Political Animal

Blog

November 24, 2012 12:15 PM Grover Norquist: the end of an error?

By Kathleen Geier

Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is making headlines today, for his recent comments about the no-tax-increase pledge he once made to powerful wingnut activist Grover Norquist. Chambliss said he’s not worried that Norquist will sic a primary challenger on him if he votes to raise taxes:

“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” said Chambliss, who signed Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” when he first ran for Senate. “If we do it his way, then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”

Chambliss isn’t the only Republican openly defying Norquist. As The Hill recently reported, the number of supporters of Norquist’s pledge is down in both the House and Senate, with a dozen incoming freshman Republicans in the House having refused to sign on. It’s hard to say whether this represents a growing trend, or merely a change in tactics. The end-game for Grover, as always, in his infamous words, to shrink the government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” If he now thinks the best way get there would be to trade a small increase in taxes in exchange for steep, debilitating cuts in social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare, then maybe the apparent split between Norquist and Republicans like Chambliss is all kabuki.

Certainly, of all the changes the G.O.P. might make to broaden its base, it seems to me that any changes in its basic economic orientation are most unlikely. The alliances between the Republican Party and wealthy corporations and individuals are the strongest, deepest, and most powerful ties that party has, so I doubt anything very fundamental will change there. But the fate of Grover Norquist specifically and his no-tax-increases-at-any-cost ideology in general certainly bears continuing scrutiny.

UPDATE: Yup, it does seem like La Chambliss’ dance of the seven veils is all about gutting Social Security and Medicare (H/T: Digby).

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

Comments

  • c u n d gulag on November 24, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Let's belittle Grover so much, that he and his tainted reputation, are small enough to drown in a bathtub.

  • Lex on November 24, 2012 1:16 PM:

    Chambliss is getting way too much credit here. If this isn't pure kabuki, it is, at best, a very low bar for a legislator to clear in a time of negative, and rapidly changing, economic circumstances. Giving Chambliss credit for telling Norquist to get bent (if in fact that is what he has done, of which we are by no means certain) is like giving him credit for breathing.

    And Chambliss still deserves to burn in political hell for his campaign against Max Cleland.

  • Matt on November 24, 2012 1:28 PM:

    So, Saxby Chambliss is not a Lincoln Chafee or Chuck Hegel or Olympia Snowe-style Republican. He's smack in the middle of the Republican ideological spectrum (which is to say, he's pretty goddamn hard-line).

    And, like many--BUT NOT ALL--of his colleagues, he got there by drifting with the ideological tide. If Nelson Rockefeller ran the GOP, he'd be officiating at gay weddings in his spare time.

    So, he's a hardliner, but he's a sleazy little opportunistic shit of a hardliner. I mention all this because I can't decide if it's a good thing that he, of all people, is dusting off the whole "more in sorrow than in anger" bit for Grover Norquist. Yeah, he's not at the moderate fringe of the GOP, but neither do I think there are a lot of party faithful taking their cues from the Honorable Saxby Chambliss.

  • liam foote on November 24, 2012 1:47 PM:

    Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has also challenged this extremist, as has George HW Bush who famously and dismissively asked, "Who the hell is Grover Norquist?"

    I've always found the pledges and GOP take on the Bush-era cuts to be strange, in that they were meant to be temporary and to legislatively expire or "sunset" in 2010. Norquist insists that allowing such expiration by law somehow constitutes "raising taxes," i.e., he feels the cuts were permanent. Complete nonsense from this man.

  • Vince on November 24, 2012 1:51 PM:

    The only item definitely on the agenda right now is an extension of the middle class tax-cut. Even if the top tier Bush cuts are allowed to expire Republicans have a lot of rhetorical wiggle room there. I think the real litmus test is whether or not Grover's donor base begins to go dry. That's the truest indication of a philosophical capitulation by the GOP.

  • MuddyLee on November 24, 2012 2:00 PM:

    One of Grover's biggest contributors (according to a link from salon.com) is Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS. So let's attack Norquist AND Karl Rove at the same time - they have both done incredible damage to America in the 21st century. There should be 2 questions for republican politicians and advocates/commentators any time they have a microphone in front of them: (1) how old do you think the world is and (2) who are your 10 biggest contributors?

  • Mark-NC on November 24, 2012 2:23 PM:

    I think this is probably a nothing-burger. It is on the same order as The orange boner saying he's a reasonable guy.

    Both statements are bullshit on a stick.

  • apetra on November 24, 2012 2:43 PM:

    there is plenty of tax revenue for government to meet the needs of the truly needy. we collect more than needed for that purpose.

    forget 'supply side economics'. the claim that lower rates will raise more money for the government has always been uninteresting and unimportant (in addition to often -- but not always -- inaccurate).

    the question is whether higher or lower tax rates, combined with other sound policies, make the people better off as a whole.

    the answer has long been that lower rates will make people of all income classes and demographics much better off than current policies, so long as we get an appropriate and matching complete policy mix.

    that is where the republicans should stake their ground.

    conceding more tax revenue to the wealth and standard of income destroying behemoth crafted by Obama and the Democrats will double down on the ongoing nightmare faced by American people.

  • CharlieM on November 24, 2012 2:52 PM:

    @Lex
    And let's not forget his sickening posturing and protectionism for the Sugar Industry.
    Belittling a called witness on the safety at Imperial Sugar all the while prattling he was only concerned for the families of workers killed there. Chambliss is a sleazy, corrupt, obscene horror of a human being.

  • forward motion on November 24, 2012 3:45 PM:

    the answer has long been that lower rates will make people of all income classes and demographics much better off than current policies, so long as we get an appropriate and matching complete policy mix.

    Mitt is that you? The election is over. You lost.

  • N.Wells on November 24, 2012 3:52 PM:

    liam,
    As was known at the time, the Bush tax cuts were never truly intended to be temporary. They were made temporary in order to hide their true cost more than ten years out, in the expectation that either Republicans would be in charge and could make them permanent, or that Republicans could make it politically impossible for Democrats to avoid renewing them, using exactly the arguments that Norquist is advancing. Furthermore, the purpose of the Bush tax cut was A) to cut taxes for the wealthy, and B) to use up the surplus and run up government debt in order to preclude social spending and to convert public money into interest on treasury notes, to be paid to the wealthy. (Several birds with one stone.) So far, regrettably, it's been working exactly as they intended.

  • Doug on November 24, 2012 5:24 PM:

    I don't think one can completely rule this move by Chambliss as an attempt to prevent himself from being primaried by an outraged Tbagger. If 2014 turns out anything like 2012, any Republican in the Senate, whether or no that includes Chambliss, is going to have a lot less power. Just how many voters switching, or staying home, would it take to switch Chambliss' seat from "R" to "D", should a RWNJ gain the primary there?
    As for Chambliss' reason being his desire to gut SS/Medicare, I rather think he's missed the bus. That is soooo 2011!

  • Hue & Cry on November 24, 2012 8:32 PM:

    If you look up the word "unctuous" in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Grover Norquist.
    Or, it might be under "pompous a$$."

  • jhand on November 24, 2012 8:37 PM:

    The only thing I will ever need to know about Chambliss is the way he defeated Max Cleland in 2002. He can spend two lifetimes atoning for that campaign and never come close to making amends.

  • Aaron B. Brown on November 25, 2012 9:43 AM:

    I take satisfaction in knowing that Grover Norquist live to see the world he was trying to create, totally collapse and disappear entirely from the mainstream society within his lifetime.

    Here's a man who did more damage to the United States of America than Al Qaeda ever could have. In a very important way, he and his kind are entirely responsible for the manufacturing collapse, destruction of the middle class, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan and the global economic collapse. And of course they feel no responsibility whatsoever for what they have done. These are people who are only out for themselves, at the expense of everyone else on earth.

    To say the man is the definition of amoral, is an understatement, Indeed he is lacking in all things associated with authenticity, integrity, morality, honesty and everything that is right and true in the National character.

  • Joe Friday on November 25, 2012 11:55 AM:

    Of course, AFTER they decimate Social Security. Medicare, and Medicaid, the RightWing can always go back and cut taxes for the Rich & Corporate.

    That's why a "Grand Bargain" is NO bargain at all.

  • Joe Friday on November 25, 2012 12:07 PM:

    apetra,

    "there is plenty of tax revenue for government to meet the needs of the truly needy. we collect more than needed for that purpose."

    You must not be tracking the rising Poverty rates, falling real incomes (outside the 1%), and rising rates of hunger.

    "forget 'supply side economics'. the claim that lower rates will raise more money for the government has always been uninteresting and unimportant"

    Not to mention ass backwards.

    "the question is whether higher or lower tax rates, combined with other sound policies, make the people better off as a whole. the answer has long been that lower rates will make people of all income classes and demographics much better off than current policies..."

    It's never happened.

    As a matter of fact, it has ALWAYS made the 99% worse off.

    "that is where the republicans should stake their ground."

    I couldn't agree more. Stay with the failed and losing agenda.

  • Anonymous on November 26, 2012 10:06 PM:

    The pledge signers should organize on TV and tear up the pledges live on every channel to throw Grover Norquist under the bus. Grover can't primary ALL of them to death.