Low-tax crusader and Republican strategist Grover Norquist tells Newsmax the country is suffering from a very weak recovery because President Barack Obama “did all the wrong things” in reaction to the recession.
But as pundits tallied up the results from Super Tuesday, Norquist on Wednesday struck an optimistic tone on the GOP’s chances in November.
Whoever wins the exhausting battle for the Republican presidential nomination, he points out, that candidate will be a staunch Reagan conservative with a tough fiscal approach on spending. That’s true whether it’s Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Ron Paul.
But if Obama somehow gets re-elected, Republicans more than likely will be in control of both the U.S. Senate and the House, meaning Obama will not have any power of the purse.
“If there is a Republican president then you can immediately move to do a budget and extend all the tax cuts and begin to cut spending,” Norquist says. “If Obama is still the president, we have a train wreck, and Obama likes train wrecks because he takes advantage of that kind of crisis to try to push for bigger government.
“Certainly it’s important to have a Republican House and Senate even with a Democratic president, but it’s difficult to get legislation passed. You can not give the president money, that’s not a bad first step, but you can’t cut taxes without the president’s signature.”
Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says Republican voters are engaged in “sort of serial monogamy” in choosing a front-runner because the candidates are “pretty much the same.”
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Americans for Tax Reform is a coalition of taxpayer groups, individuals, and businesses opposed to higher taxes at the federal, state, and local levels.
Norquist is also on the board of the American Conservative Union, a regular Newsmax contributor, and co-author of the new book “Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future.”
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, he assesses the current state of the American economy.
“We had a problem with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mal-investing, then Obama, Reid, and Pelosi came in and they made everything worse,” he says. “So we have a very, very weak recovery going on now. This is a much weaker recovery than we’ve had in the past. In the third year of Reagan’s presidency he created 4 million jobs. We created like a million jobs last year.
“We have a weak recovery because Obama did all the wrong things in reaction to the recession, and now what we need to do is the opposite — spend less, lower taxes, have deregulation, fix Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The banking regulation bill did everything except fixing the people who caused the problems for the banking crisis.
“We have a huge challenge. Obama’s been taking us in the wrong direction for three years now. We need to do a U-turn.”
Asked about the likely scenario in the immediate aftermath of November’s presidential election, Norquist responds: “It all depends on who comes in.
“Right now it looks like the Republicans will hold the House and win the Senate — half the Democrats running for the Senate are vulnerable, very few Republicans running for the Senate are vulnerable. It should be a Republican House and Senate.”
Norquist says the current race for the Republican presidential nomination is different from those in the past.
“In the old days — Taft, Eisenhower, Goldwater, Rockefeller — there were these ideological divides. You had two different wings of the modern Republican Party that wanted to go in two different directions.
“Today the candidates running for president are all Reagan Republicans. So when Republicans are looking, they can be excused for lusting after Rick Perry and then moments later Herman Cain and then Newt Gingrich and then Rick Santorum. They go from one to the other in a sort of serial monogamy because they’re all pretty much the same.
“So people pick odd reasons for being for one and not another. But it is a healthy thing that they’re all Reagan Republicans and we can choose.”
In a similar vein, Norquist says that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum split the tea party vote in Tuesday’s Ohio primary because both seek to reduce spending.
“The tea party is new people coming into the party. Tea party people weren’t politically active before but were terrified by Obama’s spending, so they came in and want to fix the spending issue. They can go for any of these candidates.”
All the Republican candidates are “moving in the same direction of reducing rates and broadening the base and not bringing a tax increase,” he adds.
“I think Rick Perry had the best tax plan of the year, and Newt Gingrich has one that is similar. They’ve all basically come out and said let’s dramatically reduce rates, let’s simplify the code. They’re looking at what Reagan did in 1986.”
Legislators are reportedly working behind the scenes to formulate a program to combat the deficit that could resemble the Simpson-Bowles plan, which called for reduced spending and increased taxes. Asked if they are likely to have any success in pushing the new program forward, Norquist says flatly: “No, because the whole goal of Simpson-Bowles was to raise taxes significantly to pay for the bigger government of Obama.
“The reason why Obama liked it was in the middle of it was a $2 or $3 trillion tax increase over the next decade. There were in theory some spending cuts. Obama never put any of those into his budget. Unfortunately all you get from putting Simpson-Bowles on the table is a tax increase, no spending cuts.”
Assessing the success of his years-long crusade for low taxes, Norquist tells Newsmax: “The top tax rate is 35 percent, half of what is was when Reagan came into the presidency, so we’ve made some progress on reducing marginal tax rates.
“But Reagan got it down to 28 percent, and now it’s drifted back up again, so we need to get back to the Reagan levels and then back on track to continue to reduce rates. The total tax burden and the total spending have shot up significantly unfortunately over the past years.”
Asked if cutting taxes is the only way to shrink the size of government, Norquist responds: “Step one is never raise taxes. That’s why [we have] the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that Americans for Tax Reform shares with all candidates and incumbents in the House and Senate. If you say that taxes are off the table, we’re never raising taxes, then and only then do you get to a conversation of reforming spending.
“Politicians like to raise taxes instead of reforming government. They want to raise taxes instead of reducing spending. So first you say no new taxes.
“Now we need to do more reforms like some of our governors have done around the country — Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida, Perry in Texas, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, those are all governors who said no to tax increases, yes to spending cuts.
“But if you don’t say no to tax increases you never get to the second part of that project. Our friend George W. Bush got the no tax increase part. He forgot the second part of the dance sheet, which is stop spending so much.”