Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, is a strategist who has been playing a brilliant long game. More on that later. For now, two points:
(1) Norquist’s goal, as he has stated, is to reduce government to one-fourth of its current size:
“Cutting the government in half in one generation is both an ambitious and reasonable goal. If we work hard we will accomplish this and more by 2025. Then the conservative movement can set a new goal. I have a recommendation: To cut government in half again by 2050.” (per Wikipedia)
He has quipped:
“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.” (per Wikipedia)
(2) Norquist has tried to force this outcome via written loyalty oaths to “oppose all tax increases.” These have now been signed “by 235 House members and 41 senators, almost all of them Republicans.” (Per CNN here.) The written oath is having its intended effect. The New York Times recently wrote on its editorial page:
The oldest and most pernicious of these modern oaths was dreamed up by Grover Norquist, the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, who has managed to get 95 percent of all Republicans in Congress to pledge never to raise taxes for any reason. If they end tax deductions, Mr. Norquist’s pledge-takers say they will match the increase in revenue with further tax cuts.
That pledge is the single biggest reason the federal government is now on the edge of default. Its signers will not allow revenues in a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
No one who pays income tax wants their bill from government to be larger than it has to be to permit government to do the tasks the American people have assigned to it. But Norquist’s pledge does not permit legislators to use good judgment on a case by case basis. Instead, his is a game of cut after cut, no tax increases ever, no matter what the need, the exigencies, or the circumstances.