National anti-tax activist Grover Norquist told a Springfield audience Monday there is a battle going on between liberty and more government spending and intrusion.
Norquist, president of Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform, told a $100-a-plate luncheon for the Illinois Policy Institute, a Springfield-based think tank, that in the struggle over the role of government in America, he's part of the "center-right" coalition that has a "liberty agenda" of being left alone.
That coalition, he said, takes in "the Reagan Republican Party," including some independents and Democrats; taxpayers who don't want higher taxes; businesspeople who don't like regulation; Second Amendment believers in gun rights; and "people who want to … transmit their faith to their children without the state throwing prophylactics at their kids in school."
Different members of the coalition may have different interests, he said, but "we agree that everybody should be free."
On the other side, Norquist said, is the "takings coalition -- people who view the proper role of government as taking things from some people and giving them to others."
They include, he said, "the trial lawyers, the labor unions, the big-city political machines, the two wings of the dependency movement -- those people who are locked into welfare dependency (and) those people who make $90,000 a year managing the dependency of other people, making sure none of them get jobs and become Republicans."
Norquist, speaking to about 50 people at The Inn at 835, said his organization believes politicians should take anti-tax pledges.
"If we do our job correctly and put our foot on the air hose, and if we say no new taxes … then everybody on the takings coalition sitting around that table begins to look at each other like the second-to-the-last scene in the lifeboat movies; they're wondering who they're going to throw overboard or who they're going to eat, because the left is not made up of friends and allies. It is made up of competing parasites.
" … And the takings coalition, when they get hungry, can be very desperate and very mean and very powerful and hurt people who get in between them and your money."
Norquist said there are strong spending pressures on politicians in Washington and Springfield, and groups that fight tax increases, such as the Illinois Policy Institute, need to provide the "exoskeletons" to "not bend when that pressure comes."
Since it began in the mid-1980s, the anti-tax movement has been fortified, Norquist said, by the explosion in the number of people who own stock, through mutual funds, 401k plans, individual retirement accounts or other financial instruments. Now, he said, when politicians talk of taxing corporations, "It's a little easier to say to people, they're taxing your retirement, they're taxing you."
Norquist, who is a Republican, said his favorite Democratic candidate for president is U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.
"She frightens every part of the leave-us-alone coalition," Norquist said.
He also said that in order to beat well-financed candidates John Edwards and Barack Obama, Clinton will have to use a figurative "baseball bat" -- which he thinks she will do.
"She'll look mean and mean-spirited and left wing when she's finished taking care of those two guys … which is how she wanted to not start the presidential race," Norquist said.
He didn't name a favorite GOP candidate, saying they are "all generally moving in the right direction" on taxes, and "the one of them that most looks and sounds like (Ronald) Reagan, that doesn't have a glass jaw, and when you shake him, any skeletons that come out are non-threatening skeletons -- that's the one I want."
Norquist said his group favors "a single rate that taxes income one time," such as a flat-rate income tax or a retail sales tax.
He also told reporters that government should be more transparent, and he likes a trend in some areas of putting budgets and contracts on the Internet in ways that the public can search and find specific expenditures.
On health care, Norquist thinks many states, including Illinois, could cut costs by removing requirements that specific types of treatments be covered. That would allow consumers more choice of the coverage they want. He said he doesn't think Americans want a system like Canada, where he said care is nationalized but rationed, so people have to wait for certain procedures.
"People don't flee the United States and go to Canada to get health care," he said. "It goes the other way."
Asked about Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Norquist said he'd heard of "his drive this past year to dramatically increase taxes," which he said would be "pushing Illinois even further in a direction that's been harmful."
Blagojevich this spring unsuccessfully sought a gross-receipts tax on business to increase health-care spending.
"You can reform government or you can pay for what you've been doing without additional thought, and he seems to be in the second category," said Norquist, who thinks politicians should re-examine if existing programs are needed before adding new ones.
Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, at the invitation of Illinois Family Institute president and founder Greg Blankenship, introduced Norquist, calling him one of the architects of the "very, very successful Republican revolution" of 1994.
Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540 or email@example.com.