Thursday, February 09, 2012

Flattering Grover Norquist

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, the Democratic establishment must be quite fond of Grover Norquist's tactics. Norquist is best known for the rigid anti-tax pledge he's managed to get almost all Republican members of Congress to sign.

It's hard to see how Norquist's pledge has actually helped taxpayers. It's easy to see how it has hurt them. It has paralyzed Congress on the federal budget deficit and national debt issues. With the hands of Republican members tied on taxes, there is no room for maneuvering and no way to reach a bipartisan deal that makes meaningful inroads on the biggest fiscal problem facing the country. So huge deficits continue unabated, more and more debt accumulates, and American taxpayers are put at greater and greater risk.

Now we have a major Democratic interest group taking a page out of Grover Norquist's playbook and insisting that any Democrat running for governor sign an equally rigid pledge to veto any state budget bill that does not restore collective bargaining for public employees. And at least one Democratic candidate already has signed.

What any signer of this pledge is really committing to is the very kind of gridlock that Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge has created in Washington. It wouldn't be enough for a governor to propose the restoration of bargaining rights. It wouldn't be enough to then go to the legislature and engage in serious horse trading to secure collective bargaining a place in the budget bill. If the pledge is signed and then a budget were to land on the governor's desk that didn't include the reestablishment of collective bargaining, that governor would have to veto the whole kit and kaboodle even if it meant shutting down the government and suspending vital state services.

This would be a recipe for political brinksmanship. It would be the height of irresponsibility. After seeing what Grover Norquist's tactics have done to Congress, why on earth would Democrats want to mimic those tactics here in Wisconsin?

Will the coming recall election be about worker rights? Yes, of course. As well it should. But if it's only about public employees or even unionized workers more broadly, Scott Walker wins, mark my words.

This election needs to be about all of the people of Wisconsin. And it needs to be about putting the people back in the driver's seat. What we have now both in Washington and Madison is a few special interest groups leading elected officials around by the nose. What does this budget veto pledge do other than put a ring in some future governor's nose?

This election needs to be about the fact that this country grew together for 30 years from the end of World War II to the mid-1970s, and has been growing apart ever since. When inflation is taken into account, every income class in America has either been stuck in a rut or lost ground in the last 30 years except for the top 10%. The top 1% has absolutely cleaned up.

This is no coincidence. It is the product of decades worth of public policy making. Call it trickle down economics. Or supply side theory. Or Robin Hood in reverse. Whatever you call it, the rich have been made richer, the poor have been made poorer and the middle class is disappearing. Thanks to countless actions by politicians led around by the nose by the millionaires and billionaires who own them and snake charmers like Grover Norquist who entrance them.

The road out of this abyss is paved with declarations of political independence, not pledges of fidelity to special interests.


Anonymous said...

You are right on. There are no statesmen anymore, either at the federal level or here in Wisconsin at the state level.

Anonymous said...

In Wisconsin, if the budget is late or not signed, does the government carry on according to the previous budget?
If so, then your blog is misleading when it says "even if it meant shutting down the government and suspending vital state services."

Jim Crist said...

Well put, Mike.