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Coburn, Norquist and the no tax pledge

In Washington and in St. Paul, we are headed for some kind of big showdown testing how far Repubs will go to honor their No-New-Taxes pledge.

As I have mentioned before, almost all elected Repubs have signed the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" developed and enforced by Americans For Tax Reform and its leader Grover Norquist, who is one of the major kingmakers (and kingbreakers) of the party.

There's a lot of loose talk about a way around the pledge, by eliminating deductions, credits and other tax loopholes and breaks without raising rates, maybe even eliminating so many loopholes that you can lower rates and still end up with more revenue. Unfortunately for those who are thinking along those lines, Norquist is ahead of them and has added a second provision to the pledge specifying that any elimination of deductions or credits must be offset "dollar for dollar" by rate cuts. So, it's pretty clear, if you signed the pledge and then went along with a deductions and rates fandango that ends up producing higher revenue, you have violated the pledge.

Repub Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" that is negotiating a not-so-secret big deficit reduction plan, has signed the pledge but is nonetheless talking about such a fandango. On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Coburn said the gang wasn't talking about raising anyone's tax rate but that if the tradeoff between deductions and tax rates produced a net increase in tax revenue, "that would be fine with me."

Host David Gregory then put on the screen the copy of the Norquist pledge that Coburn had signed.

Replied Coburn:

"Which pledge is most important, David? The pledge to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who speak — who claims to speak for all of American conservatives, when in fact, they really don’t?”

Sorry Mr. Norquist. That's you he's talking about.

Politico reached Norquist who was not shy with his feelings:

"The pledge that Tom Coburn signed was to the citizens of Oklahoma. He made that promise in campaigning for Senate in Oklahoma.

"Coburn said on national TV today that he lied his way into office and will vote to raise taxes if he damn well feels like it, never mind what he promised the citizens of Oklahoma. Sen. Coburn knows perfectly well that the pledge is not to any organization but to the citizens of his state. He lied to them, not to Americans for Tax Reform.

"Before this recent television comment, Coburn told me personally in a phone call that he would not vote for a tax increase and repeated his commitment in writing in a public letter to me."

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Comments (7)

I have to say, I don't agree with Tom Coburn on much of anything but I do sort of admire his prickliness and willingness to state his mind.

Forgive my temerity, but I was just wondering offhand what office it is that Grover Norquist was elected to, what economics credentials he has to provide an intellectual basis for his pledge, and why he gets to make and “enforce” fiscal policy for the country.

Coburn called Norquist a "special interest group?" Oh my goodness, he is SOOOOO toast...

The only sensible thing Grover Norquist has ever done is to refrain from winning an office for which he would have to pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Wait, now I get it...he's promised not to seek re-election:

We should NOT be surprised, I suspect that today's crop of "conservatives," whose ideology and ideals are based on nothing more than their own psychological dysfunctions would find attractive such a simplistic slogan as "no new taxes."

Of course the slogan is completely meaningless, but has become the verbal manifestation of the "money goggles" they all wear - goggles which render invisible to them anyone who does not have (or at least appear to have) large amounts of money.

Thus they are responsive in the extreme to the Randian rich whose oh-so-pathetically tender sensibilities must never be offended by the slightest request that they share from their exponentially-increasing incomes even a penny toward supporting the governments upon which they have depended from the day they were born (despite the fact that they are now paying the lowest taxes "the rich" have paid in the past 70 years or so),...

While the suffering of those who are in legitimate need and the coming suffering of those whom they are about to cast into the pit of need simply do not exist, those people being rendered invisible to those who wear the "money goggles" that Norquist, et al, require of them.

Mr. Norquist is clearly a psychologically sick individual. Those who sign his pledge are bearing testament to their own sickness and to their willingness to set national and state policy according to the dictates of the most psychologically limited and unhealthy people who exist in our nation, simply because of those people's propensity toward howling, whining, keening and moaning whenever they are offended.

I can only hope that the public in general, and our "conservative" leaders who now seem so willing to cast the general public into that pit of poverty while kissing the feet of the most dysfunctional among the rich, will soon find better roll models and relegate Mr. Norquist, et al, to their proper place:...

A footnote in history regarding how a "movement" took hold of the nation and, for a brief time came close to destroying government at every level as well as our national economy...

that movement being far closer to the evacuation of our national bowels as the result of some form of mental food poisoning than to anything useful to or constructive of our society or our citizens.

It is my sincere hope that, like senators Coburn and Chambliss, other Republicans will realize that their signing the Norquist pledge is definitely not on a par with taking an oath to uphold the Constitution, including the part about promoting "the general welfare."

I'd guess that many Republican members of Congress had no idea when they signed the pledge that refusing to raise sufficient revenue to pay off the debt, pay the country's bills, and maintain essential public services -- including its safety net -- was too big a price to pay to please an ideologue, no matter how large his following.

Are you listening to the Gang of Six, Minnesota Legislature members???