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Parties’ rigidity does United States a disservice

Published 11:43pm Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Grover Norquist and I are about the same age.

ebyHe was born a year earlier.

He came up with his idea for a no-tax pledge in high school (possibly the only thing still considered relevant from when I was at DUHS putting out newspapers with columns about Richard Nixon on a type­writer), introduced it in 1986 for Ronald Reagan (all presidential candidates but Bob Dole, who lost, signed on in 1988) and branded Republicans to this day as the no-tax party, at least in name. No congressional Re­publican has voted for a major increase since 1991.

All but six of the current 240 Republican members of the House and all but seven of 47 GOP senators signed his pledge.

Reagan (!) signed three tax in­creases and is now being trotted out by liberals as an oracle for what he had to say about debt ceilings and default.

“The Republican refusal to consider any new revenues, in­cluding making easy fixes to the tax code to close loopholes for businesses and other groups that don’t need public subsides, is as recklessly absolutist as Democrats’ insistence that bloated entitlement programs are untouchable,” the July 25 TIme magazine observed.

In other words, Congress could walk away from $4 trillion less in federal spending because they’re beholden to one ideo­logical litmus lobbyist, which makes as much sense to me as stupid zero-tolerance school policies which remove the need for administrators.

A comparison could also be made to the marketing cam­paign which seems to cost more than the lame summer block­buster it touts.

Former GOP senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who co-chaired the deficit-reduction commission, said he wouldn’t sign Norquist’s no-tax pledge.

“Why would you sign any­thing before you went into of­fice or before you had the de­bate and listened to it?” Simp­son wondered. “I never signed it, and I never got defeated for re-election. The revenue com­ing into the U.S. (government) is 15 percent of GDP, which is the lowest” since Korea.

“In the past 20 years, it has been 19 percent to 20 percent. If you can’t move that a half-inch, then you’re never going to get anywhere.”

As to whether the U.S. was poised to be the next Greece, “As my pal Erskine (Bowles, co-chair) says, “We’re the healthiest horse in the glue factory,” says Simpson, calling the biggest ob­stacle to taming the deficit “the absolute rigidity of the parties. I’ve never seen that before … they’re as rigid as a fireplace poker but without the occasion­al warmth.”

The deficit reduction com­mission found a $53 billion mil­itary retirees health care plan apart from the VA with an annu­al premium of $470 a year and no co-pay. “Try to change even that, and you get ‘You’re not a patriot.’ ” Simpson would not run for office today because “it’s just sharp elbows. Instead of having a caucus where you sit down and say, ‘What are you go­ing to do for your country?’ you sit figuring out how to screw the other side.”

Quips, quotes and qulun­kers: “What else but baseball connects us to America of, say, 1891? What else has burned so long in our consciousness? The American population in 1891 was less than one quarter of what it is now. That was before movies, before television, be­fore radio, before Hershey bars, before Wrigley gum … America the Beautiful had not been writ­ten. Dracula did not exist, no Roosevelt had yet been presi­dent. Football, under different rules, was played only at a few colleges, there was no golf U.S. Open and until the end of that year basketball was a game bouncing around in the fertile mind of a YMCA instructor named James Naismith. The Olympics, more than 1,500 years since their last staging, would not resume for another five years. But … America had baseball. Cy Young was not an award but a 24-year-old kid who won 27 games. (Outfielder) Billy Sunday quit baseball to be­gin a new life as an evangelist. Attendance soared and salaries skyrocketed, leading The New York Times to lament that base­ball was ‘no longer a sport, but a business.’ “

— Cleveland’s Joe Posnanski in Sports Illustrated July 25, leading us on an amazing 14-page journey, “Loving Baseball,” that incorporates The Simpsons, watching Justin Verlander pitch (“this might be the most thrill­ing show in baseball in 2011”) with Bill James on a 109-degree day in Kansas City, Vin Scully, 83 (“when we grow older, the game provides our escape from the troubles of day-to-day life”), Roy Hobbs’ bat Wonderboy at the Baseball Hall of Fame and what’s wrong with the All-Star Game (“it tries to act young” and “feels like a three-day comb-over”). With fewer ster­oids, scoring is lowest in 19 years for the first half of the 2011 season, 8.4 runs per game.

•••

Amy Winehouse: What is it about age 27? She’s in good company – Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.

Other obits: Sherwood Schwartz, 94, who created “Gil­ligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch”; Dick Williams, 82, who led three different teams to the World Series in 21 seasons (the Red Sox in 1967, Charlie Finley’s colorful Oakland A’s in 1972-1973 and the San Diego Padres, who fell to my 1984 Detroit Ti­gers); Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey, 69; and former first lady Betty Ford, 93.

“I’m the only first lady to ever have a march organized against her,” said Mrs. Ford of her sup­port for the Equal Rights Amendment.

After she cut the ribbon for a 60-bed facility in Rancho Mi­rage, Calif., her name became synonymous with addiction re­hab for disease that could affect anyone because it did not result from lax morals or lack of will­power.

She was even candid about her breast cancer in the healing wake of Nixon’s Watergate cov­er-up.

Some consider Michiganian Jerry Ford’s 29-month acciden­tal administration our most transparent.

Anniversaries: Oscar Meyer wienermobile, first seen in Chi­cago, 75; MTV, 30.

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