Aside from the comfort of Barack Obama's intelligent and democratic leadership of the free world for four more years, a great benefit of his re-election may be the demise of Grover Norquist. Norquist, whose anarcho-capitalist goal is to shrink and ultimately destroy government, has enticed, coerced, and/or black-mailed politicians into signing his fiscally irresponsible no-new-taxes pledge since 1986. He fancies himself a king-maker and king-breaker.
Since the November 6 election, four prominent Republicans in Congress have signaled their willingness to break the no-new-taxes pledge. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee reminds us that our leaders swear an oath to serve the country, not Grover Norquist. Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia says he cares more about his country and solving the national debt than about some 20-year-old pledge. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina strikes the same patriotic and practical note. Rep. Peter King of New York compares the Norquist pledge to declaring war on Japan: it made sense years ago after Pearl Harbor, but it doesn't make sense now.
If more Republicans need a shot of courage to follow Corker, Chambliss, Graham, and King toward fiscal sensibility, they should read Warren Buffett. As a rich guy, he's qualified to pronounce on the thesis of Norquist's anti-tax pledge, that any increase in taxes will stop investment and economic growth cold. Buffett says Norquist is imagining things:
Between 1951 and 1954, when the capital gains rate was 25 percent and marginal rates on dividends reached 91 percent in extreme cases, I sold securities and did pretty well. In the years from 1956 to 1969, the top marginal rate fell modestly, but was still a lofty 70 percent — and the tax rate on capital gains inched up to 27.5 percent. I was managing funds for investors then. Never did anyone mention taxes as a reason to forgo an investment opportunity that I offered.
Under those burdensome rates, moreover, both employment and the gross domestic product (a measure of the nation’s economic output) increased at a rapid clip. The middle class and the rich alike gained ground.
So let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities [Warren Buffett, "A Minimum Tax for the Wealthy," New York Times, 2012.11.25].
Breaking Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge won't make Republicans irrelevant. It will make them more relevant as practical problem-solvers. Increasing tax revenues won't make government bigger. It will pay for the government tab we've already run up.
Norquist's tyrannical agitations and power-seeking hyperbole have kept Republicans from supporting obvious, sensible, and just tax policy for two decades. It's time to drown Norquist's power in a bathtub and solve the debt.