Drowning Government

One of two most famous quotations from Grover Norquist, who is not only famous for being famous (thank you, Woody Allen, who popularized Daniel Boorstin’s thinking in The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America) but also powerful for being powerful, is . . .

“My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”  http://www.rightwingwatch.org/ content/americans-for-tax-reform

[This quotation competes with a variant on Mr. Norquist’s witticism: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” http://www.npr.org/templates/ story/story.php?storyId=1123439]

If I interpret his waggery correctly, Mr. Norquist wants to murder the American government.  I’m certain that persons of a moderate political persuasion would think (do think) such a statement is extreme.  Mr. Norquist is in the news again, and being criticized, because the Super Committee is about to report and because he met with some “Patriotic Millionaires” who want to increase the tax-rate for millionaires. Apparently one of these millionaires told Norquist that if he wants to live in a country with no government and no taxes, Somalia is available. Money speaking truth to power? Hmmm.  [See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/ 11/17/patriotic-millionaires-grover-norquist-somalia_n_1098473.html]

But what I have not heard or read is a critique that suggests that either version of  Mr. Norquist’s famous quotation is unpatriotic, treasonous, or anarchically radical. If a member of one of the “Occupy” groups were to say, “I want to kill the U.S. government,” imagine how “news”-droners on Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC would react to the quotation. But because Norquist’s language is couched in the acceptable nest that Reagan built–government is bad–Norquist is given something close to a free pass. Reagan’s operation was pretty good at creating the empty signifier into which people could pour their frustrations and thoughtless reactions; hence “big government,” which Reagan pronounced “big gubment.” Of course, Reagan rightly counted on the fact that his followers wouldn’t notice how much he swelled the Pentagon’s budget, for example. Or the country’s deficit. Imagine that! You reduce revenue by cutting taxes, and the deficit increases. Why, it’s like quitting your job but still using your credit cards. Louis in Casablanca would be “shocked.”

At any (tax) rate, it is potentially amusing to realize that an “Occupy” event intended in part to suggest that the super-wealthy should pay more taxes is portrayed as radical or disruptive while the expressed desire to kill the American government is portrayed as “conservative.” So it goes in the pseudocracy.

For similar “wit” from Mr. Norquist, cringe at http://thinkexist.com/ quotes/grover_norquist/.  Mr. Norquist personifies the sort of bombast that has become acceptable to some citizens and some media.  Indeed, Mr. Norquist passes for a pundit in some circles.




One Response to “Drowning Government”

  1. wildbillhaltom Says:

    Norquist’s metaphor mixes instrumental extremism with exuberant infanticide.

    Solomon is reputed to have pulled a Swift trick by suggesting that disputants divide a baby. Solomon’s heartless suggestion was aimed, however, at detecting the true mother of the baby. His extremism issued a moderate, just decision. His mock proposal begat truth and wisdom.

    Norquist, by contrast, immodestly proposes that a poor nation become richer by consuming its own child.

    On behalf of bootless empiricists, may I ask when Norquist’s extremism will commence. Has he shrunk the government at all?

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