Today, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist took questions on the Taxpayer Protection Pledge during a live online chat at the Washington Post. For two and a half hours, Norquist answered over 50 questions about Washington’s tax-and-spend problem and how pro-taxpayer policies can help create economic stability and prosperity.

A full transcript of the chat session can be found here. Here are some highlights:


Q: I read in the Post this morning that Sen. Coburn is planning to raise taxes. What is going on there?

GGN: Good question.

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn was elected promising his voters in Oklahoma that he would never raise taxes. He signed the pledge promising to keep rates low and that any tax reform that culled back deductions or credits would be matched dollar for dollar with further rate reduction so that this would not increase the overall tax burden on Americans.

Coburn reiterated his commitment to this principle in a public letter to me on February 17. Letter is available at ATR's website:

Now Coburn is telling the press that he leads a faction of Republican Senators who want to raise taxes.  I cannot find any R who will publicly say he stands with Coburn and the Simpson/Bowles commission plan to hike taxes by between one and two trillion dollars over the next decade… the Heritage Foundation says it is closer to $3.3 trillion in higher taxes.

Coburn's theory is that when Obama threatens to remove tax incentives from the Oklahoma oil and gas industry–like investment tax credits or expensing or deductibility of investments–that this is not a tax hike.

He might ask the workers in Oklahoma who would lose their jobs and businesses and see if they think those tax hikes are actually tax hikes.


Q: What would be a fair tax rate, in your opinion? Always lower? 0%?

GGN: A fair tax rate?

Taxation consists of taking money from people who earned it.  Fairness, my friend, does not enter the equation.  One can tax in more or less destructive ways. Fairness is an odd requirement to demand of the state's appropriation of our time, money and lives. Better to limit that power. Safer.

States have found that taxing income zero is the preferred rate.  Texas and Florida are growing and attracting investment and jobs–not Illinois and California.  The zero rate income tax states are all growing faster than the high income tax states.

At the federal level we should start by reducing the top tax rate for individuals and businesses to 25%.  At the state level, zero is a reasonable goal.


Q: The conservative argument continues to be 'cut taxes' and your organization advocates for not increasing taxes. Would you be opposed to a tax freeze that neither cuts or raises taxes? What effect do you believe would result? Wouldn't this add the certainty to the economy that so many have argued does not exist under the Obama administration?

GGN: The economy is damaged by America's fears that Obama will come up with more spending proposals and/or more tax hikes.  They are not traumatized by the fear that he might reduce spending and taxes. We need a limit on the growth of taxes and spending, not on reductions in same.


Q: Grover- You created the Pledge roughly 25 years ago. Can you explain why it was necessary then and how it is still relevant today on the state and federal level?

GGN: Because the other team keeps trying to raise taxes rather than reform government.

Look at those states with pledge-taker governors–they are reforming government.  Ryan's budget is a series of reforms driven by the need to rein in spending and his promise not to raise taxes.


Q: Why are you driving such a hard line on taxes when, if you are honest, know that revenue will have to be in any agreement?

GGN: There will not be a tax hike prior to 2012.

Until then…

Obama will fight for higher taxes.

The GOP will call for reform of government.

The electorate will then decide: tax hikes or government reform.  If you want higher taxes rather than a reformed and limited government there is a president and a party on the ballot just for you.