Senator Saxby Chambliss, (R) Georgia, suggested last week that he might renege on the “taxpayer protection pledge,” which has been a litmus test for Republican politicians for over 25 years. Dreamed up in 1986 by Grover Norquist, and signed by 95% of all GOP federal officeholders, including Chambliss, the pledge requires signees to vote against any tax increase in whatever costume slippery liberals try to dress it. Naturally, Mitt Romney was the first presidential candidate to sign the pledge, which he had refused to sign as governor of Massachusetts. Every other Republican hopeful, except Jon Huntsman, followed suit. This kind of lockstep simple-mindedness is at the root of Congressional gridlock. It is the main reason we have to watch John Boehner feign bipartisanship while robotically repeating that Republicans will oppose any deficit plan that increases taxes on anyone – any plan, in other words, that is actually bipartisan.
It is mind-boggling that Norquist has gained such power by enforcing political thoughtlessness – not just on taxes but on the role of government itself. His most famous utterance, “I am not in favor of abolishing government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub" – with its pleasant image of drowning babies – continues to be smugly quoted by politicians who have spent their professional lives feeding at the public trough.
Perhaps it’s finally dawning on Chambliss and others that we would have a better government if those who live off it treated it with more respect.