There’ll Never Be Days Like That Again

Ezra Klein thinks Grover Norquist won:

Norquist and his pledge changed more than the conversation. They changed American politics. The question isn’t how we’ll increase taxes and by how much. It’s whether we’ll increase taxes. For a Republican to simply consider a tax increase is considered a massive concession. That helps them ultimately agree to less in taxes, as having conceded so much philosophically and politically, they’re expected to do less as a matter of policy.

The true test of Norquist’s pledge wasn’t whether a Republican ever voted for another tax increase. It was whether it held tax revenues below where they’d otherwise be. It’s whether it increased the political cost of raising taxes. And today, you can see how well his pledge has worked.

I think Ezra’s right that Norquist is influential and has moved the conversation. He’s wrong if he thinks that Republicans will recognize this and consider Grover a winner. Grover’s living in a black and white world. Telling the Nordquist constituency that they’ve won because the marginal tax rate is lower than it would have been otherwise is like telling an abstinence-only sex educator that they’ve won because kids are blowing each other instead of having intercourse. Abstinence-only sex educators don’t want kids to have orgasms, period. Grover and his constituency doesn’t want higher taxes, period. There’s no relative win to be had here. Anything less than a total victory means the devil is in charge, because this is about ideology, not practical policy.

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43 replies
  1. 1
    Maude says:

    How many people in this country know who Grover is?
    He is sliding into the pages of history. Isn’t that a nice phrase?

  2. 2
    flukebucket says:

    And today, you can see how well his pledge has worked.

    Yeah. We sure can.

  3. 3
    Jack the Second says:

    > Grover and his constituency don’t want higher taxes, period.
    Fixed.

  4. 4
    El Cid says:

    Apres lui, le deluge.

  5. 5

    Grover won, but time keeps moving. Now his victory is slipping away, and Reagan’s Lie won’t control the next generation.

  6. 6
    scott says:

    I disagree that the point of the point should be about whether or not Republicans view GOP as a winner but about how the dynamic has been changed. Ezra’s sentence about how they view even raising taxes as a massive concession is the key, especially now. If you manage to convince yourselves and even the broader public and the opposition that you’ve made a massive concession in bargaining, it’s entirely natural for you to ask for something comparable in return. Ever since this Grand Bargain Kabuki started in 2010-11, the MSM view developing since then has clearly been that the concession Republicans can ask for is cuts to entitlements, ie, a minimal social safety net in the form of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. So, in exchange for a little more in taxes that the elites can easily afford, they get cuts to social programs that they’ve been seeking in vain since their creation (that’s if the Democrats fall for it, which I hope they won’t).

    That’s a pretty impressive shift in the “conversation,” don’t you think? We used to talk about cutting Social Security and other safety net programs as a clearly stupid and immoral idea whose mere consideration would be toxic for the GOP, but now we’ve entered into a dynamic where Democrats in the WH and Congress clearly talk about it without even flinching. I’d say the ground has shifted, and wackjobs like Grover can claim justifiable if twisted pride in moving it.

  7. 7
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Past behavior suggests that Republicans really don’t care about deficits or taxes. They’ve glommed on to their no taxes policy because because it’s simple to state, free of troublesome nuance, easy to sell, and it pisses off Democrats. There’s nothing profound here, despite Klein’s attempts to make it so.

  8. 8
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    A better analogy is telling pro-birthers that they won because abortions will only be given if the mother would die otherwise.

  9. 9
    dollared says:

    No, he won. He may see the world in black and white, but the Exxons, etc. that funded him completely understand winning by winning the increments.

    And yes, his movement stopped all progress in this country, deeply damaged our national competitiveness, foreclosed necessary reforms like single payer and reformation of our disastrous real estate/mortgage complex, and dramatically reinforced the concentration of wealth.

    But I would not kill him. He was merely a figurehead for a well funded, well supported movement. John Fund was probably more influential than Norquist. And we know that Dick Cheney did more affirmative damage to our country than anybody in Norquist’s camp.

  10. 10

    For a Republican to simply consider a tax increase is considered a massive concession.

    Since “the power to tax” is a big part of what defines a modern government, this renders the GOP literally incapable of governance.

    They need a new shtick.

    I really do think the Age of Reagan is over.

  11. 11
    scav says:

    still, tpossibly, his does strike me somewhat as an attempt to gently place someone below a large mutli-passenger objet-du-transportation. Here’s your gold watch, what’s your hurry?

  12. 12

    @scott:

    …but now we’ve entered into a dynamic where Democrats in the WH and Congress clearly talk about it without even flinching.

    No, we’ve entered a dynamic where the unaccountable old men on television who miss their hero Reagan can talk about about it without flinching. Democrats aren’t talking about it at all. They’re talking about stuff like fixing the skyrocketing costs of medical care, and you’re hearing something else. It’s hard to blame you, since the Punditocracy thinks that sticking it to the poor would be just AWESOME for the moral fiber of the country and won’t present the issue any other way.

  13. 13
    legion says:

    Dude. Grover won because the Koch brothers wrote him big checks for keeping their taxes down. That’s all he ever cared about.

  14. 14
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    Spell his name right. No d in Norquist

  15. 15
    Tyro says:

    Is calling him “Nordquist” a repeated typo, or is it part of some inside joke here that I’m not familiar with?

  16. 16
    Ted & Hellen says:

    He won because the Democrats, including PBO, always start the conversation from the perspective set my Norquist: That “raising taxes,” even just back to pre-Bush levels, is some kind of huge concession and must be accompanied by expenditure cuts. We see the administration going into the completely bogus “fiscal cliff” talks (headed by working class hero Tim Geithner natch)playing along with all this nonsense.

    Taxes are historically WAY too low on the wealthy and need to come back up. Obama is still afraid to say it out loud.

    And that means Grover won.

  17. 17
    Chris says:

    FYWP.

    Anything less than a total victory means the devil is in charge, because this is about ideology, not practical policy.

    I don’t completely agree. Remember Romney flip-flopping to the center on a ton of his policies during the first debate. None of them were angry with him, quite the opposite; they just clapped and cheered because of the sight of him putting That One back In His Proper Place.

    They don’t care about policy, but I don’t think they care about ideology either. The Tribe is still what comes first. Frame it as a victory for The Tribe and they’ll accept it. They don’t give a fuck about anything else.

  18. 18
    Chris says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    Since “the power to tax” is a big part of what defines a modern government

    FTFY.

    Even barbarian warlords collected tribute from their people. You can’t have a government, no matter how good or bad, unless you chip in to support it.

  19. 19
    Enlightened Liberal says:

    @Maude:

    I prefer the term slithered, but you are correct.

  20. 20
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    I’m going to file this under “graveyards are filled with important people.” He won at scaring Republicans. But when the extremists keep not getting elected to office, Grover’s going to lose all of his power.

  21. 21
    kathy a. says:

    the win is past tense. it’s over.

    yeah, he changed the conversation. and the conversation is thankfully changing again, with even the dumbass officials who signed his pledge from hell walking away from it — because it is unworkable. it is cruel. it is stupid. it is hideous. it hurts actual regular people, and lots of them.

    it was a bill of goods in the first place — a key piece of concentrating wealth in the pocketbooks and overseas accounts of a few who do not need more wealth, and sticking it to the little guys, gals, kids, and seniors. that is where the conversation has turned, and that’s the focus we need to keep up.

  22. 22
    danielx says:

    @Jack the Second:

    Grover and his constituency don’t want higher taxes, period.

    And it’s always good to remember just who his constituency is.

  23. 23
    The Moar You Know says:

    Norquist knows it’s over. He was on the local LA radio the morning after the election and he was PISSED that Prop 30 (we had to vote to raise our own taxes to keep the schools open this year) had not only passed but passed by a fairly substantial vote. He should be pissed. He was such a dick about it, in fact, that the host, who’s a closet wingnut himself, had to finally cut him off as he basically just started insulting Californians, calling us stupid, and saying that everyone would move out of the state.

    I got news for Grover: no one moves out of California no matter how I wish they would.

    As goes California so goes the nation, and that’s why Grover was so angry. He knows there’s not much time left to run his scam.

  24. 24
    kathy a. says:

    @Ted & Hellen: obama’s been saying steadily, and through the election, that taxes need to go up on the wealthy. this does not seem like an unclear message to me.

  25. 25
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Taxes are historically WAY too low on the wealthy and need to come back up. Obama is still afraid to say it out loud.

    Wrong. Obama campaigned for re-election on, among other things, the need to have the rich pay more taxes. And he’s still urging that. Or have you not been paying attention?

    (Cue T&H’s usual volley of incoherent denials and ad hominem attacks.)

  26. 26
    mistermix says:

    I fixed Grover’s name, thanks to those who pointed it out. It was a typo, not being clever.

  27. 27
    WarMunchkin says:

    Well, there was a time when I thought people argued that taxes should be higher so that we could pay for stuff. It used to be that Social Security was the third rail of American politics, but it’s actually raising taxes.

  28. 28
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @kathy a.:

    obama’s been saying steadily, and through the election, that taxes need to go up on the wealthy. this does not seem like an unclear message to me.

    You are leaving out all the talk of cuts to entitlements and SS, etc. that he mentions in the same breath. Cuts that outpace taxes 3 to 1.

    Grover won.

  29. 29
    Cassidy says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Grover won.

    Very petulant. Is it nap time now or do you need a little snack first.

  30. 30
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Wrong. Obama campaigned for re-election on, among other things, the need to have the rich pay more taxes. And he’s still urging that. Or have you not been paying attention?

    And right along with that he is offering expenditure cuts that outpace taxes 3 to 1.

    Grover won and you’re in denial.

    The ad hominems start from your side. I’m always happy to respond in kind of course.

  31. 31
    Schlemizel says:

    Got a “reply” to my email to Sen. Klobuchar about the Bernie Sanders letter. Yeah, weasel words about not privatizing SSI, no support for Sanders or objection to cutting benefits.

    Wish I were surprised.

  32. 32
    Turgidson says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Taxes are historically WAY too low on the wealthy and need to come back up. Obama is still afraid to say it out loud.

    There was just this election. Maybe it didn’t make the news, but Obama talked about raising taxes on the rich for months.

    (although I do agree that the hikes he wants, just back to Clinton rates, are not enough. I’d like to see another bracket at $1m (45%), then another at $3m or $5m (50%) myself…along with capital gains being taxed alongside income at these rates..or progressively in some way, anyway)

  33. 33
    Schlemizel says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    I love how the cancer patient gets excited when he finds out that the cancer has won and the doctor says they are going to have to remove both legs. Yes sir that is certainly a reason to gloat!

    If President Obama is offering 3/1 that is a win from last summer when it was 10/1 and a substantial move from the 100/0 being offered by the goopers. So maybe only one leg comes off this time.

  34. 34
    David in NY says:

    I believe that the Obama 3/1 is probably a considerable overstatement of what’s going to happen, and he knows it. Included in that three, it’s my understanding, is a whole lot of stuff that’s already been done. So even that ratio overstates things by quite a bit.

  35. 35
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    Once again, don’t give Speshultimmeh the time of day. He’s just waiting to be banned by Cole again.

  36. 36
    Turgidson says:

    @David in NY:

    I think that’s probably right, and to the extent there are any “cuts” to entitlements included, they will be on the provider side.

    Which the GOP would then lie about (OMG THEY ROBBED MEDICARE! VOTE FOR ME EVEN THOUGH I SUPPORT PAUL RYAN’S BUDGET) incessently for the 2014 elections, of course…hopefully the Dems will be prepared for that this time.

  37. 37
    Tonal Crow says:

    Mix, you’re incorrect. Republicans moved the Overton Window far to the right, and thereby got decades of tax cuts for the plutocrats. And even now the media spin it as a major concession for Republicans to even entertain the idea of cutting deductions for the plutocrats, which (the media unjournalistically argue) Democrats must reciprocate with huge “entitlement” cuts. And to actually raise rates on the plutocrats? That’s still unthinkable in “mainstream” discourse. The Republicans won almost all they could possibly get on taxes, and unless we push Obama and Congress hard, they’re going to win more.

    Wake up!

  38. 38

    Just like to say that’s a fine lyric to fit with the theme of the post.

    I agree with the substance, too– also because Grover’s magic goes away once we raise any tax and once Republicans break the pledge.

  39. 39
    geg6 says:

    Typical Klein post, at least typical for the past couple of years. A high IQ DFH goes Village and loses dozens of points after just a few years. I sure hope he and Luke Russert enjoy their beer bong soirees together.

    All this to say, I think you’re right, mm.

  40. 40
    geg6 says:

    @scott:

    Somebody has been reading too much FDL and not enough ABC/WaPo polling. You’d be right if all of America was the Village. But, happily, it seems the rest of America is ready to tell the Village to go take a flying leap.

  41. 41
    catclub says:

    @Jack the Second: Heard him given far too much time on NPR this morning. He considers _any_ government spending ‘deadweight loss’.

    To the extent that he is not in a rubber room, he has been quite successful.

  42. 42
    geg6 says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    You are leaving out all the talk of cuts to entitlements and SS, etc. that he mentions in the same breath.

    Lies. I’ve never heard him mention cuts to SS a single time. Provide a link or, as usual, you are a liar. As for Medicare, there’s plenty to cut but no need to cut any benefits, so I don’t have a problem with that.

  43. 43
    scott says:

    @geg6: What I’ve been reading is newspaper reports from multiple sources since last summer saying that the WH is willing to contemplate cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as part of a Grand Bargain if the Republicans are willing to make the great concession of slightly higher marginal tax rates. If they’ve just been doing this to play footsie with the Villagers only to prove them wrong, I will be mightily reassured. But until that happens, given the 9 zillion times the press has reported how much Obama lusts after a Grand Bargain for his legacy, I’m not holding my breath.

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