How Grover Norquist has 'done more than anyone' to make federal deficits soar
Grover Norquist speaking in Phoenix in 2014 (Gage Skidmore)

During former President Donald Trump's four years in the White House, most Republicans didn't have a lot to say about the United States' federal deficit. But after President Joe Biden was inaugurated in January 2021, liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman predicted that the GOP would magically rediscover fiscal conservatism. Sure enough, many Republicans have attacked Biden as a tax-and-spend Democrat, overlooking the effect that the GOP-sponsored Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — a major tax cut for the wealthy and large corporations — had on the federal deficit.

Critics of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have argued that while it dramatically reduced corporate taxes and made the rich richer, it didn't help the middle class — and that in some states, it became, in effect, a tax hike for the middle class by taking away various deductions that middle class taxpayers had been relying on.

One of Biden's Republican critics has been Grover Norquist, the 66-year-old founder of Americans for Tax Reform. Journalist Michael Tomasky examines Norquist's influence on GOP tax policy in an article published by The New Republic on March 13, emphasizing that he has been a key contributor to higher federal deficits in the U.S.

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"Grover Norquist has been running Americans for Tax Reform since the Reagan era," Tomasky explains. "It was back then, in 1986, that he came up with what I must confess has been an effective — if ruinous — idea: the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that his organization asks political candidates to sign…. Norquist's pledge has done more to destroy policymaking and derail the normal horse-trading of the legislative process than any other single development of the era."

Tomasky notes that since 1990, Republicans in Congress "have not voted for a single tax increase." But the journalist stresses that Republicans in state legislatures are less likely to sign Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge because they "live in the real world."

"It’s only in the fantasyland of Washington that Republicans can be so insanely irresponsible," Tomasky argues. "And make no mistake: It is the Republicans who are fiscally irresponsible. Consider these deficit numbers. Jimmy Carter left office with a deficit of $74 billion, which made conservatives apoplectic. Reagan doubled it. (President George) Bush, Sr. nearly doubled it again. (President Bill) Clinton wiped it all away and left the country with a $236 billion surplus."

Tomasky continues, "(President George W.) Bush, Jr. wiped out the surplus and tacked on $460 billion in deficits — that is, adding those two figures, he finished nearly $700 billion in the red. (President Barack) Obama increased the deficit by about $125 billion after inheriting the biggest financial crisis in 80 years, helped along, again, by Republican-led deregulation. Trump increased the deficit by — wanna guess? Try $2.6 trillion. In sum, in the last half-century, Democratic presidents have actually reduced the deficit, because of the numbers under Clinton, while Republican presidents have increased it by something greater than $3.5 trillion. It’s not even close as to which party is more fiscally sound."

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Read The New Republic's full article at this link.