Former Congressman Mickey Edwards (R-OK) lambasted anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and the hundreds of Republicans who have signed his Americans for Tax Reform Pledge in an interview with PBS’s Bill Moyers on Friday. Edwards, a longtime conservative movement stalwart, attacked his party’s 22-year-long unwillingness to raise taxes as neither conservative, nor adult, nor rational.
Edwards, who served in Congress from 1977 to 1993, was a key architect of the modern conservative movement. He was one of the three founding trustees of the Heritage Foundation, chaired the Republican Policy Committee, and was national chairman of the American Conservative Union for five years. He was also an adviser to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign.
Asked about the Norquist’s frequent boast that no Congressional Republican has voted to raise taxes since 1990, he told Moyers:
EDWARDS: It’s certainly not Conservatism. It’s not rational. And it’s not adult. You know, when you create a program, you make a decision. You say, “I think we should conduct this war. I think that we should expand our security apparatus at home. I think that we should provide this additional benefit.” Then you pay for it. You vote to do it. And then you say, “Here’s what it’s going to cost.” And you pay for it. You know, Republicans may complain about the federal debt, but they’re as responsible as the Democrats for the debt being as large as it is. And once you have already done that, then you have an obligation to pay it down.
You know, so the idea that what you’re going to do is say — you know, “We’re not going to raise taxes, we’re not going to close loopholes, we’re not going to do anything” — that means that we’re not going to pay off what we’ve already created. I mean, that’s childish. That’s childish.
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When Moyers noted that Norquist devised his anti-tax pledge as a 12-year-old, Edwards observed “Well, you know, the fact is, the idea that, you know, ‘No, I’m not ever going to do this no matter the circumstances, no matter if we’re at war,’ whatever, it is a 12-year-old kind of thinking.” But, he noted, one “can’t just blame Grover,” as the Congressional signers or the pledge are also to responsible.