Profiles in Liberty: Grover Norquist, Anti-Tax Warrior

As a long-time leader in the conservative movement, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform become famous in recent years for his Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

The Pledge, which was rolled out in 1986 with the endorsement of President Ronald Reagan, requires office holders to oppose increases in the marginal income tax rates (personal & business) and to vote against any net reduction or elimination of deductions unless the changes are matched, dollar for dollar, by further reducing tax rates.

With signers in every state, more than 1,100 state officeholders, from state representative to governor, have signed the Pledge. Liberals and wayward Republicans blame it (and Mr. Norquist personally) for deadlock in Congressional budget debates.

Mr. Norquist is also involved in many center-right organizations, such as the National Rifle Association, the American Conservative Union,, and GOProud. He is also a Contributing Editor of The American Spectator.

Recently, Mr. Norquist co-wrote a book with Professor John Lott, Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future. It is a brilliant take down of President Obama’s radical policies, and you should buy multiple copies today.

With a dry sense of humor, Mr. Norquist tweets @GroverNorquist.

Grover Norquist

Matt Naugle: Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida recently criticized your highly successful pledge. Why are some Republicans opposed to the most basic Republican Party principle of opposing tax hikes?

Grover Norquist: Jeb Bush was invited to testify at a congressional hearing on budgeting and got attacked by Democrat congressmen who wanted to score points about his politics in Florida rather than hear about budgeting. When asked about eliminating deductions and credits, Bush originally said that should be accompanied by lower tax rates so the total tax burden does not increase. That is verbatim the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. His first impulse was to oppose tax hikes and demand revenue neutral tax reform. Good for him.

But then Bush got wrapped around the axle trying to defend his father’s decision to increase taxes in 1990 after being elected promising the American people that he would not. Bush’s tax hike led to higher spending—not less. It put the economy into a recession ending the Reagan years of economic growth. And Bush Sr. was defeated for re-election.  Americans do not re-elect Republicans who raise taxes.

Reagan was cheated in 1982 by Democrats promising spending cuts in return for higher taxes. He denounced his own error as the greatest mistake of his presidency.

Bush Sr. said he had made a mistake in allowing the tax hike in return for promised and imaginary spending cuts.

The son should learn from Reagan and Dad. Defending the mistakes of others is….a mistake.

MN: As a proud father of two, what are the three most important things you want your children to learn from you?

GN: I have two wonderful daughters, now three and four years old.  I want them to learn to love to read and learn and work hard.  And to never steal anything nor to ask the government to steal for you.

MN: You recently teamed up with Prof. John Lott to write Debacle. How did you decide to write the book together and what is it about?

GN: John Lott is a great economist and writer and really gets to the point.  He wrote the definitive study on how gun control laws fail to fight crime and in fact wider ownership of firearms by honest citizens is the best way to keep crime low and maintain freedom.

Lott has written extensively on how the stimulus spending by Obama, Reid and Pelosi damaged the economy and led to a very lousy “recovery.”

MN: At the Faith and Freedom coalition meeting, you were quoted in WaPo as saying “The left is not made up of friends and allies; the left is made up of competing parasites.” How can the right use the left’s parasitic nature against itself?

GN: The Left is made up of various groups, unions, grant recipients, people on welfare and those who administer welfare, all of whom sit around the Left’s table expecting to be paid.  If we refuse to keep putting more and more tax dollars in the center of the table, then the Left groups will fight each other over the spoils.  They will cheerfully gnaw on each other if we refuse to let them dine on taxpayers.

MN: Are you enthusiastic about Mitt Romney?

GN: Yes. Mitt Romney has committed to the American people in writing that he will oppose and veto any tax increase. He has promised to defend the Second Amendment and the First Amendment—quite a change from the past four years of Obama.

MN: With your newfound fame, many still don’t know you sometimes do standup comedy. Where will you be performing next?

GN: I perform stand up at least once a year and this year should be doing something at the GOP convention as well as the Improv coming up.

MN: Former ATR staff informed me you were a bit of a luddite about adapting to new technology. Has that changed and why?

GN: I think I was slow to move to e-mail, but now tweet with 25,000 followers at @grovernorquist and work with ATR activists around the nation through the website and email.

MN: There are videos of you on YouTube documenting your juggling skills. Where did you develop them?

GN: I was taught to juggle by Stuart Haber, a fellow freshman at Harvard.  He went on to work with the European Circus. I can juggle three balls without embarrassing myself.

MN: How was the experience of playing a wino in the next installment of the Atlas Shrugged movie?

GN: I was out in Los Angeles for the Bill Maher show, “Real Time” and the producers of Atlas Shrugged Part Two invited me to spend the day on the set and suggested I have a “walk on” rule which meant no lines. So I will be in the film as a wino sitting on a park bench as Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart walk down the path in front of me bemoaning the decline of civilization.

MN: And speaking of movies, you are thinner and more eloquent than Jeffrey R. Smith’s cartoonish portrayal of you in Casino Jack. Have you met him?

GN: No. Silly movie.  Each of the few scenes with “me” in them are made up.

MN: In your very limited free time, do you watch any reality TV shows or other brain rotting entertainment?

GN: I love Netflix….MI-5, Sandbaggers, Doyle’s War… several great British TV series.

MN: Finally, as the Tea Party movement matures, what should activists do in the fight for limited government?

GN: Stay involved.  This is a marathon not a sprint.  The other team—the statists—are not going away.  Best we can hope for his the best of them join our team and become producers rather than parasites, but there will always be those who wish to live off the labor of others and they will work hard politically to avoid working hard in real life.


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