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GROVER NORQUIST – ANTI-TAX IDEOLOGUE OR K STREET MAESTRO? (PART II)

August 18, 2014

GROVER NORQUIST – ANTI-TAX IDEOLOGUE OR K STREET MAESTRO? (PART II)
There are two essential promises within the pledge Norquist extracts from Republican members of Congress when they sign his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.” One is that those who sign must oppose efforts to raise tax rates or cut tax credits unless accompanied by dollar-for-dollar reduction in rates. This is a real bonanza for billionaire hedge fund managers and other members of the upper one-tenth of the one percenters who pay taxes at capital gains rates rather than ordinary income rates on income that is plainly ordinary income but treated as “carried interest” under a statutory loophole created for their benefit. Such Manhattan zillionaires pay taxes at a lesser rate than the doormen at their high-rises. (As my followers know, I have been agitating for abolition of this disgusting loophole for years.)
Any effort to raise such upper income marginal rates or close this glaring loophole is in violation of the pledge made by congressional signatories, and any such effort or a vote for such effort by others is certain to catch the attention of Norquist the Enforcer, who will remind any such errant congresspeople of their pledge made and the consequences for not following it (funding of a primary opponent, for instance). Such heresy as violating a pledge will not go unpunished, whatever the circumstances giving rise to such a breach. Had such a pledge been in place when Pearl Harbor occurred, we presumably would have had to forego a war because we couldn’t afford it. The tax status quo must be preserved!
As an example of just how catastrophic living up to this “pledge” could be, take the almost solid vote of Republicans to allow the full faith and credit of the United States of America to go down the tube recently because, among other reasons, they were signatories to this “pledge,” a pledge that robs them of independent judgment by representing Norquist and his superrich compatriots rather than the folks back home with their votes, votes by their congresspeople that would dramatically raise the interest rate on our debt (see the current rate on Greek and Argentine bonds demanded by investors). The credit of the United States of America, which maintained AAA status even during the Great Depression, is a precious asset which, if lost, would wreak incalculable waves of chaos through bondholding and other international investment circles, cause massive selloffs of our debt and enormous increases in the interest we would have to offer to attract investors both domestic and international what with our maimed credit rating. Our ruined credit rating would have amounted to self-inflicted suicide for our country and its economy, and for what? Preservation of some tax loophole for the superrich and/or one’s pledge to some lobbyist to vote no as a political bargaining chip to gain political advantage in other contexts? Is destruction of the full faith and credit of the United States a rational choice in any political brawl? Answer: No, it is off the table and untouchable, a choice of tactic beyond disaster. In language of the street, you don’t mess with the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
I think such a vote to ruin our credit and increase our borrowing costs to finance our debt by the hundreds of billions of dollars borders on sedition and that there are other fields than the nation’s credit status in which to wage political wars. Those people of whatever party who voted to ruin this nation’s credit, cynically manipulated by Norquist and his heavy campaign contributors with their threats, “pledges” and other such devices, have in my estimation violated their constitutional oath of office and should have resigned. None did; some still in a state of denial insist that they did the right thing. What?
The other essential promise in Norquist’s “Pledge” is the Republican congressperson’s pledge not to cut tax credits. A tax credit is nothing more than a subsidy in its effect on our budget. From the standpoint of us taxpayers, giving such a lucky taxpayers a million in subsidies or a tax credit of a million are identical transactions. The only difference is in which federal agency makes the distribution. The IRS “distributes” the credit and some other federal agency “distributes” the subsidy. Norquist loudly points out that any attempt to cut such credits (subsidies) amount to a tax increase. (He is good at framing issues, but transparently wrong – giving or taking credits or subsidies have nothing to do with tax rates.) Businesses love these subsidies (aka corporate welfare) funded by you and me. Duke Energy, for instance, a very profitable corporation, has an effective negative tax rate as a result of our largesse.
GE, which paid no taxes on $14.2 billion in profits in taxes in 2010, instead reaping a $3 billion refund from your treasury and mine, was defended by Norquist who argued that removing billions in tax rebates to GE would merely amount to a tax on consumers. GE made a $50,000 contribution to Norquist’s foundation that year, which is more than they paid IRS, who rather paid GE a refund!
Wasteful energy subsidies, including billions of dollars to Big Oil (represented by a trade association known as the American Petroleum Institute which includes ExxonMobil, Chevron et al.), are defended by Norquist with the claim that any attempt to end them would amount to a “tax hike on energy producers and families.” Big Oil has a PR problem. Oil companies with billions in quarterly profits (payable to their executives and shareholders at our expense) deduct costs for drilling wells and receive “manufacturing” tax deductions for simply refining crude oil. (ExxonMobil is the leading refiner.) They need ideological cover and Norquist provides it. The American Petroleum Institute paid his foundation $525,000 for his trouble between calendar 2008 and 2011. “Cover” is costly and, as a final insult, deductible, so that you and I helped pay Norquist for his efforts in increasing our deficit he so loudly proclaims to hate.
When consumer groups fought to enact regulations on polluters, Norquist solicited those same polluters to donate to his foundation, which would in turn battle these consumer “do-gooders.” He started his own lobbying firm and Microsoft paid him $40,000 as a registered lobbyist for their company. He did not write a letter to House Republicans as a lobbyist urging them to cut deeper into the budget of the Justice Department’s anti-trust division; he had his “non-profit” foundation do it. It is noteworthy that the DOJ was then pursuing a high-stakes legal case against Microsoft, which thrives on monopolistic and patent infringement opportunities. Norquist-guided Republicans routinely threaten to cut off or reduce funding for regulators who are getting too close for comfort to their corporate patrons – and then go on TV to denounce “government” as ineffective, worthless etc. This from people who have given their vote to Norquist on money matters, whether it be taxes or funding of governmental operations! What a joke!
The foregoing, plus writing a letter for $25,000 to FedEx on behalf of UPS over a union matter, money from Phillip Morris to campaign against tobacco taxes and, of course, the $50,000 he made in laundering $1.2 million of Choctaw Indian money on behalf of convicted swindler Jack Abramoff via his foundation along with heaven only knows how many other shady deals he has made stamp him for what he is – and is not. He is not an ideological purist fighting for America, its people and its future; he is a corporate lobbyist at the public trough, a triangulating opportunist oblivious to the common good and is the epitome of greed all rolled into one who has somehow garnered an audience among Republicans and the profit-mad superrich in following this phony Pied Piper. Join me in ignoring him. GERALD E

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