Bruni mocks Norquist, then pimps his line!


Breaking: Grover has won! Like Frank Bruni, we happen to know Grover Norquist a small tiny tad.

Like Bruni, we happen to like Grover Norquist, although we think his policy ideas are patently nuts.

That said, Norquist has been a powerful player over the past twenty years. He remains a powerful player today, although Bruni doesn’t seem to recognize this fact.

How can we tell that Grover rules? The force of his narrative is evident in Bruni’s new column, even as its author celebrates Grover’s demise.

Some Republicans have announced that they are no longer bound by Norquist’s famous anti-tax pledge. Bruni says that’s a wonderful thing—but as he does, he quickly repeats the talking points that spring from Norquistism:
BRUNI (11/27/12): All three Republican lawmakers were echoing previous comments of their own and of a small but significant cluster of colleagues, whose numbers continued to grow on Monday, when Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, appearing on CBS’s “This Morning,” pronounced himself “not obligated on the pledge.” It’s as if some spell has at long last been broken, and the formerly bewitched villagers are rising up to defy their evil overlord and insist on the possibility of life and even mirth without a deduction for corporate jets.

I celebrate this not because I think tax increases are some budget panacea. They’re not even close. In fact there’s a serious risk of focusing too much on them and too little on entitlement reform and other potential savings, and one of the real values of the Republican Party has been its insistence, in theory if not always in practice, on careful attention to expenditures.
Even as he “celebrates” Grover’s demise, he starts reciting Grover’s points! We shouldn’t focus too much on tax increases! The main thing we should focus on is cuts to entitlement programs!

(Before long, Bruni was hitting another mark, saying that “Lincoln” helps us see that we have to come to a compromise concerning the fiscal cliff right now. Already, this standard conclusion is sacred writ within the guild.)

Norquistism rules our discourse in every conceivable way. Its basic tenets are all around us. We are surrounded by Grover’s tenets as fish are surrounded by water.

We’ll take a wild guess: In our major newspapers, Frank Bruni has never so much as seen an account of what would happen if we approached our deficit problem through an emphasis on higher taxes.

One example: He has never even seen an account of what would happen if we simply returned to all the Clinton-era tax rates. In his own New York Times, has he ever seen a front-page discussion of the crazy tax breaks the Masters of the Universe get?

In our current circumstance, could tax increases turn out to be “some budget panacea?” It’s against the law to consider such a notion! That helps us see that Grover rules. He and his allies won this game a very long time ago.

Yesterday morning, Paul Krugman said “the deficit-scold movement has lost some of its clout.” If he meant its political clout, we’d have to say that he was dreaming, although he was right on the substance.

This morning, Bruni helped drive home our point. He celebrated Grover’s demise, then started reciting Grover’s points! We have to focus on entitlement cuts, he quickly averred.

Translation: Grover has won!

A second miscalculation: We’d say that Bruni miscalculates a second time in his next paragraph:
BRUNI (continuing directly): But over recent years the party lost much of its credibility in this discussion, by dint of the lavish spending and escalating debt under George W. Bush and because of a sophomoric, gimmicky purity that’s incarnate in Norquist, who has done his party real damage. He might as well have been onstage during that infamous Republican debate in August 2011 when all eight candidates for the party’s presidential nomination said that they wouldn’t accept even one dollar in tax increases for $10 in spending reductions. They had devolved into dummies, and Norquist was their ventriloquist.
Has Norquist done the GOP real damage? Maybe, although we wouldn’t feel real certain. But he has produced tremendous return to the wealthy interests which invest in his enterprise.

As far as we know, Grover Norquist is sincere in his approach to budget matters. But the power of his message has made zillions of dollars for the nation’s conquering swells, who will experience little push-back from Bruni's mush-mouthed columns.

Bruni isn’t going to say that. Under the rules of Norquistism, such bad thoughts aren’t allowed. (Bruni's role: He writes columns about gay issues. This gives us liberals the impression that we have a seat at the NYT table.)

All around you in recent years, you have seen the mass agreement within the mainstream press—Norquistism can’t be challenged. That’s why you saw no discussion of Romney’s proposal to eliminate the estate tax. It’s why you saw no attempt in 2009 to explain why our health costs are so high.

(Where is all that money going? You aren't encouraged to ask.)

It’s why you saw so little discussion of Romney’s ludicrous tax pseudo-proposal. Long ago, major interests agreed that such topics can’t be explored.

Grover won a long time ago. Bruni types in his thrall.


  1. I watched Lincoln last night. It was a good movie -- good to see Spielberg still has some game. It was also a movie that's underlying theme was to tell the left to take half a loaf and be happy about it. The whole movie seemed like it was an apology for Obama's presidency against left wing criticism. It's so easy for the millionaires to tell the rest of us to settle down and not get so upset about watching our interests be sold down the river.

  2. We’ll take a wild guess: In our major newspapers, Frank Bruni has never so much as seen an account of what would happen if we approached our deficit problem through an emphasis on higher taxes.

    There's such a discussion in yesterday's WSJ, or, at least, a related discussion. This article, written by two members of President Clinton's Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, says

    When combined with funding the general cash deficits, these multitrillion-dollar Treasury operations will dominate the capital markets in the years ahead, particularly given China's de-emphasis of new investment in U.S. Treasurys in favor of increasing foreign direct investment, and Japan's and Europe's own sovereign-debt challenges.

    When the accrued expenses of the government's entitlement programs are counted, it becomes clear that to collect enough tax revenue just to avoid going deeper into debt would require over $8 trillion in tax collections annually. That is the total of the average annual accrued liabilities of just the two largest entitlement programs, plus the annual cash deficit.

    Nothing like that $8 trillion amount is available for the IRS to target.

    As I understand, $8 trillion per year of revenue is required to bring the deficit down to zero (i.e., to stop the rise in the National Debt) and to stop the rise in the unfunded liability of the entitlement programs.

    It's not a question of personalities. Tax increases alone can't solve our federal deficit problems. You can say Norquist is right, or you could just cite the laws of arithmetic.

    1. Quaker in a BasementNovember 27, 2012 at 9:07 PM

      This article, written by two Republican members of President Clinton's Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform,

      You're welcome!

    2. I didn't want to boast. But, as Qiab points out, it was two Republicans who wrote this intelligent, responsible article

    3. bullshit. you deliberately spelled out the "President Clinton . . . " part and left out the republican part to try to mislead.

    4. Anon -- I apologize for being snarky with my last comment.

      However, the link doesn't identify the authors' political parties. It says
      A decade and a half ago, both of us served on President Clinton's Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, the forerunner to President Obama's recent National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

    5. It's not intelligent and responsible:

      One of the article's main contributions to the debate is to falsify Social Security's finances.

      This it does admirably, using the bullshit "unfunded liabilities" mantra to magnify its apocalyptic scenario.

      The fact remains though, that the supposed parlous state of the US balance sheet is NOT NEW and has NEVER resulted in the outcomes touted by these hack liar authors.

      Earth to David in Cal: the rest of us prefer economists who have been correct about the economy=, not those who have been terribly, terribly wrong. You can keep 'em.

  3. Speaking of ludicrous psued-proposals, when will see an analysis of Obama's proposal, beyond noting the proposed increase in taxe rates on those making more than $250,000 per year, a feature by itself which would produce revenues of $80 billion per year compared to a current annual deficit of more than $1 trillion. Shall we call Obama's plan the "8% solution"? Discuss.

  4. Quaker in a BasementNovember 27, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    Every single American worker who has received a paycheck at any time since 1983 has paid higher taxes, nominally intended to cover the wave of Baby Boomer retirements upon us now.

    The nearly $5 trillion collected to fund Social Security was loaned to the federal government to finance its operations rather than requiring income tax payers to pay more.

    Now the debt is due and Republicans don't think all those workers should accept less of a payback than we were promised.

    1. Quaker in a BasementNovember 27, 2012 at 9:03 PM

      Errr....Republicans don't think all those workers should get the payback they were promised.

    2. I'm unclear about a couple of your points, Qiab. You say "Workers since 1983 have paid higher taxes". Higher than what?

      You say "nominally intended to cover the wave of Baby Boomer retirements upon us now."
      But, SS is essentially pay-as-you-go. SS assessments collected in 1983 were pretty much to pay benefits in 1983.

      You say "The nearly $5 trillion collected to fund Social Security was loaned to the federal government to finance its operations rather than requiring income tax payers to pay more."

      This is partly true. However, the amount loaned to the government wasn't the full amount collected to fund SS. It was only the residual amount, that is (collected less paid) that was loaned to the government.

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