The anti-tax zealot uses his ubiquitous presence on cable TV, radio, and in print to publicly pressure Republicans from compromising on a balanced measure that includes increased revenue and spending cuts, using various scare tactics to keep the GOP in line. But his claims — which he dutifully reiterates in every media appearance — are often divorced from reality. Here are Norquist’s top 4 whoppers:
1) “[F]or four years President Obama has not reined in spending. Done nothing useful on entitlement reform.” Federal spending is actually lower now than it was when President Obama took office. In January 2009, before President Obama had even taken the oath of office, annual spending was set to total 24.9 percent of gross domestic product. Total spending this year, fiscal year 2012, is expected to top out at 23.4 percent of GDP. By 2017, spending will come down to 22 percent of the GDP. In actual dollars, government spending dropped from 2009 to 2010. In fact, Obama has the lowest spending record of any recent president. He has also significantly reformed Medicare — and extended its solvency — through the Affordable Care Act.
2) “That’s where we were with Reagan tax rates and that’s where we were with lower marginal tax rates and with — with reasonable economic growth. We’ve got revenues of 18.5 percent of GDP…. If we had grown at Reagan rates of growth instead of Obama rates of growth, 11 million Americans would be at work today.” Reagan’s tax cuts did little for economic growth. As Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett has noted: “Real gross domestic product growth was about the same after the 1986 act took effect in 1987 as it was before…By the mid-1990s, it was the consensus view of economists that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 had little, if any, impact on growth.” Other studies came to the same conclusion.
3) “When [Bush] cut marginal tax rates on capital gains and dividends from 2002, there was four years of strong economic growth from ’03 to ’07.” Numerous studies have found that cutting tax rates for the wealthiest Americans did not spur economic growth or job creation. In fact, since Republicans began instituting supply-side policies under President Reagan, growth has lagged and income inequality has surged, as the wealthiest Americans make more money while paying less in taxes. Under Bush, the nation experienced the worst economic growth of the post-war period.
4) “George Herbert Walker Bush managed the collapse of the Soviet Union, kicked Iraq out of Kuwait, had a 90% approval rating, however he agreed to a tax-increase deal [consisting of] two dollars of spending cuts for every one dollar of taxes. And he lost the presidency.” As the Washington Post points out, Bush lost re-election because of voter discontent about the economy. His flip flop on taxes ranked low on the list of voter concerns.
A growing number of Republican senators are at least rhetorically backing away from Norquist’s pledge, a sign of his weakened influence in the aftermath of the 2012 elections. Some 16 incumbent Republicans and one incumbent Senator who signed the document lost on election night. In total, 56 Republican House incumbents or candidates who endorsed the pledge and 24 Republican Senators or hopefuls lost.