Alan Simpson, the crusty and plainspoken former Republican Senator from Wyoming and co-chair of President Obama’s deficit commission, called anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist “a zealot” and said “he will be irrelevant” before long.
His comments on MSNBC Wednesday come as an increasing number of Republicans have stepped away from the anti-tax pledge they signed years ago and as both parties debate potential tax and spending compromises needed to reach a deal that would keep the country from going over the fiscal cliff.
Simpson also expressed incredulity that anyone would ever sign such a pledge today. He said that Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, has “been gathering up those signatures since the 80s, the early 90s – when unemployment was zip … Anybody who would sign anything before they come to Congress and hear the debate and participate it in, hopefully, and get into the process … I mean, why would you do that? It’s like selling your soul... This guy is a zealot … And he’s sees the crumbling of the great house of cards.”
Simpson added, “Let me tell you, he is becoming irrelevant, and you can see it in his eyes. He knows the game is up... Because good people, of good faith, be it Republicans or Democrats – they’re Americans, and instead of being beholden to Grover Norquist and the AARP, they’re beholden to the United States of America.”
Erskine Bowles, meanwhile, the Democratic co-chair of Obama’s deficit commission, has expressed pessimism that a deal can be done in time to avert the slide over the fiscal cliff. “Six months ago, Erskine was saying, ‘I think we can get there.’ Now, he’s pessimistic,” Simpson said forcefully.
Simpson said that President Obama has talked about entitlement reform “during the grand bargain that didn’t become too grand of a bargain,” and he’s “still talking about entitlement reform. He will do something in that area as long as he can hammer those guys [making] over $250,000 bucks and make them pay more taxes,” Simpson said. “How $250,000 got to the point where it’s, quote, the middle class is beyond my comprehension… Anybody who’s seen as, quote, rich shouldn’t mind paying more taxes. I don’t understand that at all. And I don’t understand [the argument] that if you let someone earn more money, they’re going to use that to hire more people. They may likely buy another kind of rig, or a toy or something like that, I don’t know."
Said Simpson, “All I know is you can’t cut spending as a way out of this, you can’t tax your way out of this hole. You’ve gotta have everything on the table.”