I learned from Tierney Sneed this week at Talking Points Memo, Louisiana GOPers in Fiscal Mess Beg Grover Norquist to Relax No Tax Pledge. As you probably remember, Norquist is the man who is best known for the quote, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” It’s a curious thing to say. It’s supposed to be clever, but it misses the mark. He doesn’t want to abolish government, he wants to weaken it so that he can murder it? So he wants to abolish government! Whatever.
Anyway, Norquist’s great political idea was to get all the Republicans to sign a little pledge that says they will absolutely never raise taxes in any way. It’s part of a larger trend in Republican politics where every vote is “scored.” This leads to politicians being far more conservative than their constituencies. And there is also something fundamentally treasonous about the pledge. What if we suddenly got into World War III? I’m sure the Republicans would abandon Norquist if it ever came to it — just as they would if they ever got any backbone. But smart people don’t legislate by starting out with a long list of things they will never do. And that is a big reason why Republicans are such useless legislators.
But all over the country, there are state legislatures controlled by Republicans that would very much like to to have a little flexibility to deal with their budget problems. Currently, the state faces a $1.6 billion budget shortfall — about 5% of their total budget. Seven years ago, the state had a one billion dollar surplus. What happened? Well, after becoming governor, Bobby Jindal pushed through a huge tax cut. Just like in Kansas, this was supposed to spur growth. But it didn’t. It never does. But Jindal won’t budge. As Kevin Drum noted, “Bobby Jindal is still delusional enough to think he’s running for president.”
As you can see in the following graph, when Bobby Jindal took over control of Louisiana, unemployment was better than the country as a whole. When recession hit, it was not hit nearly as hard — because of the oil industry. But overall, it tracked along with the country pretty well. But since the beginning of 2014, it has taken a turn for the worse. And as of mid-2014, the country as a whole is doing better than Louisiana. Am I blaming this on Jindal? Not at all. But note that there is no reason to think that the tax cut helped to create jobs — not that Jindal and the rest of his Republican allies ever cared that it did.
So now, many Republicans in Louisiana would greatly appreciate it if they were allowed to fix the problem some other way than savaging their college system. In fact, they went whining to Norquist saying that they should be given credit for the previous tax cut. Norquist rightly noted that by such logic, Obama could claim to be a tax cutter. Just the same, I can’t help but remember that Norquist didn’t care about the payroll tax going back up. That’s consistent, however; Norquist doesn’t care about taxes that hurt the poor. No major Republican “thinker” does.
But the whole thing is quite the spectacle. Instead of dealing with each other, Louisiana Republicans are forced to go to Grover Norquist to get approval on how they are supposed to govern. Of course, he only has power because they give it to him. And, of course, because Bobby Jindal thinks he has a chance of becoming president. Some day, the people of Louisiana might consider voting for people who will do right by them and not outsource their thinking to a subgenius ideologue like Norquist.
See also: Swing State Voter Regret Is Killing Me.