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Grover Norquist's Real Game: Shifting Power and Wealth to the 1 Percent

Norquist's real mission has been government that serves corporate America.

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Norquist also proved useful to the tobacco industry when he held press conferences, wrote op-ed pieces and lobbied against cigarette tax increases in a number of states seeking new revenues to fund health programs for children, including Maine, New Jersey, Alaska, and New Hampshire. He fronted for the tobacco lobby in its opposition to lawsuits seeking damages from states who spent billions of dollars in health care expenses treating the illnesses suffered by long-term smokers.    

In 2001, as George W. Bush was coming into the White House, Norquist penned an article in the right-wing American Spectator that outlined a Bush Administration strategy to create a permanent conservative Republican majority.  His goal was, and is, to relegate the Democratic Party to minority status to head off progressive taxes and regulations on business that upset his corporate clients. 

Norquist’s article laid out a straightforward five point battle plan.  Today, flush with cash, Republican elected officials are aggressively targeting Norquist’s “five pillars” of the Democratic party’s support. 

  • Unions 

This year’s campaigns against public sector worker in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana are the merely latest chapter in concerted campaigns to shrink unions and limit their participation in politics. Conservative legislators and governors have proposed “right to work” measures, so-called “paycheck protection” measures that would make it harder for unions to represent workers in politics and privatization schemes designed to break unions while slashing wages and benefits.

  • Trial lawyers  

Business interests, under the benign sounding banner of “tort reform,” have been trying to limit corporate liability for decades.  (The new documentary film, “Hot Coffee,” describes the business/Republican assault in great detail).  The Bush presidency made it a centerpiece of his agenda.  In 2005, George W. Bush signed a law moving class action suits from state courts to federal courts where fewer classes would be certified.  The Bush Administration also regularly inserted pre-emption language into federal rulemaking at the FDA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Homeland security.  For example, a 2006 FDA rule shifted on prescription labeling preempted state laws and helped Merck that was fighting thousands of lawsuits by consumers harmed by the arthritis drug Vioxx that was recalled in 2004 after it was linked to increased heart attacks and strokes.  Similar preemptions were slipped into regulations covering mattress flammability, sunscreen labeling, and auto safety standards. 

  • Voter registration groups 

GOP-controlled state legislatures are passing laws to restrict the right for Democratic-leaning constituencies – the poor, minorities, young people, and immigrant citizens.  Dozens of laws have been proposed that restrict early voting days to make it more difficult for working people who aren’t given time off to vote on Tuesdays;  reduce the number of college students that can vote by making it impossible for parents to claim their child as a dependent on their taxes if they register to vote while away at school; and require onerous identification cards for voters that will make it more difficult for seniors and others lacking drivers licenses or their birth certificates. 

  • Progressive organizations receiving federal funding 

Efforts to defund non-profit organizations that receive federal funding to serve low income people began during the Reagan administration.   In the last decade, the GOP has targeted funding for Planned Parenthood,  NPR, and  environmental groups such as the Defenders of Wildlife that receive federal grants and reimbursement of legal fees for non-profits that successfully sue the federal government for failure to enforce existing law.

  • “Big City” mayors  

Since the New Deal, Washington has sent job-creating funds – for housing, infrastructure, social services, and economic development and other goals – to urban areas, but when Reagan took office he began slashing these programs that primarily benefit low-income and minority populations, who tend to vote for Democrats. George W. Bush worked to finish the job started by Reagan.  He proposed completely defunding the Community Development Block Grant (CDGB).  He failed to eliminate the program but slashed the budget by over $1 billion during his second term.  Norquist viewed this as money to help Democratic mayors gain support among their urban constituencies, who could then be mobilized to vote for Democratic candidates for President and Congress.