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Slandering Grover Norquist

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Earlier this month, much to the delight of big-government loving individuals from the left and right, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) made a failed character-assassination attempt on anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.  Were it not for the immunity granted to all statements on the floor of the House Wolf’s offensive slurs just might have amounted, legally, to slander.

The very fact that Wolf made such dubious charges from the floor of the House suggests that he was taking advantage of the immunity granted under Article I, section 6 of the Constitution in order to attack with actual malice and reckless disregard.  Mr. Wolf?  Have you no decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

There is an obvious, if shocking, explanation for Wolf’s unprovoked attack.  The Supercommittee, on which he does not serve, may be lusting for a multi-trillion dollar tax increase. There are some really good people on the Supercommittee, so one hopes it isn’t so.

All it will take to balance the budget is very firm spending restraint and 3.5% or better growth rates. One hopes that the Jeb Hensarlings and Chris Van Hollens of this world stand staunch for economic growth.  Such growth rates can be achieved with empirically proven policies such as the gold standard.  The “Feed the Beast Crowd” rightly sees Norquist as a material obstacle to its designs. An insider has provided confirmation to this columnist that paving the way for a tax increase was, indeed, the motive for the attack on Norquist.

Let’s hope that America rallies to the support of Americans for Tax Reform (with whom this columnist once was professionally associated and at other times, on certain non-tax-related issues, is at loggerheads with Norquist).  More to the point, let’s hope any attempted tax increase fails.  A tax hike almost certainly would send this teetering economy plummeting off the cliff into another massive recession.  It certainly wouldn’t contribute to cutting the deficit.

What is taking place behind the Supercommittee’s closed doors?  We can only tremble and pray for deliverance.  But what’s deeply troubling is Wolf’s recourse to character assassination and, even worse, his assault on the principle of integrity:

Everything must be on the table, and I believe how the pledge is interpreted and enforced by Mr. Norquist is a roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code. … Have we really reached the point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?

“Everything must be on the table” is Washington code for “tax increases are conceded.” Rep. Wolf’s Northern Virginia district contains many, many federal employees.  Many, perhaps most, of his constituents are privileged rather than prejudiced by government spending.  So it’s understandable that Wolf would be inclined to crosscut the heroic leadership of Majority Leader Cantor … who stands firm against the president’s demand for tax increases.

Wolf is one of the few Republicans who have not signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.  OK, we get that more taxes are what his pro-tax constituents, civil servants, want. But one cringes to see someone who pledged to support the Constitution belittling the honoring of pledges.  It is just wrong to denigrate the commitments of candidates who made solemn promises to persuade the citizens to grant them the honor of serving in the United States Congress.  Calling on his colleagues to break their solemn vow, to break faith with constituents, treating such perfidy as virtue, not vice, is more fit for a declining Rome than an honorable republican America.

All versions of ATR’s pledge are very simple and very clear.

I, _______________, pledge to the taxpayers of the _____ district

of the state of__________, and to the American people that I will:

  • ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and
  • TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

ATR’s website explains the significance:

Politicians often run for office saying they won’t raise taxes, but then quickly turn their backs on the taxpayer. The idea of the Pledge is simple enough: Make them put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing.

In the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, candidates and incumbents solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases. While ATR has the role of promoting and monitoring the Pledge, the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is actually made to a candidate’s constituents, who are entitled to know where candidates stand before sending them to the Capitol. Since the Pledge is a prerequisite for many voters, it is considered binding as long as an individual holds the office for which he or she signed the Pledge.

Apparently Wolf confuses expecting a person to honor his or her word — what most people consider “integrity” — with “one person’s demand for ideological purity.”  Congress is not paralyzed by ideological purity.

The idea that Representatives automatically are absolved of their campaign promises by virtue of their election is both the height of elitism and unspeakably cynical.  Congress is paralyzed by its own reluctance to cut and face the wrath of the myriad who, like Wolf and his constituents, make their living from the gargantuan FEGOOTUS (federal government of the United States).

Nobody knows what the Supercommittee will do.  This columnist’s strong preference is for “don’t just do something, stand there.” A perfectly sensible mechanism now is in place automatically to cut spending levels across the board.  This seems like a logical reciprocal to President Reagan’s promise to cut income tax rates across the board — a promise fulfilled.

The Taxpayer Protection Pledge, by the way, is crystal clear, and Norquist never has muddled it.  Any deduction may be eliminated, any loophole closed, provided that the savings are used to reduce tax rates.  So any claim that Norquist is against tax reform is either ignorant or disingenuous.  He adamantly stands against tax increases.  Period.  How admirable!

Some Republicans are panicking at the idea the defense budget might be cut even a little — as if that somehow will destroy the Republic.  Malarkey.  Examples of profligacy abound.  The House is just now trying to get up the nerve to forbid the Treasury Secretary from getting around on military jets — at the cost of $150,000 per flight, a practice begun under Tim Geithner’s Republican predecessor.

The Air Force scores the cost of operating Air Force One to be around $181,000 an hour. (Makes Geithner’s $150,000 trips sound like JetBlue.)   And … does the president really need two Private 747s?  And do we really need the three new ones on order?  Does the president really need a whole Air Force base dedicated to being little more than his private jetport?  How about that pimping the VP’s ride, Air Force Two, a modified 757? The fleet of Marine helicopters?  (Mr. President, when you picked on private jet users you seriously violated the “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” axiom.)

Bottom line?  There’s ample waste to be cut.  The government doesn’t want to endure the agony of performing its mission with a little less bloat. The joke is that the joke is on us, the taxpayers. And Wolf?  We get it.  And we get why the whole Big Government crowd hates Grover Norquist.

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