The economy is continuing to show increased signs of recovery. People are actually spending more than they have for quite some time. Consumer confidence is up, as are retail sales. More consumer spending translates into more demand for products which translates into more jobs to make those products. Considering all the positives, why is the stock market in a tumble at the beginning of the busiest consumer buying season of the year? (hint: driving off a mountain)
If you follow such things as the stock market, you know that in the four years since Barack Obama was first elected president (in to the middle of the worst economic free-fall since the Great Depression), the stock market has doubled its value. It has almost completely regained the losses caused by the housing and banking debacles of the Great Recession. That recession was largely caused by the deregulation of the financial industry, which actually started during the Clinton administration but was then put on steroids by Bush and his republican-controlled congress. Additionally, republicans also gave us two unfunded wars and an unfunded prescription drug program, as well as two huge unfunded tax cuts mostly for the very rich. In other words, they loved free spending but not paying the bills.
Although oversimplified, all of this coupled with an extremely partisan atmosphere in Washington DC over the past two years produced the “fiscal cliff”, a term describing what happens on January 2, 2013, if congress hasn’t agreed on a bi-partisan deficit-reduction plan. That failure will automatically trigger $500 billion in both spending cuts and tax increases. Part of the tax increase will be caused by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut. The average American family might see an additional $2200 a year as a result. It affect everyone including the middle class and the working poor.
Enter Grover Norquist, an extremely conservative right wing ideologue and very well paid lobbyist who believes the less government, the better. He is on record advocating that the US government should be shrunk by revenue starvation to the size it was before Teddy Roosevelt became the 26th president of the USA in 1901. In fact, he has said that “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
In 1985, Norquist started Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), an organization initially intended to simply oppose tax increases and to reduce government. It has actually grown into a very-well-funded conservative lobbying group that terrorizes elected republican officials and GOP candidates for office by blackmailing them into signing an inflexible pledge to never raise taxes or even tax revenues by any legislative action whatsoever for any reason under any circumstances. Those who would resist this blackmail are threatened by ATR, which promises to throw massive amounts of negative publicity at them at election/re-election time if they refuse to sign the pledge.
ATR funds this political terrorist activity with financial donations from unnamed donors, many of whom are very wealthy businessmen and corporations and remain anonymous because ATR is legally a non-profit corporation and does not have to reveal its donors. And even though president Obama won re-election on a platform that included raising tax rates on the wealthiest 2% of Americans who make $250,000 or more per year, Norquist doesn’t care. He demands unyielding loyalty, or suffer the consequences.
Norquist and anyone else who chooses to honor this idiotic Norquist pledge over the next four weeks have a problem: If they hold fast, a deficit reduction deal will not get done in congress. These self-same anti-tax GOP idiots will then be directly responsible for the biggest single tax increase in the history of the USA on January 2, 2013. Grover Norquist will have succeeded in scaring (terrorizing) enough members of congress to block a deal with democrats to raise tax requirements on only the wealthiest 2% of Americans, choosing instead to drive right over the fiscal cliff, causing the most massive tax increase on ALL Americans in history!!
So much for the pledge, huh?
Norquist’s tactics are really not much different from those used by the Taliban in isolated regions to get people to bow to their will. The only difference is that Norquist uses money the way the Taliban uses guns and knives.
To their credit, some republican senators have recently blown off the pledge, stressing that the health of the USA is more important that Norquist’s lunatic manta. In response, Norquist promises to retaliate against them. But if history is any example, Norquist’s influence might have already peaked and just might be losing its grip.
Remember the 1980’s “Moral Majority“?
Try finding them now. 🙂