By Paul Gable
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put himself directly in the bullseye of Tea Partiers and their Republican far right allies when he said over the weekend he would no longer be bound by the Grover Norquist pledge to not raise taxes.
Graham’s comment, “When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece…” will be used against him over and over during the next two years.
He did not advocate raising taxes at this point, he merely pointed out it is one of the options that should remain on the table as federal legislators attempt to avoid taking the government over the ‘fiscal cliff’ in the next month.
The debate about the federal government’s ability to raise taxes is as old as the Constitution itself. It was one of the central differences between federalist James Madison and anti-federalist James Monroe when these two future presidents contested Virginia’s 5th Congressional District in the election of 1789.
Even Norquist recently gave his acolytes a pass when he said expiration of the Bush era tax cuts would not count as raising taxes.
It’s been no secret that Graham is going to be a top target of the tea party in 2014. His stance on the tax pledge will be just another reason to go after him.
But, on this issue, Graham is correct. He is not only correct to keep the potential for raising tax revenue in play during budget discussions, he is also correct for breaking with Norquist.
Norquist is the Jay Gould of the political far right. He is attempting to corner the market on legislative votes just as Gould once tried to corner the market on gold and just about as successfully.
Norquist’s involvement with laundering Indian tribe money through Jack Abramoff’s lobbying firm to Ralph Reed and his anti-gambling groups compares favorably with Gould’s manipulation of freight revenues during the Erie Railroads wars against Commodore Vanderbilt.
Norquist is a great manipulator, but this is no reason for legislators to sign away their right to think for themselves to him. Of course, ‘think for themselves legislators’ is an oxymoron today, but but anyone who would sign away their ability to act in a certain way should not hold elective office..
Graham’s break with Norquist may come back to haunt him in the 2014 primaries, but, for this time in American politics, I believe it is the right call.