Thursday, September 23, 2010

Americans for Tax Reform vs. the Common Good

Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, is one of the leading anti-tax crusaders in the United States.  He is famous for saying, “I don’t hate government.  I just want to make it small enough that I could drown it in the bathtub.”  He and his followers take a “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” to every incumbent and candidate and ask them to sign it.  It says, "I ____, pledge to the taxpayers of the district of the state of _____ and all the people of this state that I shall oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes."  Here in California, all but one Republican legislator has signed this pledge. (You can see an actual copy of it on the ATR Website)  The organization also claims that it "opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle."

I found another quote from Norquist recently which really shows his true values.  In an article by William Greider called “Rolling Back the 20th Century” (The Nation, May 12, 2003),  he said that he wants to bring America back to what it was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over.  The income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.” 

He will say almost anything about anyone, such as this extraordinary analogy: “Clinton and Obama practice this politics known quaintly as the Richard Speck strategy: if you cannot take on everyone in the room at once, take them out of the room one at a time.”  (Richard Speck raped and murdered 8 nurses one night in July, 1966.  He took them out of their dorm room one at a time.)

I thought of him today when I was leading a workshop on what nonprofits need to do to address California’s broken tax structure (  Our call in these workshops is to engage in conversation, to listen to others, to show compassion and to encourage nonprofit staff to get involved in supporting any and all efforts to reform our budget and revenue structure here in California.  In some despair I wondered what kind of conversation I would have with Mr. Norquist and his followers. Fortunately I believe he does not represent the majority of Americans, but he has drawn a firm line in the sand and we must do all we can to counter his point of view by emphasizing the common good and what it will take to create a rough social equity. Taxes are not the only solution, but they are an integral part of any real and lasting change that helps everyone.

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