Of Myths and Men: The GOP Trinity

There are few subjects more sacred to the Republican Party than Ronald Reagan and tax cuts.  On Real Time with Bill Maher last night, anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist refused to back down from his adoration of the Gipper, despite the fact that Reagan raised taxes seven times throughout his presidency.  Grover Norquist, at the behest of Reagan in 1985, founded the taxpayer advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, whose guiding principle is the staunch opposition to raising taxes at any time.

An avid promoter of the ‘Starve the Beast’ strategy of the free-market fundamentalists of the Chicago School of Economics, Norquist is infamous for saying, “I don’t want to abolish government.  I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”  Advocates of Starve the Beast support decreasing tax revenues that fund government services, so that the government will run deficits that will require spending cuts to those services. The idea is that it is harder to pass legislation for spending cuts than it is to pass tax cuts…  So if you de-fund the revenue stream, you effectively de-fund the program.

Norquist is notorious for his Taxpayer Protection Pledge, an oath taken by politicians to never raise taxes under any circumstances.  The pledge has been embraced by the Republican Party, to the detriment of the recent debt ceiling negotiations.  Republicans took a hard-line stance on not passing a debt ceiling deal if any tax increases were part of the package.  However, it is hard to see how the GOP can claim the flag of fiscal conservatism when it advocates both deficit reduction and tax cuts simultaneously.  Back in the ’80s, Bush the First decried this myopic fiscal irresponsibility as “voodoo economics,” a moniker that should be re-claimed now in our current debate.

Voodoo economics, or ‘Reagonomics,’ is touted by Norquist and the GOP as holy scripture, despite evidence that it is destructive to broad-based economic growth.  They accept the ideology as a matter of fact, not faith, and worship Reagan as its ultimate icon…  But he is ultimately a false god.  The cult of personality built around Reagan is arguably one of the most destructive propaganda campaigns waged in politics today. In politics, as in religion, idol worship should be a forbidden sin.

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