The anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, fresh off a victory in the no-tax-extensions California budget deal, was on Stephen Colbert last night. Norquist is a major player in state houses around the country and in Congress, having signed on many GOP legislators to his group’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which binds them to a policy of never voting for a tax hike. Break the pledge, Norquist promises, and swift political retribution is sure to follow.

During the California budget debate, Norquist and Jerry Brown got into a back-and-forth over Norquist’s contention that even allowing tax extensions to come up for a popular vote would be breaking the pledge signed by all but a handful of California GOP lawmakers.

At the end of the interview, Colbert poses this hypothetical situation:

Terrorists have kidnapped all of our grandmothers. They’ve got them in a subterraneean borough, and they’ve all been slathered with honey, and the terrorists are going to release fire ants who will bite our grandmothers to death. Their only demand is that we increase the marginal tax rate on the top 2% of Americans. Do we increase the tax rate or do we let our grandmothers die by ant bite?

Norquist’s response:

I think we console ourselves with the fact that we have pictures and memories.

I’m not entirely certain he was joking…


Video: Grover Norquist, Fresh Off California Victory, on Stephen Colbert 28 June,2011Jon Brooks


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor