The Gentle Badger Smiles

Jeff Alworth

The day the devil comes to getcha
he's got a smile like a scar
He knows the way to your house
He's got the keys to your car
--Laurie Anderson, The Day the Devil

groverIn the mid-1980s, a revolutionary padded into Washington in tasseled loafers. Bearded, round-faced, he looked sort of like a gentle badger. He had been invited by the Reagan White House to run an organization called Americans for Tax Reform, created as a PR entity to promote the 1986 tax bill. I'm talking about Grover Norquist, of course, the godfather of the anti-tax crusaders whose goal has been "to cut government in half, ... to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." You'd think that the GOP would recognize the tune he whistled as diabolic, but they didn't. The devil had come to town to drum up some recruits, and Republicans signed on the dotted line.

Over the intervening years, he's had remarkable success in Washington--Tom Delay now controls the House, the judiciary has been packed with anti-government activists, and it was a Democrat who got rid of welfare and declared that "the era of big government is over." But Washington is bloated and hard to manage. Where Norquist had his best luck was in the states, particularly those, like Oregon, with initiative systems.

Working with toadies like Bill Sizemore, Norquist took his message straight to the people. Through Americans for Tax Reform, he funneled money to the states to get anti-tax measures passed. As in Washington, the mood in Oregon turned against government. The GOP, sensing an opportunity, jumped on the Salem-is-evil bandwagon. Somehow, they didn't recognize that they were Salem.

Now things are becoming clearer. Each revolutionary is destructive in his own way, but there's something they all share--true faith. When Norquist was talking about drowning government, he wasn't kidding. If being anti-tax is good during the boom, it's better during the bust. Moderate Republicans are finding that having thrown in with the devilish fringe has now come back to bite them:

The Libertarian Party, buoyed by the state's anti-tax mood, is pushing hard to make its mark on Oregon politics by running a record 32 candidates in the general election....

This year, Cox hopes to spoil a win for Rep. Mary Gallegos, R-Cornelius, who may be vulnerable as one of only 11 House Republicans who voted for the tax increase. Gallegos won her first election in 2002 by 434 votes and faces the same Democratic opponent....

Libertarians could play a role in several other House races that have no incumbent. They include House District 35, where four political unknowns -- Republican Suzanne Gallagher, Democrat Larry Galizio, Pacific Green Liz Trojan and Libertarian Cody Nagengast, who is in Athens for the Olympics -- are competing for a swing seat recently vacated by Rep. Max Williams, R-Tigard.

Another is House District 54, which Rep. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, will give up. Libertarian Tristan Reisfar is taking on Democrat Judy Stiegler and Republican Chuck Burley, both of whom he says support tax and fees increases.

The Republicans must be thinking--"Hey, my job's on the line, here. Can I get a little support?" But for the revolutionaries, there is no compromise. It was never about electing Republicans--it was about drowning government. The Oregon GOP is in jeopardy of going under water, but the gentle badger is unconcerned. If they can't toe the revolutionary line, what good are they? And anyway, that's why the gentle badger never ran for office himself....

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    It is working in the federal government. Think of all the big spending... medicare, increases in military spending, while at the same time cutting taxes. What's happening is that the administration is borrowing and spending the government to death. It will reach critical mass when the debt becomes so high that either programs will have to be cut or there will have to be draconian increases in taxes. I'm predicting an inter-generational war. As baby boomers retire they'll want to keep the benefits (and as a generational cohort they wield more political power than any other) and thus we're looking at draconian tax increases for younger generations. The spend now, pay later idea is going to lead to bitter tax warfare- even worse than it is now.

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    Speaking of things that ought to be drowned in a bathtub ... badger, eh?

    Forgive the link, with that title and the consistent hammering of the GOP message machine, I couldn't resist.

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    Oh gawd. Badger.. badger.. badger.. badger.. badger.. badger.. badger.. badger.. mushroom.. mushroom.. mushroom.. african snaaake!

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    I could actually be tarred and feathered for the badger reference: me grad school was the mighty fightin' badgers of Wisconsin. (F*ck em' Bucky!) But that's what Norquist looks like. I calls em as I sees em, alma mater or no.

  • Lynn Siprelle (unverified)

    How likely is it that Sizemore and his crew are getting Norquist's weekly talking points memo? I'm trying to track down a copy of it--any copy, not this week's.

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    Lynn--I'd say not likely at all. Sizemore continues to struggle with legal problems, and ATR's not likely to touch him with a ten-foot pole. Now, as to these Nader-helpers...

  • Tenskwataw (unverified)

    Norquist was funding Sizemore through fraud and crime, but now that justice is come due, Sizemore sees Norquist double crossed him. Sizemore could be turned, eh? Hey, Norquist, we got a guy here who's ready to testify you owe Oregon a piece of his jail time and a 7-figure chunk of missing money. He says you got some of the stolen assets, Grover. Don't worry, we don't want to hold you under and drown you in a bathtub ... we're thinking Fanno Creek, come back?

    Folks, the first premise of Norquist dictatorship is that we can never shrink the military. Because we must have its protection. Which was maybe plausible until soldiers showed up in the airports with shoulder-slinged AK-47's, watching us board the planes, (if our names aren't on the no-fly list, but those cases are dealt with in the back, out of sight, disappeared, no charges ... keep it movin', folks, keep it movin'). The pre-emptive premise that no one is going to think to shrink the military and drown it in a bathtub, or oil patch, is like a badger crawls into a hole so sure he can back out.

    Suppose average voters and the representatives they elect found out Norquist's numbers scam. Our federal taxes are our investment in our nation. We scrape together about $1000 Billion a year to invest. $500 of it goes to the Pentagon for protection, and for those satellites looking down on us keeping an eye on our movements. $200 of it goes for interest payment on what we charged during Reagan/Bush, and nothing on the principal. Which leaves $300 (Billion) to invest in schools, roads, health, welfare, parks, research, alternative energy, your_vital_interest_here_. Oh, wait, I forgot the cost of government -- salaries and so on, which is $100 of the $1000, so there's only $200 left for vital investments. I think Homeland Security gets some piece of that. Actual spending committed to investment in life, in the 'last' year, totalled like $750, so we put down the $200 and charged $550 (Billion). 'Last' year. 'Next' year's budgeted totals are worse.

    So uh, Grover, we're thinking there's no sense paying for protection when we haven't made any investment to protect. Some kind of boulder is sitting on your hole, Badger.

  • In the Closet (unverified)

    I personally doubt that the national Republican powerhouses would ever let a twit like Sizemore hold one of their own (Norquist) hostage. Isn't it interesting that despite concrete evidence of a money laundering scheme, nobody is pursuing criminal charges against Sizemore or Norquist (who has been accused of the same thing repeatedly)? It pays to have friends in high places - or, in Sizemore's case, you pay dearly if you get caught messing with friends in high places.

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