Suppose a man published a very popular and profitable how-to book on the best way to manage a company. And suppose that man and his ideas were actually used to manage a real company. Then suppose that the company the man and his ideas were responsible for managing ended up going bankrupt and had to be bailed out.
Now suppose that same man who ran the company into bankruptcy published another, second book on how to manage a company. A weary reader would rightly be skeptical of such a man and his new book. After all, he failed the first time, why should anyone listen to him now? Why would anyone buy his book?
It may be that a weary reader could be persuaded to purchase the latest book on the possibility and hope that the man’s second offering was chock-full of wisdom from his first experience, that he had learned what he did wrong and where his philosophy went off track. Perhaps, one might trust, the author had a new and improved strategy to run a company.
But what if the man’s second book was a reprint of the first book! What if the new book had no new insights, no new strategies? Nothing but the same old ideas that failed when put into practice the first time. A publisher would be foolish to publish such a man’s book and a reader would be foolish to purchase it or to follow its advice, right?
But we all know such a man and such a publisher. The only question is, what will the weary reader do?
It’s no surprise that the man in this scenario, Grover Norquist, still sits on the de facto board of directors of the publisher, the Republican Party. But it is one of the marvels of modern American life that Norquist—who like a jealous spouse monitors the no-tax pledges that almost all Republican federal (and a disturbing number of state) office holders have made—still manages to command respect for his discredited ideas, ideas that have failed and failed miserably.
On Sunday I saw Norquist on C-SPAN promoting his latest book (co-authored with John R. Lott, Jr.) titled, Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now To Regain Our Future. This program was shown more than once on the network.
Norquist’s arguments against Obama amounted to the same old stuff, as did his prescription to solve our troubles. Want to guess what a couple components of his “regain our future” program was? Yep. Tax cuts and less regulation. You know, the same flapdoodle that George W. Bush pushed as a candidate in 2000 and made reality as President Bush.
Obama and, more important, the country are still living with the unfortunate legacy of tax cuts and turn-your-head regulation that Grover Norquist and others championed during the 80s, 90s, and 00s. And they are still trying to sell the same ideas today. In fact, Mitt Romney is the newest member of Norquist’s sales department.
I did a search for Norquist on C-SPAN. Guess what? He has appeared there at least 132 times since 1992 (not counting repeats), including 14 times last year and 4 times so far this year (again, not counting repeat broadcasts).
When I was listening to a younger Grover Norquist talk his creepy tax talk on C-SPAN, I heard him say creepy things like this (from July of 2001):
All tax cuts are good tax cuts. Even bad tax cuts are good tax cuts…
A year ago the Bush campaign said, “The economy’s doing very well, it’s time to cut taxes.” Then the economy slowed last year. They said, “The economy’s slowing, it’s time to cut taxes.” Which is sort of a Jeopardy game where the answers are always the same: Cut taxes, regardless of the question.
That kind of fanaticism, akin to religious devotion, has been in the brain of Norquist for a long time. As Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes put it in a piece:
Norquist claims he got the idea to brand the Republican Party as the party that would never raise your taxes, when he was just 12 years old and volunteering for the Nixon campaign. He says it came to him one day while he was riding home on the school bus.
Twelve years old? On a school bus?
For all the rhetoric we have heard and will hear this election year, the election comes down to this: Should we once again turn the country over to a party that is essentially controlled by an anti-government zealot whose preteen fantasies serve as its guiding economic and political philosophy?
That I even have to ask that question—after all the evidence of tax-cutting and non-regulating failure—is itself a sad commentary on the state of the American electorate.