There is an infamous quote from Grover Norquist, Republican head of Americans for Tax Reform, "My goal is to cut government in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
Since George Bush became president, Mr. Norquist has gotten his wish. To all those who support Norquist's goals and the absence of taxes and government, you too have gotten your wish. The bathtub tragically is the Mississippi River. When there is a refusal to raise taxes for needed repairs, when government and oversight disappear, then bridges crumble and collapse and disaster follows.
The bathtub is also Lake Pontchartrain. When warnings are reported for the instability of levees and risk of hurricanes, and government and oversight protections disappear without making needed repairs, then cities are flooded and disaster follows. And subsequent recovery disappears, and a major American city is wiped off the map.
The bathtub is an empty and dry one, in the plains of Kansas. When tornadoes hit a town of 1,500 people, and government protections are unable to provide rescue equipment and personnel because none were unavailable, then disaster follows and an American town is wiped off the map.
The bathtub is a sinkhole, too, where the lack of government oversight allowed the Bush Administration to do their bidding unfettered - to wiretap without warrants, remove habeas corpus, to torture, to illegally politicize the Justice Department and federal employees, destroy email evidence, and lie a nation into war.
Conservative poster boy Grover Norquist's bathtub is all throughout America. It's Walter Reed Hospital, the once-crown jewel of America's military system where the nation's honored veterans are often treated in squalor because lack of funds and government oversight failed our heroes. It's libraries and schools and afterschool programs where the absence of funds have forced the heart and soul of America to cut back support of our children and our future. It's the lack of funds for FDA oversight that allows for poisoned toothpaste to enter the country, an outbreak of E. coli virus to contaminate our spinach, toxic pet food from abroad to kill our pets, and toxic paint on millions of children's toys imported from China.
That bathtub, in fact, is America. President George Bush drastically cut taxes during a war already draining billions from the country, and the United States is left with a national debt of $8.9 trillion. A number so massive it almost becomes meaningless. But that meaningful number works out to $29,000 for every person in America, each one of you 302,476,579. A family of four owes $118,000. Pay up. Now. C'mon, you can't keep writing hot checks forever. Eventually, you're going to get foreclosed. Do you truly think being $8.9 trillion in debt won't have any impact on America's future?? Small, personal debt does not disappear without payment; $8.9 trillion debt comes back to haunt. Grover Norquist Republicans might want to drown government in a bathtub, but that requires affording the bathtub.
For 20 years, Norquist and his fellow conservatives have been ranting on the evils of taxes and government, and they have convinced a tragic proportion of Americans that it is best to shrink government until drowned in a bathtub. And finally we are seeing its results. And its results are horrific.
There are burdens with taxes that are without merit and too high. There are burdens with a governmental bureaucracy that becomes unwieldy. But the problems created by a lack of government, a lack of protections, a lack of oversight bring about disaster; its results are tragic.
Forty years ago, conservatives railed with angst at the sight of young people protesting against government. Richard Nixon put them on his Enemies List. The National Guard shot and killed students demonstrating. Today, Grover Norquist conservative Republicans proudly proclaim that they want to "drown" government, and their supporters don't bat an eye. As upsetting as protests might have been to conservatives, it's the conservatives themselves who actually dismantled government and did the damage
Conservatives love to put Ronald Reagan on a pedestal, but we are seeing the fruits of Reaganomics everywhere, and cleanup is an ugly sight. From Reagan to Norquist carrying the ball to Bush, government has been cut back to the point where we all suffer the disastrous consequences.
Nobody "likes" taxes. But in a good world, we rejoice in the results of them. We love strong police departments, fire departments and schools. We treasure clean water and clean air. And healthy food and safe imports. We are dearly thankful for safe bridges and levees. We expect emergency rescue services. We want good highways and beautiful parks. We insist on Social Security and Medicare. And Federal Deposit Insurance at our banks.
And when you eliminate government and taxes, you remove all of these.
And we are now seeing the results.
Government is not the enemy. Bad government is. And bad government is not disagreement of policies; bad government is government unchecked, out of control, without oversight, and without the sense of responsibility to help improve and protect all of whom it is empowered to represent. That's what happens when you drown government. That's what Grover Norquist has wanted.
He got his wish. Unfortunately, others get sucked down the drain and drown with it.