Archive - Jul 2011

July 25th

Less Than Super, Grover

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Memo to Grover Norquist, to borrow a bit from Norm MacDonald: WAIT, WHAT?

I've avoided talking about the debt ceiling bullshit for the most part because the only angle I have on it is complete and utter astonishment at how Barack Obama has handled it. I have to assume that the country is being brought to the brink of default because Barack Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006, during one of the dozens of routine debt ceiling raises that have happened over the years. Well, that and because Republicans are dicks.

You see, the proper line of attack from Day One was that the debt ceiling raise was a routine bit of government business, and he expected it to happen with a clean bill the way it's happened every single other time in American history. But he couldn't take that tack, because he voted against it in 2006. So instead, he got caught up in the idea of making a Big Thing Happen, just like he did with health care, and just like then, the size and the scope of the thing has eclipsed the quality of the thing, which ended up being a giant steaming pile to discretionary spending, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. With no new taxes.

Which is a plan so Republican that Republicans would have to be completely fucking insane to reject it. And since they are in fact completely fucking insane, they've rejected it. Not only do they get the cuts they've always wanted, but they can blame Obama for cutting them the next time they run for office. And they're saying no, because... I honestly have no idea why.

Anyhow, it is against this backdrop that Grover Norquist, the man who has most of the Congress signed on to his Never Raise Taxes Ever pledge, the man who wants to shrink government to the size he can drown it in a bathtub, the man who said he'd let every grandmother in America die of fire-ant bites before raising the top marginal tax rate, said this. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase. We wouldn’t hold it that way." - Norquist, to the Washington Post, on whether politicians would face his wrath for letting the Bush tax cuts expire.

People understandably went apeshit. Norquist's pledge is powerful stuff. You break it, you tend to get some crazier teabagger running in the primary against you next time you need votes. And everyone read the tea leaves the same way - Norquist was opening the door to a potential compromise in the debt talks. Now, when everyone agrees that a Republican is considering compromise, that Republican must immediately issue a "clarification" and walk it back, and that's what Grover did. Sort of.

"...independent of the pledge, there's certain things you could technically do and not violate the pledge, but the general public would clearly understand is a tax increase."

See what he did there? Right there, he's admitted his entire life's work is exactly what we thought it was. Bullshit. If something can be certainly understood by the general public to be a tax increase, yet this thing happens to not count as a tax increase in terms of Norquist's pledge from legislators not to raise taxes, then the pledge is meaningless. Or at least it means whatever Norquist decides it's politically expedient to mean.

Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform, then put out a further clarifying statement that doesn't clarify shit. It's very clever. It strings things together in a way that makes you think that letting the Bush tax cuts expire would get Republicans in trouble with ATR, but it doesn't. All it actually says is that letting the Bush tax cuts expire as part of any deal that ALSO included either the Simpson-Bowles plan or the Gang of Six plan, would get them in trouble with ATR.

Then he clarified his position AGAIN in the New York Times, he says lawmakers would be in trouble for ending the Bush tax cuts... by voting to end them early instead of allowing them to expire naturally.

In all three of these clarifications, one thing remains clear. Grover Norquist is not going to fight all that hard for the continuation of the Bush tax cuts. Which almost made me think we were in an Invasion Of The Body Snatchers scenario. But when I was watching the skies and checking for pods, another possibility occurred to me. That Grover Norquist lied about how small he wants government to be.

I think Grover Norquist wants government to shrink to the size that it makes as many poor people, minorities, and old people as unhappy as it possibly can, but not so small that it suddenly doesn't have room for a very important personage like Grover Norquist. And I think taxes are about as low, and government is about as small, as Grover Norquist can personally afford. We've got a functioning kleptocracy going here, and the eternal game of tug of war would end if he actually pulled all of us into the pit at the center.

So by letting the Bush tax cuts expire, Norquist plays out the line a little bit. He gives himself continued relevance by giving him some room to push for tax cuts in the future, without an actual default or economic catastrophe that might leave Norquist without the only habitat he can survive in. A barely-functioning, undrowned, United States government.

Told you up top they were dicks, didn't I?