfer these expenses to the state and local level. You're still going to pay for these things - but without the full might of the United States Government behind soliciting, regulating, and enforcing contracts, you are very likely to pay more for the same services. The only "benefit" to this policy is that Grover Norquist and his ilk can go to big businesses and say "we protected your tax cuts - time to make a donation to our preferred candidates." And business will gladly pay up.
This all comes at a time when corporate taxes as a percentage of federal revenues are lower than they have been not only in my 36 years, but in my *parents* lifetimes as well. In 1955 - right in the heart of Ike's Republican America, corporate tax rates made up more than three times the percentage of federal tax revenues than they do today. And yet, directly as a result of Norquist's bullying, we are on the verge of being unable to pay Social Security benefits.
We are smarter than Norquist perceives. We can see through his smoke and mirrors. It's time we demand that corporate tax rates be normalized in addition to smart, targeted spending cuts to bring the deficit under control.