A Tale Of Two Grovers
May 2012 30

A Tale Of Two Grovers

Posted In Activism,Blog,Politics

by Steven Whitney


[Good Cop, Bad Cop: The Two Grovers]

One is the best of Americans; one is the worst of Americans; one reflects true wisdom, the other muddles in foolish avarice disguised as wisdom; one affirms our belief in freedom and dignity, the other binds us in economic chains; one brings forth Light, the other carries Darkness; one promises a spring of hope, the other a long winter of despair – in short, the two figures are so like the 99% and 1% they represent that some pundits noisily insist that they are superlative comparisons for Good and Evil.

We are talking, of course, about the two Grovers, worlds apart in both action and outlook yet both of them pivotally influential figures of American life over the last three decades.

The first was born in 1967, in the Sesame Street maternity ward in New York City, the love child of Jim Henson and Frank Oz (not a gay couple). Through the years, Muppet Grover evolved and grew, from green to blue and from dark monster to “cute furry little monster” to superhero and friend to all. As the Sesame Street website declares: “No other resident of Sesame Street can lay claim to being (or at least trying to be) more helpful than Grover.”

The other, Grover Norquist, was born in 1956 in Sharon, Pennsylvania, but grew up in Weston, Massachusetts. In 1968, when he was just 13, he volunteered to help “get out the vote” for Richard (“I Am Not a Crook”) Nixon. While earning a B.A. and M.B.A, he was Executive Director of the national College Republicans and part of the team that published the libertarian-leaning Harvard Chronicle. During that time, he was hit with a revelation that would define the rest of his life. “When I became 21, I decided that nobody learned anything about politics after the age of 21.”

It’s funny how things turn out. Monsters are, by definition, entities you cannot reason with – try reasoning with Jason, Jigsaw, Freddie Krueger, Leatherface, or even the shark from Jaws. Muppet Grover was born a monster, grew and opened himself to new ideas and became compassionately human. The other Grover, now a 55 year old man trapped within a 21 year old’s world view, was born human and, by his own admission, steadfastly refused to grow or consider ideas outside his own cloistered sphere…and became the kind of monster who would destroy his own country rather than change his mind.

After college, Mr. Norquist headed up the National Taxpayers Union, did a stint in the Reagan White House where he supported Oliver North’s illegal black op that became the Iran/Contra scandal, was named to the Boards of both the NRA and the Conservative Union, co-authored the Contract With America with Newt Gingrich, raised early support for “W” and was instrumental in crafting the Bush Tax Cuts that added approximately two trillion dollars to our deficit (not counting the lack of job creation attributed to those cuts).

During that time, Norquist’s organization served as a conduit for funds that flowed from convicted felon Jack Abramoff’s clients to covertly financed anti-tax lobbyists.

Bringing us to the source of Mr. Norquist’s power – the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a non-profit he founded in 1985, for which he has served as Executive Director since its inception. His foundation has just one issue: the opposition of all tax increases. That means income, corporate, sales – all taxes. Mr. Norquist even describes the Estate Tax as “a Holocaust for the Rich.”

The central tool of Norquist’s ATR is the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which binds state and national candidates and members of Congress to oppose any and all tax increases. Both the pledge and its signers can be found here. Mr. Norquist boasts that more than 95% of current House and Senate Republicans have signed his pledge.

Every nation’s power comes from its right to tax its citizens to the extent necessary to efficiently run its government. If that becomes impossible, both government and the “general welfare” of its people crumble in ruins. And Mr. Norquist’s pledge does just that, creating gridlock, extreme partisanship, and a government that can’t get anything done.

But Mr. Norquist’s intention is clear: “Our goal is to shrink government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Which gave rise to a unique neo-conservative wish list for our government – “…to starve it, shrink it, and choke it to death.”

In collusion, they want to prove that government does not work, so they obstruct (through filibusters) and impede (via lawsuits) the legislative process while reducing available funds (through the Pledge) to cut our government back to the point where it actually doesn’t work.

Apply that same strategy to, say, NFL football. You want to prove it doesn’t work, so you buy a team of 45 players (the standard season roster). First, to reduce payroll, you cut the roster to 25 – 11 on offensive, 11 on defensive, and 1 kicker. Then after a few close but losing games, you cut costs even more. After all, you really only need 12 players – 11 playing both offense and defense and a kicker. But then injuries occur and you’re soon down to 6 players who lose every game by 80 or 90 points. You sit way up high in your luxury box with your cognac, cigars, and 1% business cronies, smile, and say: “You see, football doesn’t work.”

To work, damn near everything in this world needs to be funded. Perhaps government most of all. Even some moderate Republicans who aren’t totally batshit crazy understand the insanity of the new GOP. Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson remarked: “You have Grover Norquist…saying that if you raise taxes one penny, he’ll defeat you. And if that means more to you than your country when we need patriots to come out in a situation when we’re in extremity, you shouldn’t even be in Congress.”

Which raises the question of why a pledge to Norquist should supersede any elected official’s oath of office and allegiance to his country.

But no one in power asks…although the result is obvious to anyone with clear vision: Norquist and his pledge are already choking the American government and its people to death.

Norquist certainly didn’t acquire this strategy from his mentorsReagan raised taxes 11 times and Nixon raised the rate on capital gains from 25 to 35%. Indeed, except for “W” – and we know he was an idiot – every Republican President since 1928 has raised taxes – Hoover raised the top rate from 24 to 63% to combat the Great Depression, Eisenhower raised it to 90%, and Ford upped the tax rate for the wealthy and focused on closing loopholes. Why? Because it was necessary to run the government for the good of our country!

Some have understandably accused Norquist of being a traitor. But by law, treason must involve a foreign entity. Still, Mr. Norquist may very well be guilty of sedition, which is “any overt conduct, such as speech and organization that…tends toward insurrection against the established order.” Considered a subversive act, sedition can also involve rebellion against a constitution and incitement of discontent. And, it should be noted, revolt from the inside is always more insidious to a democracy than any threats from outside our borders.

Is Mr. Norquist guilty of sedition? We’ll never know, because his Republican protectors will never allow him (or themselves) to be so charged.

Instead, we can only compare our two Grovers – Muppet Grover and Grover the puppet-master of the extreme right-wing.

As a performance artist, everything Muppet Grover does is public and full disclosure; the other Grover discloses only what the law requires – we know neither his financial backers nor his own net worth.

Muppet Grover is of, to, and for humanity (and avidly supports Occupy – see the photo above); the other Grover speaks of, to, and for the 1% and economic enslavement.

Muppet Grover encourages us all to be fair; the other Grover stokes the fires of greed and selfishness.

Muppet Grover is sometimes afraid of the dark and has trouble sleeping; the other Grover has no trouble sleeping even as he attempts to rob the 99% of their constitutional birthright of a level playing field.

Muppet Grover shines the light of possibility on our childrens’ dreams while the other Grover crushes their opportunities by slashing funds to education, welfare, and healthcare.

One is every child’s best friend; the other you don’t want anywhere near your children.

Muppet Grover is a joyful creation; the other Grover would be a ridiculous cartoon figure if he weren’t so hell bent on killing the American government.

I’ll let each of you decide which Grover to embrace. But be warned – if you choose the wrong one, you’re not only part of the problem, you may just be an enemy of the state.

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