Who Is Bizarro Grover Norquist?

If you've been keeping up with things, you've noticed that Americans for Tax Reform founder and president Grover Norquist is everywhere. He's like some sort of omnipresent Swedish tax assassin superhero (it helps having an active blog and Twitter accounts).

He's getting Presidential candidates to sign his Taxpayer Protection Pledge; he's preparing for inevitable destruction of our nation's capital; he's going on the Colbert Report to make grandmothers everywhere shake in their orthopedic shoes.

This PR assault has resulted in a flurry of blog posts from us (okay, just me) on GN's wily ways, mostly because we admire said wiliness, political tenacity and overt sarcasm and sass. However, a question has now been asked by Joseph Thorndike that we had not previously considered Who is the anti-Grover Norquist? That is, who is the progressive stalwart on tax policy? Presumably someone who would argue that we need to always raise taxes in every instance possible and any time taxes are cut, a corresponding elimination of tax expenditures would occur. Okay, maybe I'm being a tad literal. Anyway, Thorndike gives it a shot:

During the NPR interview, I was asked if I could think of a left-leaning counterpart to Norquist. I was stumped. A bunch of people came to mind, notably Bob McIntyre at Citizens for Tax Justice and Bob Greenstein at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. But neither seemed to fit the bill very well. Sure, McIntyre and Greenstein have been important and highly influential voices for progressive tax policy. But neither has reshaped political debate in Norquistian fashion.

In my opinion this is an futile exercise since the bizarro version of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge would be the political equivalent of guzzling arsenic. Americans don't like taxes, so there's virtually nothing to be gained by taking the 180 degree positions of Norquist (again, in their purest form). Similarly, the organization "Americans for Tax Reform" sounds quite sensible. An organization named "Americans for Keeping This God-awful Fuckshow of a Tax System the Way It Is" on the other hand, is less attractive.

Thorndike then posits that guys like McIntyre and Greenstein are "entirely too knowledgeable when it comes to tax policy to ever be compared to Norquist." Fine. So Grover isn't as tax wonky as those other guys. Policy wonks typically don't make good political tacticians and certainly don't make for good politicians. Wonks look at actual numbers, facts and statistics to make conclusions. Lots of politicians struggle with English. Norquist is acutely aware of this and relies on speaking to them in terms they can understand, such as, "You raise taxes and I'll end your political career." Politicians can understand that. They cannot understand Howard Gleckman.

So bizarro Grover Norquist, if you're out there, please make yourself known. Every (super)man needs a nemesis.

Not Grover: Who's the Progressive Counterpart to Norquist? [Joseph Thorndike]

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