Monday, April 25, 2011

Groveling for Grover

You probably know who Grover Norquist is, but if not, he is the head of an organization called Americans for Tax Reform, an organization he started (I think) at the request of President Ronald Reagan. Norquist is also a big player in the National Rifle Association as well as a large number of other conservative organizations. He is also the author of the famous quote about wanting to starve government to the point where he could drown it in the bathtub. Although I was aware of his existence I have never until now given him much thought. A comment by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has piqued my interest. Senator Coburn is a member of the so-called Committee of Six (I think that is what it is called). This committee, appointed by President Obama, is charged with coming up with a plan to somehow reduce the deficit. Some have high hopes it will devise a reasonable plan.

How this affects Senator Coburn is because one of the possibilities the committee is facing is raising taxes. Senator Coburn, however, like virtually all Republican Congresspersons, signed a document devised by Grover Norquist, that promises never, ever, under any circumstances to raise taxes. When asked about this Coburn replied to the effect that this pledge was to a special interest group and was therefore not as important as his constitutional duty (that might oblige him to raise taxes at some point). What I find of the most interest here is, why did Coburn wait until now to decide his constitutional duty was more important than the tax pledge that Grover Norquist requires of all Republicans running for office? Why, that is, did Coburn and all the others agree to sign such a pledge in the first place? Obviously they signed it because they did not want Americans for Tax Reform to campaign against them. This pledge is not a legal document, no one has to sign it. This would indicate to me that either they did not consider the potential conflict of interest that might arise or they were so intimidated by Grover Norquist they signed it with no thought at all about what they were doing.

It is not at all clear to me why anyone would ever sign anything specifying they would never under any circumstances do something, anything at all. This would seem to me to be foolishness of the worst kind, how would anyone know what circumstances might demand of them in the future, especially if they were about to enter government? And who is Grover Norquist to demand their signature, other than being head of an anti-tax group? He holds no elected position, is not appointed by anyone with authority to appoint him to do anything of the sort. It would appear to me that Republicans just dutifully signed this absurd pledge without challenging it or giving it proper thought, sheep being led around by the Judas goat. This seems to me to also be the way Republicans act once they are in office, just following the party line whatever it is with no independent thoughts of their own, no regard for what might be right and proper, or good for the nation, just what it is they are told to do for the party. Grover Norquist says jump and they mindlessly do so. The party says jump and they mindlessly do so. I think this is disgraceful and not at all the way our elected officials ought to behave. It also indicates they have no idea what a Congressperson ought to be, so rather than doing the business of the people they merely do the business of those who keep them in office. I guess they believe that if no one pays taxes the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus will take care of the police, firemen, highways, bridges, schools, etc. No one, of course, should have to pay taxes to support our obscene military/industrial/political complex, but that is another matter.

Of course not a whole lot about what goes on in the nation’s capital makes sense anymore. I heard today (although I already knew this) that when the price of gas goes up the President’s poll numbers go down. As it is widely said the President has virtually no control over the price of oil, why should his poll numbers go down? Similarly, the President is being criticized because of his failure to close Guantanamo, but he has been effectively prevented from doing so by Congress, so why should he bear the blame? I do not doubt that President Obama deserves the blame for many things, but these two do not seem entirely fair. But, then, I have long since given up any hope that reason has anything to do with the affairs of government, or even human behavior in general. While I absolutely despise the idea behind the saying, “when you’re going to be raped you might as well lay back and enjoy it,” it somehow does seem appropriate to apply it to our current political situation.

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