Grover Norquist

Norquist: Three Thoughts on the Budget Fights

Posted by Grover Norquist on Monday, April 11th, 2011, 3:47 PM PERMALINK

Three thoughts on the budget fight(s) this year for those interested in economic growth and job creation.

First, one must focus correctly on reducing total government spending as a percentage of the economy as the key metric.  There are only two ways to make the government smaller as a percentage of the overall economy: Spend less and increase economic growth.  This is a great advantage for Republicans.  They are willing to reduce government spending.  Democrats are not.  They benefit from the fact that average taxpayers earn $60,000 a year in pay, pension and health benefits while state and local government workers average $80,000 a year and federal "workers" are paid $120,000 a year.  When the government spends less, there are fewer democrat precinct workers.

 As for increasing economic growth, Republicans have boatloads of policies: cut marginal tax rates -- for starters take the American corporate income tax rate from today's 35% to the European average of 25%. Reduce the individual income tax rate to 25%. Abolish the death tax which double and triple taxes income earned and taxed already.  Reform tort law to stop billionaire trial lawyers from recycling their "earnings" into the DNC coffers.  Reduce the more than trillion dollar a year drag on the economy that is government overregulation. 

 Democrats have no ideas that will increase your 401(k) or the general economy.  They tried Keynesianism.  Again. They took $800 billion dollars through taxes and/or debt from those who earned it and gave it to the politically connected.  They killed two million jobs and swelled the national debt.

 Avoid being distracted by "the deficit."  That is the ploy of Democrats that wish to take your eye off government spending so that they can offer tax hikes as the moral equivalent of spending cuts.  Nice try.  That way leads to Greece.

 Second, one must have bi-focal vision for moving forward.  Key your eyes on the goal: dramatically lowering government spending and higher growth over time.  The Ryan legislation will drop six trillion dollars from what Obama wishes to spend.  It drops government spending as a percentage of the economy from Obama's 25% to 20% in five years and to 15% by 2050.  The near vision part of bi-focals allow one to cut four billion over two weeks and six billion over three weeks and then 40 billion for half a year and realize that making small cuts today is moving forward in the right direction.  It is not important to change everything today or tomorrow.  Much can be done overtime -- if we keep moving however slowly in the right direction.

 Third, Remember 1982 and 1990, the two "deals" that Democrats offered Reagan and then Bush promising to cut three and later two dollars of spending for every dollar of tax hikes enacted.  The tax hikes were real. The spending restraint never happened. When your negotiating partner wants to move in the opposite direction from your goal then you will either be in stalemate...or you will be cheated.

Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.  His Twitter handle is

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Fourteen Ways to Reduce Government Spending

Posted by Grover Norquist on Friday, August 20th, 2010, 2:05 PM PERMALINK

1. Resurrect the “Byrd Committee.”  One good idea for spending restraint is to restore a committee that once existed, the Joint Committee on Reduction of Nonessential Federal Expenditures (known in the post-War years as the “Byrd Committee”).  First proposed in 1941, the committee was a bipartisan, joint committee with subpoena powers that focused only on making rescissions in federal spending. Its proposals enacted over $38 billion (in 2010 dollars) in savings. The fatal flaw in many other “fiscal commissions” is this lack of narrow focus – only when tax hikes are taken off the table are meaningful spending cuts made. Any recommendations from a committee modeled on the Byrd Committee should be privileged and require an up-or-down vote on the floor. To give an idea of the sort of spending that this committee might curb, the federal government made at least $98 billion in improper payments in 2009, Medicare spends $47 billion (12.4 percent of its budget) annually improperly or fraudulently, and Congress recently spent $2.4 billion on 10 new jets that the Pentagon claims it does not need and will not use. With regards to duplicate programs, the Government Accountability Office reports hundreds of wastefully duplicated programs in areas as wide ranging as economic development, serving the disabled, helping at-risk youth, early childhood development, funding international education, and providing safe water. Indeed, according to the Bush administration OMB's PART program reviews, 22 percent of all federal programs, costing a total of $123 billion per year, fail to show any positive impact on their target populations.

2. Give the public five days to read bills before a floor vote.  Congress should enact a five-day waiting period before passing any new or amended legislation.  This “cooling-off” time might have prevented $350 billion in President Bush’s TARP, $350 billion in President Obama’s TARP, over $500 billion in the so-called “stimulus” bill, $183 billion more in discretionary spending in FY 2010, and $794 billion in healthcare “reform.”

3. Put every federal transaction and contract online in real time.  Every federal transaction, contract, and grant should be available online in real time.   A spending transparency portal is an important tool that can be used to cut waste, locate inefficiencies and empower the people whose money is being spent, the taxpayers,  as fiscal watchdogs.  This was pioneered successfully by Governor Rick Perry of Texas.  Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma also have good transparency initiatives.

4. Term limit appropriators.  Those serving on the Appropriations Committee should be limited to no more than six (6) years on that committee, as is already the case with members of the Budget Committee.

5. Sitting Congressmen and Senators should not be able to name buildings or other monuments to themselves, and none should be named for them while they are still living.  This encourages Congressmen and Senators to direct pork/earmark projects with more energy, and other Members feel peer pressure to support the projects (with an eye toward their eventual “legacy” vote later on).

6. Block grant education funding and welfare to the states.  All remaining welfare programs—Medicaid, food stamps, etc.—should be block-granted to the states, the same way that AFDC was in 1996.  The cost growth of the block grant should be something less than current law’s cost trajectory. Likewise, the block granting of education funding allows for each state to pursue its own solution and experiment, much as Canadian provinces did when education was federalized. As the Cato Institute has reported, this experimentation led to innovation, including school vouchers and charter schools, and Canadian students generally outperform their U.S. peers in reading, math, and science.

7. Freeze the salary and benefit levels of federal employees.  Scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation have estimated that federal employees earn $14,000 more than their private sector counterparts in salary and benefits (even when controlling for factors such as education level, age, etc.).  The pay and benefits disparity is 30 to 40 percent.  In the aggregate, bringing federal employee compensation in line with the private sector would save $47 billion per year.  Government salary and benefits should be frozen until the private sector has a chance to catch up.  The new government in the United Kingdom recently announced a two year pay freeze for the highest-earning 72 percent of government employees.  Moreover, taxpayers presently match federal employees’ pension contributions 14 to 1 as reported by Third Way, exemplifying the massive chasm between public sector and private sector benefit packages. To make matters worse, government employees owe over $3 billion in unpaid taxes from 2008.

8. Require all eligible federal employees to compete for their job with a private sector bidder.  According to the Office of Management and Budget, some 850,000 federal employees (one-third of all federal employees) have jobs that are commercial in nature, and could be performed by a private contractor.  The Heritage Foundation estimates that the mere act of competing all these jobs would save taxpayers $27 billion annually.  The act of competing forces government employees to become more lean and efficient, so even a low success rate by contractors has big savings for taxpayers. To make maters worse, the present lack of competition actively hurts small businesses as well; every White House Conference on Small Business has identified unfair government competition as one of the leading concerns for small business owners. Moreover, as reported by the Business Coalition for Fair Competition, Congress and the White House continue to enact policies that exacerbate this crowding-out of commercial activities by government.

9. Only hire one new federal employee for every two that retire from government employment.  Over time, the federal workforce can be reduced simply by not filling half the job slots which come up because of retirement.  The positions not filled can be consolidated or privatized.  According to our research, the career savings for each federal slot not filled would range from just under $5 million (low-cost employees) to just under $14 million (high-cost employees), with an average savings of $7 million per employee.  If attrition was used to shed just 10 percent of the current federal workforce, it would save taxpayers nearly $2 trillion over the next forty years.

10. Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act.  Other policies that inflate spending include the Davis-Bacon Act, a Depression-era wage subsidy law that artificially inflates the cost of federal construction contracts by mandating workers are paid no less than local prevailing wages. However, there is a high frequency of errors in data the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL) uses to calculate rates; the survey WHD conducts is self-reported and therefore the results could be biased; a wide gap in time between surveys, long times needed to complete and publish surveys – consequently wage determinations are outdated. The Beacon Hill Institute found that, on average, the WHD inflates wages by 22 percent, increases construction costs by 9.91 percent and raised construction costs by $9 billion in 2009. Repealing the Act could save $9.5 billion over 2002-2011 and decrease mandatory spending by $255 million in the same period. By enacting this cost savings, government could do more with less in terms of infrastructure construction and maintenance.

11. Reform farm subsidies along the lines of the 1996 “Freedom to Farm” Act.Farm subsidies distort the market by inducing farmers to overproduce, which further perpetuates the cycle of taxpayers subsidizing the small, well-off group of farm owners. According to the Cato Institute, the largest 10 percent of recipients receive almost 72 percent of all farm subsidy outlays. Moreover, this wasteful injection of government into the economy distorts international trade and reduces competition. When New Zealand, an economy significantly based on agriculture, boldly repealed its farm subsidies in 1984, it met initial resistance, but farm output, productivity, and profitability have soared since.

12. Leave defense cuts on the table.As with all other federal departments, the Department of Defense contains waste. Likewise, US military spending in constant dollars presently exceeds Cold War levels, and there remains room to pare the budget, especially since a Government Accountability Office audit of 95 Pentagon weapons systems showed combined cost overruns of $295 billion.

13. Stop using “emergency” spending loopholes to get around budget rules.  A recent paper by Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center demonstrates the various ways in which lawmakers hide spending, the most pernicious and expensive being labeling spending as “emergency,” and therefore spending off-budget or avoiding budgetary rules.

Both parties have used this technique to spend abusively. President Bush used it for most of the war supplemental in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Congressional Research Service data obtained by the office of Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) finds that emergency spending has increased deficits by almost $1 trillion since the 111th Congress was seated in January 2009 as reported by the Cato Institute.

In determining what constitutes emergency spending, Keith Hennessey, a former economic advisor to George W. Bush, offers a pragmatic political definition: “it’s whatever you can get away with labeling as an emergency.”

However, the Office of Management and Budget created a test with a fairly high bar by in 1991. According to Hennessey, all five of these conditions had to be met:

  1. Necessary; (essential or vital, not merely useful or beneficial)
  2. Sudden; (coming into being quickly, not building up over time)
  3. Urgent; (requiring immediate action)
  4. Unforeseen; and
  5. Not permanent.

To restore fiscal responsibility and accountability, Congress needs to adhere to this standard, both to reduce spending and to account for spending that exists better.

14. Freeze discretionary spending at FY 2008 levels. Freezing federal spending at the FY 2008 amounts would return the federal government to pre-bailout and “stimulus” spending levels. Such a spending reduction would bring the budget into balance by 2013 and cut the national debt nearly in half by 2020, even assuming that Congress extends the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and indexes the Alternative Minimum Tax for inflation. In contrast to the President’s current promise to “freeze” spending at FY 2011 levels, this would ensure the recent spending bonanza is not enshrined in the nation’s fiscal outlook in perpetuity.

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Grover Norquist statement on the passing of Robert Novak

Posted by Grover Norquist on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009, 4:20 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist today released the following statement on the passing of Robert Novak:

With the passing of Robert Novak, journalism lost an honest giant and the forces for freedom in America and the world are lessened.

Bob Novak was a powerful reporter and columnist who, unlike almost everyone who ever used the following phrase: "spoke truth to power."  He understood liberty is indivisible.  He knew the First and Second Amendments are both in the Bill of Rights and that the right to earn a living, own property and make contracts are all part of human freedom. He lived in a profession that when counting the Bill of Rights often cannot count past one, but he spoke and wrote for the liberty of all men and women in their economic, political, and spiritual lives.


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Who Was Jack Kemp?

Posted by Grover Norquist on Monday, May 4th, 2009, 3:13 PM PERMALINK

From Human Events

Jack French Kemp changed the conservative movement, the Republican Party, the nation and the world.  For the good.  Few men have accomplished as much in one lifetime.

Kemp was a football player who changed how economists understand the way the world works.

Kemp was a congressman who never rose to be a Senator, governor or president yet he changed how his Party talked, campaigned and governed.

Kemp was a patriot whose tax cuts, once enacted turned America around from economic decline and international retreat to growth and bloodless victory in the cold war.

Kemp was an American who has created millions of jobs and opportunities in other nations because they watched American success and copied Kemp's low tax policies.  Others followed the shining city on the hill. Today many nations once behind the iron curtain have low and flat income tax rates.
Kemp took supply-side economics, the common sense idea that lower tax rates will increase the incentives for work, savings and investment and put them in legislative form, the Kemp-Roth 33 percent income tax rate cut.  He spent the better part of a decade explaining patiently, dramatically and repeatedly and repeatedly that the path to more jobs, economic growth and low inflation came not from the Keynesian theory that if the government borrowed and spent more money the economy would flourish -- demand side economics.

Kemp had allies in promoting “supply-side” economics in Art Laffer, Jude Wanninski, Robert Bartley of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Washington Post columnist Robert Novak.  By 1978, the Republican Party endorsed his vision and the House republican caucus ran on its first version of the “contract with America” with one simple promise “Republican Tax Cut 33%.”

Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1976 and failed.  Four years later Reagan endorsed Kemp-Roth and won both the primary and general election.  Many believed the obvious choice for Vice-president would have been Jack Kemp.

The Kemp-Roth tax cut was passed in the summer of 1981 and tax rates were cut 25 percent across the board. When the tax cuts became fully effective in 1983 the economy created four million jobs that year. During the Reagan presidency, the top marginal income tax rate fell from 70 percent to 50 percent in 1981 and then to 28% in 1986. To understand the power of this change, when Reagan was elected an American small businessman paying the top income tax rate who earned an additional $100 got to take only $30 home after taxes. When Reagan left office, the same $100 earned was taxed at 28% and the taxpayer got to take home 72 dollars.  The return to savings, investment and work more than doubled. Only liberals were surprised when America got more of each.

Lower marginal tax rates reduced the government drag on the economy, unemployment fell, incomes and wealth increased and the stock market increased in value by Trillions.  This growth allowed American to afford to expand military spending to checkmate the Soviet Union.  Economic success gave Reagan and Republicans the ability to win presidential elections in 1984 and 1988 bringing Supreme Court appointments, deregulation and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

All of Reagan’s successes were made politically and economically possible by Jack Kemp’s tax cuts. That alone would earn Kemp a place in American history, but Kemp also pioneered  specific and targeted conservative, pro-growth policies to compete with and displace failed liberal programs to combat poverty in corrupt welfare clogged inner cities and the failure of public housing,  

In today’s jargon, Kemp was not a man who stood athwart history saying “no.”  He envisioned, created and promoted common sense solutions consistent with American liberty and self-governance. He built a better mouse trap. One that worked.  

Before Kemp was Nixon and Ford. They looked at failed liberal spending programs and offered to fund them 80 percent. That passed for American conservatism for too much of a dark and dreary decade.  Kemp rebranded the party.  Kemp was John the Baptist with better hair. Reagan won as captain of the Team created by Kemp’s vision.

In the Wake of the 2006 and 2008 elections many conservatives have asked, “Where is the next Reagan?” The first question to be answered, however, may be, “Where is the next Jack Kemp?”

Send us your tea party attendance

Posted by Grover Norquist on Thursday, April 16th, 2009, 2:47 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform is compiling the list of all known tea party taxpayer rallies and the best estimate of attendance at each one. If we have failed to list a rally that you attended, please let us know by e-mailing  If you believe the attendance estimate we present is flawed, please let us know. We welcome any and all links to press or video that show the rally, its speakers and attendance.

It is important to share the size, scope and seriousness of the rallies with all Americans including the establishment press and elected officials. We know from history that rallies that discomfort the establishment fade in the press’ collective memory and those they welcome become larger as time passes.
The rallies on and around April 15 were unprecedented.
Participants did not want anything from anyone else.
The rallies grew locally and spread horizontally.
Attendees had jobs and families unlike some demonstrations in the past that were primarily students or paid union staff with no competing responsibilities.
The rallies did not come after the tax hikes or inflation. They came first.
Participants recognized that all the spending will lead to pain.
Rally participants were civil, pleasant and had fun….unlike violent demonstrators of the too recent past.
Unhappiness with government policy flowed from patriotism and love of country, not an excuse to slander same.
And for those establishment politicians who like Obama’s press secretary who claimed to be ignorant of the rallies nationwide or Pelosi who thought they were organized by Exxon or Dr. No. the rallies were quite threatening.
Imagine how much easier it will be for Americans who came together one time to regroup when tax hikes, more spending, cronyism and inflation threaten.
This was a start. Many starts, in many communities.  With thousands of leaders. And thousands of thousands of future leaders.
Take a look at this growing list of tea parties and number of attendees – if the tea party you took part in is not currently listed please email us at the name of the city, the time and date of the tea party, and a credible number of attendees, with links to local news coverage if possible. We will continually update the list as we hear from you.

Tax Day Tea Party

Posted by Grover Norquist on Thursday, April 16th, 2009, 10:45 AM PERMALINK

Yesterday, I spoke at the Tax Day Tea Party in Washington, D.C.  Concerned citizens braved pouring rain to join me in voicing concern over a rapidly expanding Federal government.

The significance of the Tea Party movement cannot be underestimated.  The people are protesting future government growth and taxation that they know will result from the reckless spending of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid.  This is a sophisticated response, from an engaged electorate, that cares passionately about the future of our nation.

Americans should continue to support the Tea Party movement and express their opinions with public demonstration.  It is important that this momentum is turned into action.  That means support for the right candidates, folks running for office themselves, writing to and staying engaged with their representatives in Washington, and remaining vigilant in the cause for liberty.

I also participated in an online chat with the Washington Post, on taxes and the Tea Parties, which you can find here.

Tax Day Tea Parties: A Good Sign for America

Posted by Grover Norquist on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009, 11:46 AM PERMALINK

Today, I will join hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country to express anger over Congress’s irresponsible and reckless spending habits. Taxpayers are not deceived by the notion that the American economy can be revived by government simply spending its way out of a recession. They are a sophisticated people who recognize that continued overspending runs up massive deficits that ultimately lead to higher taxes and less freedom for all Americans.

President Obama proposes to rectify the problems facing Americans by massively increasing the size and scope of the federal government. His recent budget proposal intends to raise taxes by almost $1 trillion over the next decade. By raising the top rates from 33/35 to 36/39.6 percent, the Obama budget raises the tax rate on $2 out of every $3 in small business profit.
Small businesses aren’t the only ones hit by the President’s budget. Each family in America will be responsible for up to an additional $3,100 in energy taxes if the President’s “cap and trade” scheme is allowed to pass. But the President claims American families will also see a $770 billion tax cut in this budget. The same document admits that nearly half of the $770 billion (a whopping $326 billion) is new spending further burdening taxpayers with additional government debt.
Liberals would have you believe that the tax code is also partly to blame. They argue that the current system is extremely regressive adversely effecting the poor and middle class. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Our tax system as it is structured is steeply progressive. The top 1% of earners pays close to 40% of all income taxes. The top 5% pay 60% of all taxes and the top 50 percent making $32,000 and higher pay 97% of all taxes. Meanwhile, the lower half of income earners (those earning less than $32,000) pay only 3% of income taxes. This is down from over 6% in 1986 and 4% in 2000.
So what are Americans to do about this massive expansion of government? Take Action. Become involved in Tax Day Tea Parties in your area. Encourage your friends to go to a Tea Party. Write your representative about your concerns and make your presence felt. If they don’t listen, or even if they do, consider running for office. Americans can rekindle their liberty by fighting against the excesses of government and those that wish to tell them how to live their lives.   

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Breaking News: Sen. Specter Will Vote Against Cloture and Final Passage of EFCA

Posted by Grover Norquist on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009, 1:56 PM PERMALINK

Senator Specter's Office has confirmed to ATR that he will vote against both cloture and passage on the Employee Free Choice Act (also known as "card check" or the employee NO choice act).  His vote is critical and this a major victory for freedom, as well as a stunning defeat for the other side.

Thank you Senator Specter!


Gas tax increase is no solution

Posted by Grover Norquist on Friday, December 5th, 2003, 12:00 PM PERMALINK

I have been told to pipe down before, by Jon Shure and others.

Perhaps Shure, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, was right in a column this week about the proposed gas tax increase. If agreeing with the 70 percent of New Jersey residents who oppose raising the gas tax makes me a tax-cut nut, I\'m happy to oblige.

The organization that I lead, Americans for Tax Reform, opposes Gov. McGreevey\'s proposal to nearly double the gas tax on working families.

Last week, the state\'s blue-ribbon commission proposed a gas tax increase of at least 12.5 cents per gallon. "Blue ribbon" commissions are a familiar animal: Governors appoint them to take the political flak for proposing an unpopular tax increase. They serve two purposes: To reward campaign cronies with something to do, and to protect the governor from the predictable backlash.

McGreevey needs the commission to provide him with cover, because gas tax hikes are campaign killers. More than 8,000 people have signed a petition at to oppose the increase. Nationwide, voters reject gas tax increases every chance they get; since 1996, just one of seven ballot questions in five states earned more than 40 percent of the vote.

Voters in New Jersey and elsewhere understand that transportation spending is a particularly tough nut to crack, and that tax increases do not provide the muscle that is needed.

If the legislature enacts a gas tax increase - against the wishes of voters, drivers, and taxpayers - drivers will pay more than $700 a year in gas taxes. If the state cannot fund a viable transportation system at present, the existing budget is not being used correctly.

The governor wants to increase taxes on working families before he cleans his own fiscal house. This gas tax increase would not build any new roads, fill potholes, prop up existing bridges, or pave the state. In fact, the Transportation Trust Fund is such a mess that any new gas tax revenue would only work to finance $6 billion in existing debt. For years, every cent that legislature has dedicated to the fund has gone to pay the interest on long-term borrowing even as existing gas tax revenues are diverted from transportation to the general fund.

The state continues to waste money with project labor agreements, which drive up the cost of construction. And the increased gas taxes would serve as a slush fund for the governor\'s campaign finance operation - to pay for state contracts whose beneficiaries donate to his reelection - rather than fix roads, absent the passage of pay-to-play reform.

Even more disturbing is the devious social agenda underlying this debate. Simply put, Shure wants to stop New Jersey families from driving their cars and force everyone into public transportation. Last year, Shure\'s organization issued a report calling for a 10-cent increase in the gas tax - not to fix the existing road system, but to subsidize mass transit. The report called for 80 percent of the gas tax increase to subsidize public transportation. Talk about trading potholes for peanuts.

Clearly, raising taxes on drivers and sending it to the bloated NJ Transit bureaucracy provides no benefit to drivers, but instead imposes a social agenda on every taxpayer. That\'s how the state got into its debt mess, and this is why voters in New Jersey vehemently oppose raising the gas tax.

McGreevey has already raised taxes in New Jersey by $5.5 billion and cut state aid, resulting in the largest property tax increases in a decade. Now his commission recommends increasing gas taxes so that McGreevey can dole out more patronage. Meanwhile, drivers will be forced out of their cars, and a variety of jobs dependent upon the commuter industry will decline.

The proposed gas tax increase, gubernatorial side-stepping, and a mixed can of nuts in the legislature begging for more of the same will not provide jobs and growth or help rebound New Jersey\'s economy. That requires fiscal discipline in Trenton, not a tax-and-spend attitude that perpetuates debt and patronage.

Most of all, New Jersey needs an answer to this question from the governor and legislature: Are you a tax-cut nut, or not?
Grover Norquist is president of the Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform.

Posted on Fri, Dec. 05, 2003 by The Philadelphia Inquirer,