The Wall Street Journal today leaps to the defense of Grover Norquist from “Democrats, media [and] some Republicans” who have labeled him “the source of all Beltway fiscal woes and gridlock.”
As detailed on the front page, Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform and the creator of an anti-tax pledge many Republicans sign when they’re elected.
Several Republican lawmakers — Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) and to an extent House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) included — have come out recently saying they’re willing to bend on their pledge and vote to raise revenue (taxes). Because they’re often asked about the issue in terms of violating the pledge, Norquist has been placed in the center of the fiscal cliff talks.
From WSJ‘s lead editorial:
The truth is that Mr. Norquist doesn’t have such power. The voters do. Mr. Norquist merely had the wit to channel the electorate’s limited government beliefs into a single-issue enforcement mechanism. Politicians sign the pledge not because they want to box themselves in—politicians by their nature want, er, flexibility—but because they want to get elected. And re-elected. …
The fact is that Republicans and Mr. Norquist both face a new political reality on taxes. President Obama’s re-election means that taxes for upper-income earners are going up one way or another. The Bush rates expire on December 31 unless Mr. Obama signs an extension, and he shows no inclination to do so except for anyone earning less than $250,000 a year ($200,000 if you’re single). The question is how Republicans should handle this reality while staying true to their principles and doing the least harm to the economy. …
The one thing Republicans shouldn’t do is join the media and Democratic chorus that Mr. Norquist and his pledge are the root of our political and economic woes. The real problems are a political class that won’t control its spending and economic policies that are retarding growth. That’s where the GOP should keep its public focus.