Grover Norquist, the founder and head of Americans for Tax Reform, suffered some serious setbacks in the recent November election although he isn’t admitting to it. Mr. Norquist is best known for his anti-tax pledge – the Taxpayer Protection Pledge – which he started promoting over 20 years ago. Those
elected officials who signed the pledge agreed not to vote for any tax increase
for any reason ever.
Before the 2012 election, Mr. Norquist claimed that 279 incumbent candidates and 286 challenger candidates had signed the pledge. The election results showed that 55 Republican incumbent or challenger candidates for the House of Representatives who had signed the pledge had lost . In the Senate 24 Republican incumbent or challenger candidates similarly lost. At the same time, exit polls indicated that a majority of voters including Republican voters supported increased taxes for those with the highest incomes.
This disconnect is becoming more untenable for those who were elected and now must take steps to avoid the fiscal calamity that is possible at the first of the year. Even though the majority of the newly elected Republicans in the House of Representatives have signed Mr. Norquist’s pledge, there 16 who have not and one new Republican Senator also has not signed. Support is starting to fall away. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has announced he is no longer bound by his pledge of 20 years ago. Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of the Simpson/Bowles Commission, attempting to find a way to avoid the fiscal crisis, has denounced the pledge and its supporters, and key prospective Republican Presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, has refused to sign it.
Mr. Norquist continues to say that the pledge-signers will not waiver going forward. Maybe so, but has he noticed that the Republican leadership in Congress is twisting themselves into knots trying to find a way around the “tax” word and find other ways to do the same thing by proposing to close tax code loopholes and eliminate deductions among other methods, all of which raise “taxes” by another name? While not raising taxes is certainly a goal supported by most, being beholden to Grover Norquist, an individual who is not anyone’s representative, makes those who are elected to solve the fiscal problem look and act both foolish and ineffectual.