As the Republican National Convention gets under way in Tampa, low-tax crusader and GOP strategist Grover Norquist tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview that Mitt Romney must signal he’s not going to “gut” the military to deal with overspending in other areas of government.
Norquist also warns that the $500 billion in tax increases slated to go into effect on Jan. 1 would be “devastating to the economy,” states that President George H.W. Bush made a “tragic mistake” when he was tricked by Democrats into raising taxes, and says he favors allowing taxpayers the option of forgoing deductions in exchange for lower tax rates.
Watch the exclusive video here.
Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform, a coalition of taxpayer groups, individuals, and businesses opposed to higher taxes at the federal, state, and local levels.
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He is also on the board of the American Conservative Union, a regular Newsmax contributor, and co-author of the book “Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future.”
With Republicans gathering to nominate the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket, Norquist was asked in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV who he would like to see take the lead on the budget issue.
“I think you’re going to see Congress take the lead,” he says.
“Certainly when Reagan ran in 1980 he endorsed the Kemp-Roth proposal of cutting marginal tax rates. The final package was very similar to Kemp-Roth but had some other things as well. So I think the Ryan budget that’s been voted by everyone, all the Republicans in the House, almost all the Republicans in the Senate, really shows you that that’s in the middle of where the modern Republican Party is. The Romney-Ryan plan will be very similar to the Ryan plan with perhaps rough edges taken off or some shifts here or there.”
Norquist also discusses Romney’s plan to tie military spending to 4 percent of the GDP.
“I think it’s important for him to signal that the United States can have a strong military and that we’re not going to gut the military in order to deal with overspending in other parts of the government.
“We’ve been cutting military spending while increasing spending on welfare programs. So the way to do that is not to turn defense spending into an entitlement program or try to argue that it’s a jobs program, which some advocates of military spending have said. That’s the argument for Solyndra. That’s the argument for the stimulus package.
“If building a tank is important and necessary, build the tank but don’t tell me you’re creating jobs.
“The need for what we spend on national defense is a combination of threats from potential enemies and our own competence. You want to minimize those threats and be able to defend against them but you also want to have a competent procurement structure. You want to have an intelligent military retirement system. There’s a lot of ways to more accurately and competently spend money on national defense and not waste it.”
Some members of Congress want to eliminate deductions and loopholes from the tax code, including the mortgage interest deduction, the child tax credit, and the education tax deductions. Norquist comments: “We saw that the 1986 tax reform bill, which was reducing some reductions and credits and reducing the marginal tax rates, was a very popular and successful tax reform. Something like that again I think would be a very good idea.
“What I really prefer is allowing people the option of staying in the old system or moving to the new system. The old system is higher rates and many deductions and credits, and the new system would be dramatically lower rates with many fewer deduction and credits. That way no one would feel the government was taking away a deduction or credit. I think that’s the way to minimize opposition from the special interests that have spent time and effort getting things into the tax code.”
Asked who he would like to see replace Paul Ryan as chairman of the House Budget Committee if Ryan becomes vice president, Norquist responds: “I think a lot of the people on the committee would be fine. They’ve all been supportive of the Ryan budget. The good news is the Republicans have talent in depth at the committee.
“I don’t think anybody articulates as well as Paul Ryan. But the speaker of the House does a fine job, John Boehner.
“Ryan in effect trained, taught, a lot of Republicans how to speak about entitlement reform in a way that is encouraging to young people and not frightening to older people.”
As for the “fiscal cliff” some warn the United States is headed for at the end of this year, Norquist tells Newsmax: “When they say fiscal cliff there are different pieces to the puzzle. One is the $500 billion tax increase that starts January 1 of next year as the 2001, 2003 tax cuts lapse, the alternative minimum tax patch lapses, the research and development tax credit lapses, the social security tax cut, so there are a whole series of tax cuts that lapse.
“That’s a $500 billion tax increase that year and every year into the future. That’s devastating to the economy if that ever takes effect.
“The other fiscal cliff they talk about is cuts in spending mandated by the budget act, which reduces some military spending and some domestic discretionary spending. I would rather see that weighted more toward the domestic discretionary spending rather than defense, but it’s very important that we not raise taxes to avoid spending cuts or that we allow defense to be held hostage by the other team as an excuse to continue spending on social welfare programs.”
In his interview Norquist responds to former President George H.W. Bush’s recent claim that Norquist’s influence is waning.
“President Bush was complaining because he had made a commitment to the American people in writing that he would not raise their taxes and he didn’t keep that commitment. Two years in he raised taxes in order to spend more money.
“The Democrats wanted to spend more money and he agreed to raise taxes and they spent that. Now he thought he had an agreement where they’d agreed to spend less, but they promised Reagan that in 1982 and they lied to Reagan and took advantage of him. Bush didn’t learn from the Democrats cheating Reagan and he did a massive tax increase which very badly hurt the economy and threw the economy into a recession.
“Spending increased more rapidly after the tax increase than before and he lost the next election as a result. People were angry at him for not keeping his word.
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“In point of fact when he ran for re-election in 1992 he apologized to the American people and said it was a mistake to have gotten tricked into raising taxes to have the money spent and that the Democrats had taken advantage of him. The Democrats are trying the same game now and we need to learn from the tragic mistake that Bush made.”
Norquist adds: “Most Republicans understand the problem is spending, not that we’re taxed too little. It’s a Democratic proposal to raise taxes to quote, unquote ‘solve the deficit problem.’ So the overwhelming majority of the Republicans in the House and the Senate and of course our presidential and vice presidential candidates have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and understand that politicians raise taxes instead of cutting spending, instead of reforming government.
“So the new, younger Reagan Republicans in Congress are never going to raise taxes because it gets in the way of cutting spending.”
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