On the Fourth of July, I watched a lot of stirring stuff on TV, stuff that reminded me of the reasons I became an American, stuff about equality and democracy and justice and so on. And it made me wonder what had happened to this country that started out with such high hopes, such noble aspirations, such alluring ideas.
Today’s America is so far from that ideal that I doubt it can ever get back on the path it set out to pursue.
Yes, a black man is president, and that says something encouraging about the majority of Americans.
But the man who really rules the country at the moment is someone else entirely.
He is Grover Norquist (photo above), an unelected power broker who exerts absolute control over the radical right wing of the Republican Party. This is the group that has terrorized party moderates and has cowed the president into one concession after another.
The media sometimes refer to the group as the Tea Party, but that’s just a facade. The Tea Party’s money – and power – comes from a small cadre of rapacious billionaires (such as the infamous Koch brothers). And many of the the core ideas attributed to the Tea Party come from one man – Grover Norquist.
Norquist is a lobbyist who heads Americans for Tax Reform, which was founded at the request of Ronald Reagan to provide “popular support” for his supply-side economic heresy.
And he is the reason that America teeters on the edge of economic calamity as Republicans dare not agree to a compromise that would avert the debt ceiling crisis. As an Associated Press analysis explains:
For two decades, Grover Norquist has been the driving force in pushing the Republican Party toward an ever more rigid position of opposing any tax increase, of any kind, at any time. He has been so successful that some GOP officials fear they’ve let Norquist squeeze them into a corner where they’ll be unable to declare victory even if they win the great majority of their budget demands in negotiations with congressional Democrats and President Obama.
Norquist is so powerful that he persuaded House and Senate Republicans to sign a pledge never to vote for a tax increase of any kind.
According to article:
By doing so, they vow to oppose any effort to increase marginal income tax rates and “any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, complained in a Washington Post article this week:
Everyone knows that we have to reduce the deficit. Everyone also knows that reducing government spending and addressing revenue shortfalls have to be a part of the plan. This isn’t partisan; it’s pragmatic. Some might even call it conservative. But Norquist and the rest of the radical right have so hypnotized the Republican leadership that they can’t come out and say it. For them, maintaining their rhetoric about spending cuts is more important than preserving the civic investments that make America stand out from the rest of the world.
I suspect that Norquist has a hidden agenda that includes precipitating the collapse of the American economic system. He is a lifelong advocate of “small government” and “starving the beast” by freezing public spending. I believe he hopes to achieve this objective by rebuilding American society on the devastation he would cause by blocking the debt ceiling increase.
And as long as the Republicans submissively do his bidding while the President and the Democrats refuse to fight back, this single individual will rule supreme.
So much for American democracy.