Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is back in the news thanks to the Fiscal Cliff, and the possibility that the GOP might end up agreeing to some tax increases as part of a deal.
One of Norquist’s famous quotes is: “I’m not in favour of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
The primary argument that he makes is that holding the line on taxes — promising never to let the government have more of your money — is a recipe for reducing the size of government.
However this theory has proven to be laughably untrue.
Taxes have been on a downward trajectory all decade and spending has soared. Lack of taxes is not a constraint.
But all this evidence hasn’t stopped Norquist.
He was on Piers Morgan’s show on CNN last night, basically saying the same argument. At one point he said “All (Obama’s) done in these negotiations is demand $1.6 trillion in spending increases so he can spend more money.” At another point he slammed pledge violaters, saying they were sent to DC to reform Washington, not paper over problems with more taxes.
So he still believes that there’s some connection between lowering taxes and lowering spending, despite there being no evidence.
The pledge is an annoyance that gets in the way of a deal, but Norquist’s real problem is subscribing to a theory that’s been debunked.
And really, the problem isn’t that he wants to keep taxes low. An argument could be made that we shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone at all. And an argument can be made that we should cut spending significantly. That’s all great. But equating spending and taxes is not justified.
For more on this whole topic, here’s a great interview with David and Christina Romer, who have done a lot of work on the fallacy of starving the beast as a means of shrinking government.
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