If you had to list the top 10 most powerful people in politics in America, whom would you put on your list? President Obama? Certainly. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Absolutely, at least until she retires. House Speaker John Boehner? Maybe, maybe not. What about Grover Norquist? If you just found yourself asking, “who is that?” you shouldn’t feel bad.
Grover Norquist isn’t exactly a household name for most Americans. He’s not a congressman, senator, governor, or member of any elected office. He’s not a judge, and he’s not a member of the Obama cabinet. He doesn’t own a bank or an oil company. But if I had to point a finger of blame at one person for why this country cannot find any common ground when it comes to fiscal policy, it would be Grover Norquist.
Grover Norquist is the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. The organization has worked tirelessly to get 219 representatives and 39 senators to sign a short and simple pledge. It states that said representative or senator will, under no circumstance, vote to increase the marginal income tax and oppose any eliminations of deductions without equal reductions made to taxes. You may ask yourself why any representative of government would agree to a pledge that completely constrains their ability to cooperate or compromise with their counterparts when it comes to any fiscal issue. The answer is, as it so often is, money.
It is near-impossible for a Republican member of congress to win a primary without taking the pledge today, and, if they break it, Grover Norquist’s organization will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to ‘remind’ the voters that they broke the pledge and that representative can expect to say goodbye to their seat come next election. Grover Norquist has been fighting against taxes since the days of Reagan. He claims to want to shrink government back down to the size it was at during the era of Teddy Roosevelt or, to quote him, to “reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” So when Congress gets together again to try and compromise about the fiscal future of our country and you find yourself wondering why on earth ideas like raising taxes on the very wealthy are so painful, as they were during the recent “fiscal cliff” negotiations and even though 60 percent of Americans believe they should be raised, look to Grover Norquist.