Grover Norquist

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist has made no secret of his ultimate goal. He has famously said he wants to shrink government “to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Norquist’s “taxpayer protection pledge,” which asks candidates to commit to opposing all tax increases, has been signed by 219 House members and 39 senators, as well as more than 1,000 state officeholders. We’ll talk to Norquist about the current budget battles in Washington and the future of the Republican Party.

Interview Highlights

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform

  • Ralph

    Grover is like the Cookie Monster, except instead of springing out of a garbage can and demanding free cookies, he demands a free ride for greedy corporations, who use our public streets, benefit from our public universities and schools, and our allowed to exist only because society says they may exist.

    • JimmyOo

      Oscar the Grouch is the garbage can outspringer. Grover the Grouch?

  • thucy

    I know a lot of listeners might be ticked off that Grover is a guest, but I think it’s inportant to give people the opportunity to ask Norquist tough questions.
    Unfortunately, I’m just at the point, after listening to the utterly flaccid interviews of Rose Pak and Google’s Susan Wojcicki on Forum, of despairing that tough questions ever get asked on Forum.

    • Ehkzu

      It doesn’t matter in the slightest how tough the questions are–what matters is what the journalist does with the answers. I’ve heard a zillion interviews where the reporter asks a string of tough questions, but if the answers go unchallenged it’s just another propaganda opportunity for the propagandist.
      The problem is that when a journalist calls a right winger on his answers, the journalist becomes the target of a focused campaign by the right wing, with both the journalist and his boss(es) assailed by innumerable emails and letters and phone calls accusing him of bias and, in the for-profit media, demanding that his advertisers boycott the medium in question.
      So most jounalists let the propaganda slide and console themselves by saying they asked the tough questions and thus did their job.
      They did not.

      • thucy

        “The problem is that when a journalist calls a right winger on his answers, the journalist becomes the target of a focused campaign by the right wing, with both the journalist and his boss(es) assailed by innumerable emails and letters and phone calls accusing him of bias and, in the for-profit media, demanding that his advertisers boycott the medium in question.”

        You do understand that your premise has no application in public radio, particularly in a market like the Bay Area?

  • Arthur

    Article 6 of the United States Constitution states, “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of
    the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers,
    both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by
    Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test
    shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust
    the United States.”

    The current oath enacted in 1884 is “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the
    Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and
    domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I
    take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose
    of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of
    the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.” California extends that oath to add the Constitution of the State of California.

    Why should any elected official be bound to any oath other than this one required by law?

  • Arthur

    Many Republicans advocate tax reform by lowering tax rates coupled with removing loopholes. If this is done in a revenue neutral manner, if some have their taxes lowered, others will have their taxes raised. Does Mr. Norquist oppose any raising on anyone’s taxes? Did Mr. Norquist oppose the payroll tax increase that occurred on January 1, 2013?

  • Following our longest wars while great fortunes have been made, I don’t know what prevents those like-minded with Mr. Norquist from public-mockery and pelting of eggs and tomatoes. That is more traditional American than this buncombe.
    What of the war profiteers, Mr. Norquist?

  • Bob Fry

    Grover Norquist married a Muslim woman. That fact is properly treated as irrelevant in the mainstream media, but also oddly ignored by the radical right. Odd, because imagine if any prominent Democrat were married to a Muslim. The outrage and cries of traitor would be heard indefinitely.

    • thucy

      “…imagine if any prominent Democrat were married to a Muslim. The outrage and cries of traitor would be heard indefinitely.”

      Mr. Fry,

      One of our prominent Democratic Congressmen in NY, Anthony Weiner, was (and remains) married to a Muslim woman, and no one – right or left – raised any sort of fuss. Weiner’s woes stemmed instead from a “sexting scandal” and even amid that scandal, Mrs. Weiner (Huma Abedin) was not much discussed, except for our sympathies for her.

      So I respectfully suggest you are wrong, and obsessed with partisan politicking that obscures how very similar the corporate-controlled parties are.

      • Bob Fry

        Thanks for the reply. I hadn’t known this. After years of birthers, truthers, and general conspiracy kooks I find it hard to not see hypocrisy in every issue.

        • thucy

          Who could blame you? When I was a kid, all the conspiracy kooks were leftists. Now they’re rightists. Having said that, I’d be damn grateful if the left took a page from the tea partiers and found their nuts. The acquiescence is alarming.

  • Les Nightingill

    Tax-averse politicians are often heard to claim that corporate taxes are “job killers”.

    I checked with my accountant and I’m told that taxes are levied on corporate profits… after salaries and expenses are paid.

    In my company, we always maximised our investment in salaries and capital equipment, and never paid taxes.

    Corporate taxes therefore are a strong incentive to hiring and investment. How does Mr. Norquist reconcile his views on corporate taxation with the facts of the tax laws?

  • David

    The U.S. has one of the lowest overall tax rates in the developed world (taxes as % of GDP). We also have worse health care, worse poverty, higher incarceration rates, and a host of other “quality of life” indicators that are quite low. Could you ask Mr. Norquist if there’s a country he can point to, presently or historically, that enjoyed a better quality of life with an overall tax burden equal to or lower than ours right now?

    • James Ivey

      Exactly the question I was going to ask. Please ask this question! If lower taxes make us a better country, please show us an example.

      For reference, here are some numbers regarding taxes as a percentage of GDP around the world:

      • James Ivey

        Did you hear the dodge? You can’t really compare other countries. Like hell you can’t! And, for people staying in the US, they try to dodge taxes when able by moving to different states. That doesn’t prove that lower taxes are better; it only demonstrates free-loading.

        What a friggin’ troll….

    • Ehkzu

      Your problem is that you see America as the most corrupt, least equitable first world nation. You’ll be happier if you see America for what it is: the least corrupt, most equitable third world nation. Compared to, say, Kenya, or Burma, we’re a heckuva country…

      • James Ivey

        Great! So let’s reduce our taxes to the levels of Kenya or Burma! Then we can be just as corrupt and inequitable! Great idea!

        You’re just missing the point. Lower taxes do not result in better quality of life — quite the opposite.

        • thucy

          I think you missed the fact that Lee’s comment was tongue in cheek.

  • Ehkzu

    Asked about gun control legislation yesterday on CNN, Mr. Norquist trotted out the NRA propaganda line that more guns=more safety and that there should be no new legislation of any kind. The CNN host meekly accepted Mr. Norquist’s statement. Hopefully KQED will do better.

    Note that surveyed the gun makers’ propaganda a few months ago, debunked all of it (along with many exaggerations of gun control advocates, to be fair), and concluded that:

    >>…among advanced countries, the U.S. homicide rate stands out. “We seem to be an average country in terms of violence and aggression,” …“What we have is huge homicide rates compared to anybody else.” … “The difference is that in this country violence involves firearms and firearms change the outcome.”<<
    Being asked tough questions doesn't faze propagandists like Norquist in the slightest, because he expects to not be challenged on his answers, and have the journalist sit there and just move on to the next question.
    It doesn't matter how tough the questions are. It matters what the journalist does with the answers.

  • thucy

    I wonder if Mr. Norquist will stick to his ideological guns, or… confess how much cooperation his movement has received from the DNC and the Obama adminstration, which is on board to cut Social Security, the EPA, banking regulations, et cetera.
    It’s common for Democrats to assail the ideology of the GOP, while refusing to concede that the current administration stands to the right of the Nixon administration.

    We have not just met the enemy, we have become the enemy.

    • Ehkzu

      Yes, President Obama is a liberal Republican. It is a stunning confirmation of how radically right wing the GOP has become that nearly all Republicans regard President Obama as a radical left-winger.
      Only from the viewpoint of a right wing radical.
      The brutal truth is that in the last election, our choice was between a liberal Republican, a far-Right corporatist tool, or throwing your vote away.
      I’ll take a liberal Republican over the fascistic tribal entity today’s GOP has become, any day of the week.

      • thucy

        “Yes, President Obama is a liberal Republican. It is a stunning confirmation of how radically right wing the GOP has become that nearly all Republicans regard President Obama as a radical left-winger.”
        Actually, compared to Nixon, Obama doesn’t even qualify as a liberal Republican because Obama stands to the right of Nixon.
        Your focus on the “right-wing” GOP while failing to come to grips with how little control we Democrats have over our ever-rightward-drifting Democratic Party means that nothing will ever change. You get the party you deserve when you support them merely because they are ever so vaguely in opposition to the GOP they resemble.

  • friarslantern

    Please go easier on Mr. Norquist, Michael. We want him back!!!

  • James Ivey

    He’s such a liar. Taxes are capital gains are not on what you’ve already earned but only on the portion of income that exceeds what was already taxed. Capital gains are only on the net, excluding the money used to buy the assets. Only the amount used to buy the assets were already taxed.

    And, estate taxes only kick in after your heirs inherit the first $5 million tax-free. If you’re going to inherit less than $5 million, you will not be affected by any inheritance tax (what rich people call a “death tax”). If you’re going to inherit more than $5 million, you don’t have my sympathy.

    • Chris OConnell

      Wow, his explanation of this point was really bizarre. It sounds like he views the dollar as an animate object with feelings.

    • James Ivey

      Did you guys catch the lie? He said that you earn a dollar and get taxed. You put the remainder and get taxed on your interest. He said that’s the same dollar. Such a lie! The interest isn’t the same dollar; it’s a new $.01-.03 added to the dollar. The new $.01-.03 had not yet been taxed, so it’s new income and gets taxed.

      Honestly, you can’t be both informed and honest and believe this guy.

      • guest

        …so if I use the after-tax dollar to buy a lottery ticket and pull in $10M, I don’t have to pay taxes on that? It’s the same dollar.

  • Karen

    His comment about capital gains being taxed “twice” on the same income is incorrect. You are only taxed on the “gain,” not on the full amount of the sale price (which includes the supposed income you already paid tax on). How can anyone take this man seriously with such flaws in his “logic.”

  • steve jobs

    Man, does this cool guy have a B-hole for a mouth?

  • Yeah, why on EARTH would unions made up of blue collar workers oppose a guest worker program when they have already seen wages and benefits flatlined since the 80s …

    • Ehkzu

      Actually for unskilled laborers inflation-adjusted wages have decreased from 5-25%, depending on job category and region, over the past 40 years–largely from the boss class using illegal immigrant labor as a stick to beat them down with.

  • Ehkzu

    Grover’s Big Lie is that money is taxed. It is not. Transactions are taxed.

  • Kurt thialfad

    What is Grover’s take on immigration reform? They say a path to citizenship will cause these unauthorized foreigners to pay taxes. But everyone is liable for paying income taxes regardless of status. In other words, unauthorized foreigners must pay taxes. Why are we offering a benefit for those who don’t qualify. it’s red herring.

  • Karen

    Again – using slight of hand in his response to the person who just called and challenged him on his capital gains comment. He’s wrong.

  • Silvio Frank

    This guy is a complete nut. People like him in power we would never have an interstate highway system, Social Security, Medicare or any other program that benefits the people as a whole. What we would have is an anarchic nation in which the rich would lord it over every one else and god help the poor!

    • Bill Tutuki

      The only way to remove Grover Norquist from his Lobbyist seat is to lure him with plenty of money to Fox News or to Rush Limbaugh on radio. Grover Norquist is the person who written the Paul Ryan Budget.

  • Chris OConnell

    I agree with Grover Norquist that Mitt Romney and the super-wealthy pay a lot of taxes.But their tax burden is relatively light and it is an outrage and injustice. In the 50s, the top tax rate was 91%! Kennedy lowered it to 70% for the 60s. In many ways, this was the golden era of American power and middle class success.

    Last year, my adjusted gross income was in the mid-70Ks. I paid a federal tax rate of 23.2%. Mitt Romney made $21 Million and paid 13 or 14% federal tax rate. Before payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare), my rate was about 16.5%. But unlike the little people, Mitt does not have to pay these taxes.

    So my tax burden was almost twice as heavy as Mitt’s. AND HE MADE $21 MILLION and I made 75K!

    Soak the masses, cater to the rich. That’s the effect (although not the intent) of Grover Norquist. The Republicans have that intent, though.

    • neb_mar

      Bush’s tax cut is 45 times to 1 per capita to the top 1% percent.

  • Norquist makes a lot of snide remarks like: stupid, goofy, crazy. Then he says, “Corporations don’t pay taxes, people do.” So corporations aren’t people? Are they only people when it is convenient? MOVE TO AMMEND!

    • JimmyOo


  • wizardofx

    Norquist is a tool bag- period. I can not come up with any intellectual comment about this dangerous moron.

    • menloman

      “I can not come up with any intellectual comment…”, noted.

  • Sandy B.

    I object to Mr. Norquist’s frequent references to what the “American people” want, as if he knew us all personally. It seems he has no clue. We are a diverse group of individuals, cultures, and communities. Many of us donate to causes we believe in, pledge financial support to our faith community, and — yes — pay taxes to our country with a sense of moral duty. The level of selfishness and social detatchment exhibited my Mr. Norquist is appalling.

  • Torgeir Hansson

    Number of Federal civilian employees

    1962: 2,485,000
    2010: 2,756,000

    Let no one tell you again that the Federal Government “has grown significantly,” like Mr. Norquist did on Forum today. It is the biggest lie that “conservative” Republicans perpetuate.

  • Glenn Meyer

    Once again the prince of darkness just makes stuff up. For instance, he claims that states run by Democrats are doing worse than states run by Republicans, but he fails to note that of the bottom dozen state economies in the US, 10 are run by Republicans. How is it that we’re letting this liar hold the country hostage? If I were to chart the economic decline of the U.S., I’d start by plotting the concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands.

  • menloman

    KQED listeners seem to accept the idea that nearly any new tax is good news…except when it comes to actually paying it themselves. What listeners really want is for someone else to pay higher taxes.

    • wizardofx

      Please don’t assume you know most KQED listeners. In the U.S. the wealthy have been paying proportionately less tax than the middle and lower classes for years. Irrespective of whatever economic theory you subscribe to; when comparing the incomes, the middle pays much more then the rich for services that benefit both. Norquist plays to the ignorant in this country who believe blindly that Tax=Bad. It’s what conservative Republicans have used to get votes for many years.

    • Aaron Endelman

      Considering that KQED’s listeners continue to vote for higher sales taxes for themselves, this comment seems without merit.

    • Guest

      As a KQED listener I have noticed that I stop paying the payroll tax after 113K while those who earn less pay it on their full salary. I don’t want someone else to pay my full share of that tax.

  • Aaron Endelman

    I don’t understand this kind of irresponsibility. Michael Krasny and KQED gave a forum to a notorious propagandist without any significant challenges made to even the most obvious of falsehoods he puts forth. For example, as commenter Karen has noted, the oft-repeated assertion, that money invested is taxed twice, is pure nonsense. (Only the profit is taxed, not the principal. Not a penny is taxed twice!) Yet on so many factual points, to say nothing of the raft of nasty innuendo and insult expressed, the host was silent. As far as I’m concerned, Michael might as well have simply handed Mr. Norquist the microphone for the entire program and spent his time drinking coffee; I heard very little in the interview that I would call journalism.

    • thucy

      This is perfectly in line with how influential guests – whether Norquist or Google executives or political boss Rose Pak – are treated on the show. It appears to be nonpartisan slobbering.

  • Gary Kay

    The last thing America needs is individuals such as Grover Norquist. Greed and dishonesty are their trademarks. They will eventually drag this country into the ash heap of history.

  • Elliott Eugene Blake

    I would just like to say that when I took out student loans for college the government counted them as INCOME, and I had to pay taxes on them. Now, as I am paying back my loans, I am paying interest on the income that I am EARNING to pay back those same loans. Not to mention my tax rate doubled after I got my first good job. P.S. Mitt Romney still pays lower taxes than I do. Our tax code is a sham.

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