At the Resurgent Gathering in Atlanta, Erick Erickson had a
discussion with Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. ATR is an organization
founded by Ronald Reagan in 1986, which, since 1994, has asked Republicans to
take a pledge not to raise taxes. Norquist said that since the pledge was
introduced, Republicans have won Congress two-thirds of the years. Because
Republicans have pledged not to raise taxes, Norquist said, the alternative is
to reform government.
Norquist’s new crusade is for single-rate taxation. A single
tax rate would replace multiple levels of taxation for different income groups.
Both Massachusetts and Illinois currently single rate taxes.
Norquist said that this has made it more difficult to raise taxes since any tax
increase affects the entire population rather than pitting different segments
of the population together. The 2017 Republican tax reform has moved in this
direction, Norquist said.
“If you leave the option of a tax increase on the table, you
never get to spending,” Norquist said. He pointed out that the spending battle
between John Boehner and Barack Obama was an example of how spending negotiations
should be handled. After Boehner’s Congress cut spending and refused to raise
taxes, the share of the GDP consumed by the government went down from 24
percent to 20 percent.
Options are limited while Democrats control the House, Norquist
said but added that there was a tactic that could be accomplished by executive
action. This would be changing the capital gains tax to account for inflation. Norquist
said that the other good thing that President Trump could do to lower taxation
is to end the tariff war.
When asked about Sen. Tim Scotts suggestion that Republicans
should talk to minorities about the estate tax, Norquist said, “I think that
the best thing that Republicans can do is talk to minorities about anything.”
Just making connections with minority voters removes many barriers to voting
for Republican candidates. Explaining how conservative policies can help them
and Democratic policies have hurt them can remove even more barriers.
“They’ve been greatly damaged by the Democratic Party,” Norquist said, “but we
do need to show up and say, ‘hi.’”
When it comes to sin taxes, Norquist criticized elected
officials for “funding whole programs” with taxes on products that they want to
go away. “Sin taxes are placeholders for other taxes” that will eventually
replace them and become permanent, he added.
“When politicians say they won’t raise taxes, it has no
effect,” Norquist said of ATR’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge. “When they put it
in writing, it makes a difference.”
He cited the example of George H. W. Bush who pledged “Read
my lips: No new taxes.” The first President Bush reneged on his promise and
then lost his re-election battle to Bill Clinton.
When asked about recent Democratic complaints that Obama
governed too conservatively, Norquist pointed out that after 2010, when
Republicans took control of the House they effectively killed Obama’s agenda. “Obama
didn’t want to cut spending,” Norquist said.
Looking to the future, Norquist said that he would like to
see the corporate tax rate and individual tax rates lowered even further. He
would also like to eliminate double taxation of Americans who work overseas. Norquist
also warned that Democrats were persistently pursuing an energy tax and a
value-added consumption tax.
“If we get that, I think we grind toward European levels of
big government,” Norquist said, calling the VAT “a French word for ‘big
He warned that Democrats would try to sneak in new taxes by
reducing existing taxes. Eventually, they would try to raise both taxes. One
suggestion by some Democrats is to tax energy and then write rebate checks to
everyone in the country.
“The government doesn’t make money,” he said, “but it makes
everybody dependent on government.”