The Norquist Pledge has nothing to do with tax reform as understood by most American taxpayers. For example, the majority of Americans favor increasing -- rather than capping -- the marginal tax rates of the top 1%. (By the way, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) -- a tax-exempt institution -- pays no taxes on its annual revenues of about $5 million per year, according to ATR tax forms.)
Grover Norquist even emphasizes that the pledge has no exceptions for war, natural disaster, or other misfortunes. For example, a signer of the Norquist Pledge isn't permitted to vote to increase tax rates on America's 1% -- even if such changes would be revenue neutral, and/or are desperately needed for a national emergency. Mr. Norquist's real goal (explained in his other writings) is to substantially shrink the size of government.
I oppose the Norquist Pledge for (at least) two reasons:
- ATR is a misleading, Orwellian assault on our language: ATR is entitled to a view that tax revenues should be capped, or that the '1%' shouldn't pay more taxes -- but they should call themselves Americans for Flat Tax, Americans for Limited Government, or anything which describes their real goals.
- We need compromise, not gridlock: The Norquist Pledge was directly responsible for the near default of the U.S. government, and contributes to the acrimonious political atmosphere we all suffer from. The American Bill of Rights and the Constitution are core non-negotiable commitments every American has the right to insist our politicians pledge to defend and protect. But pledges to not raise marginal tax rates on the top '1%' make normal compromise and negotiation impossible.
To counter this harmful situation, I propose the American Citizen's Anti-Norquist Pledge:
- As an American citizen, I hereby irrevocably commit that I will not support, contribute to or vote for any politicians who have signed the Norquist Pledge, unless they publicly renounce that pledge.
- As a shareholder of any American corporation, I pledge to oppose any corporate contributions to ATR and to vote against any corporate management using corporate funds to support ATR.
- As a consumer, I will not knowingly purchase goods and services from corporations that support the Norquist Pledge.
Finally, I would welcome your comments:
- Do you agree the Norquist Pledge is harmful to our country?
- If you agree that the Norquist Pledge is harmful, would you be willing to sign the Anti-Norquist Pledge?
- What else could we do to reverse the Norquist Pledge?
Steven Strauss was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). He is an Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard University for 2011-2012. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University.
Norquist notes proudly that he’s been pushing this pledge since 1986. Let’s take a quick look at how successful Norquist has been at inducing his signatories to “reduce the size of the federal government.”
You will obviously draw your own conclusions; however, once Norquist perpetrated his inviolable pledge upon our Nation's leaders, the great machinery of the state bent its collective will to the task of WHAT? ...cutting spending? ...reducing the size of the federal government?
So we have a balanced budget and pragmatism in Washington?
Spending and debt have exploded since politicians started deciding to let Norquist bind them to a policy of never raising enough revenue to pay for the spending they do?
It turns out that Republican politicians who break their oath to the Constitution by signing a superceding oath don’t care about deficits or the size of the federal government -- at least their collective action does not reflect it. Look back at the debt chart. If overspending was the real issue, then why a pledge that simply forces signatories to pay for all the spending they want to do?
Merely asking people to stop raising revenue to pay for stuff accomplishes nothing; it’s a myopic plan completely devoid of any corresponding policy objective(s) -- or contingency planning!