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Thomas Fitzgerald: The Norquists of the Left

Thomas Fitzgerald: The Norquists of the Left 

By Thomas Fitzgerald
As seen in The Philadelphia Inquirer 

In a cartoon ricocheting around the Web, the conservative antitax crusader Grover Norquist is depicted as the disembodied head of the Wizard of Oz – a green, glowering face floating above Republican politicians bowing in reverence, the entire scene lit by votive torches.

It’s a mad, maniacal image of the man the left, some Democratic members of Congress, and even former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson blame for bringing the United States to the brink of fiscal disaster.

They say Norquist’s power – stemming from an ironclad “no tax” pledge most GOP lawmakers have signed – has all but ruled out rational discussion and compromise.

But intransigence cuts both ways, and Democrats have their own Grovers.

Elements of organized labor, the AARP, and various grassroots pressure groups have declared that Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, the largest and fastest-growing federal programs, are sacrosanct and cannot be cut as part of any fiscal deal.

They don’t have a single symbolic figure as well-known as Norquist. And unlike Norquist, they don’t have written pledges from pols, each co-signed by two witnesses and stored in a fireproof vault. But the message is clear: No cuts.

For instance, the National Education Association, AFSCME, and SEIU have launched radio and television ads aimed both at moderate Democratic senators who might be tempted to deal, in Missouri, Virginia, and Colorado, and at Republican House members in competitive districts – including Pat Meehan and Mike Fitzpatrick of suburban Philadelphia.

“It’s unhelpful for either side, Democrat or Republican, to say that something is completely off the table,” said Lenwood Brook, policy director of Public Notice, a nonprofit advocacy group pushing to reduce the deficit and debt. “At the same time, no tax increase out there is going to be capable of solving a $1 trillion deficit. You need spending cuts.”

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