Like all Americans, I yearn for a simplified tax code, and I stand second to no citizen in my passion for tax reform. My wife and I between us possess the following graduate degrees: Ph.D., M.Phil., two M.A.s and a J.D. from reputable institutions -- so grant that we are of at least median intelligence. Yet we can't manage to do our tax returns correctly without professional assistance. I assure you, I strongly believe in tax reform. But Grover Norquist's misleadingly-named Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) has absolutely nothing to do with tax reform.
Norquist, president and founder of ATR, is famous for the polarizing 'tax reform' pledge (the 'Norquist Pledge') he badgers politicians into signing -- under penalty of designating them anti-tax reform. The current version of this pledge states that signers will:
Norquist even emphasizes that the pledge has no exceptions for war, natural disaster, or other misfortunes. For example, a signer of the Norquist Pledge isn't permitted to vote to increase tax rates on America's 1% -- even if such changes would be revenue neutral, and/or are desperately needed for a national emergency. Our current marginal tax rates reflect random political compromises, so why they should be set in stone for the coming decades is not clear to me.
At last count, 238 Members of the House of Representatives and 41 Senators committed to the Norquist Pledge. Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have also signed the pledge -- which is binding for a politician's entire term in office.
The Norquist Pledge has nothing to do with tax reform as understood by most American taxpayers. For example, the majority of Americans favor increasing -- rather than capping -- the marginal tax rates of the top 1%. (By the way, ATR -- a tax-exempt institution -- pays no taxes on its annual revenues of about $5 million per year, according to ATR tax forms.) Mr. Norquist's real goal (explained in his other writings) is to substantially shrink the size of government.
I oppose the Norquist Pledge for (at least) two reasons:
To counter this harmful situation, I propose the American Citizen's Anti-Norquist Pledge:
Finally, I would welcome your comments:
If you would like updates on the creation of the Anti-Norquist Pledge, and other topics, please follow me on twitter: @Steven_Strauss.
Steven Strauss was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). He is an Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard University for 2011-2012. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University.
Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss