IS GROVER OVER?….Grover Norquist, as all the world knows, is the grand ayatollah of the anti-tax jihadists, a man whose entire life is dedicated to one thing: starving government of revenue so it’s unable to do anything worthwhile. His proudest accomplishment is his “anti-tax pledge,” a document he has successfully bullied practically every Republican congressman in the country into signing.
But is the tide turning against both Grover and the anti-tax movement? Maybe so. After all, it’s one thing for congress critters to take this pledge, since they can just run up deficits whenever they feel like it, but state level politicians don’t have that luxury. And they’re starting to revolt.
In Colorado, a legislator who was one of the original backers of the anti-tax TABOR initiative is now governor, yet he’s now working to curtail the law. Why? In an enlightening article in the current issue of the Washington Monthly asking “Is Grover Over?,” Daniel Franklin and A.G. Newmyer III explain:
Business is the chisel driving a crack between moderate Republicans and the anti-tax fanatics. Although there is no group in Washington more loyal to the GOP’s anti-tax doctrine than the Chamber of Commerce, in the states, reality often trumps ideology.
?For businesses to be successful, you need roads and you need higher education, both of which have gotten worse under TABOR and will continue to get worse,? says Tom Clark of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, who notes that higher education has shrunk from 25 percent of the state budget in 1995 to about 10 percent today. ?I’m a Republican,? Clark says, ?but I made the decision not to give any money to the state party.?
Hey, how about that? The state needs roads and universities! Is anyone else on this bandwagon? Yes indeed, says David Sirota:
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley last year ignored his votes in Congress for deficit-expanding tax cuts and instead pushed a referendum to raise taxes on his state’s top income earners to deal with budget shortfalls.
In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels is calling for an income tax increase on his state’s top income earners. This is the same Mitch Daniels who, as President Bush’s budget director from 2001 to 2003, attacked congressional Democrats who proposed doing the very same thing.
Norquist has called his former pal Daniels a “traitor” for his efforts, and Mike Huckabee, the Republican governor of Arkansas, is pissed about it:
“Grover’s never been in government, doesn’t have to balance a state budget, never had a state constitution forcing him to deal with a balanced budget,” Mr. Huckabee said at a meeting with editors and reporters from The Washington Times.
“Grover’s never been in a situation where he couldn’t borrow money so he didn’t have to raise taxes or tell old people he’s just going to take them out of the nursing home and drop them on the curb,” he continued.
On the federal level, of course, even George Bush himself recently raised the possibility of supporting a tax increase as part of a Social Security rescue package. This is probably more a trap for Democrats than a serious proposal, but still. That’s apostasy.
Is Grover, in fact, over? No. But his aura of invincibility ? Grover will crush you if you don’t toe the anti-tax line! ? is an important part of his image, and that aura is fading. Norquist and fellow traveler Stephen Moore have sworn to unseat the Virginia legislators who recently raised their state’s taxes, for example, but they seem unlikely to make good on that promise. What’s more, as Franklin and Newmyer point out, “Voters in November rejected every tax-limitation measure on state ballots, including a Maine property tax initiative that was the most ambitious of its kind in 20 years.”
Perhaps the tide is finally turning.