Is Grover Norquist an 'Ayatollah,' a Terrorist, or Just an Evil Warlord?
That's the question Reason editor Matt Welch asks as he summarizes the completely over-the-top commentary about Grover Norquist these days.
He's not exaggerating. In outlets such as Slate, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, we're told that Norquist -- a private citizen who argues against tax rate increases -- is a "terrorist," a "stealth tyrant in the glorious tradition of figures like Cardinal Richelieu or Rasputin," an "evil warlord," an "ayatollah." Welch adds:
I think Norquist's success has paradoxically undermined his oft-stated goal of reducing the size of government, because it has given Republicans cheap cover on looking fiscally conservative even though almost none of them have been serious about the hard part of that equation, which is actually cutting stuff. I further think it has incentivized the Swiss-cheesification of the tax code, with preferential, distorting tax treatment doled out to favored constituencies and then given immediate de facto protection from a pledge that only accepts deduction-eliminations when coupled with overall rate reductions. I think the mortgage interest deduction is a plague on our lives and should be junked.
But comparing a citizen's attempts to keep tax rates low with the behavior of murderous dictators reveals much more about the ideology of the analogists than of their target. There is a crucial distinction between a private individual attempting to restrain democratic government and a public tyrant using unrestrained government to suppress democratic individuals.
Disagreeing with Norquist's approach is legitimate. The rhetoric being used to decry opposition to tax rate increases is insane.