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December 1, 2012

Column: Norquist’s power wanes as fiscal cliff looms

The tag team of fiscal responsibility is at it again. And one of their targets is the self-styled emperor of anti-taxation. If Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson had their way, Grover Norquist would be put into a Santa suit and stuffed down a chimney.

When sworn in, members of Congress pledge to defend the Constitution and the American people generally. The presumption (and it is just that) is that lawmakers will not have any outside allegiances that will get in the way of that.

But over the decades hundreds of Republican lawmakers have ceded their right to make an independent judgment based on need and rational thought about taxation to a portly little lobbyist. They have pledged to Norquist, who runs Americans for Tax Reform, never to raise income taxes no matter what the circumstances. They have done so under threat of electoral annihilation.

Now it seems that Norquist’s hold on the purse strings of their political fortunes has begun to loosen — even if only slightly — in the face of the predicted fiscal disaster at the end of December. Several GOP members of Congress have indicated they would be willing to put the needs of the nation ahead of Norquist’s demands. It is clear some tax compromise must take place as a part of any solution.

Without compromise the country will tumble over the fiscal cliff into a deep chasm of indiscriminate spending decreases, across-the-board tax increases and obvious recession. Simpson and Bowles predict an inescapable disaster of enormous proportions. They say economic growth will slow by 3.5 percent, unemployment will top 9 percent with 2 million more Americans out of work, the market will crash and there will be a serious downgrading of the nation’s bond rating. That’s probably just for openers.

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