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How Grover Norquist hypnotized the GOP

Deval Patrick | 7/19/2011, 2:56 p.m.

That political calculus has consequences for the rest of us.

If the deficit is reduced by spending cuts alone and there is no deal to raise the debt ceiling, here’s a sampling of what happens: We stop paying our soldiers or supporting our veterans. We stop feeding the neediest children and families. We stop providing nursing-home care to seniors. We stop inoculating schoolchildren. We stop helping young people go to college. The unemployed are on their own. Roads and bridges continue to crumble. And we jeopardize the creditworthiness of our economy at one of the most fragile moments in history. All to protect the marginal benefits of the most fortunate and the political purity of the radical right.

I remember sitting in the Dunster House dining hall at Harvard with Norquist when we were sophomores or juniors in college, while he explained his view of government, or lack thereof. It sounded logical — the notion that we could live independently of each other, making our own decisions in our own self-interest. But then who puts out the fires? Who answers the calls to 911? Who educates poor children? Who helps people with disabilities?

I’d like to think that the most prosperous nation in human history can have both freedom and security. I think we have reached a point where my personal success is not threatened by a program to help our parents retire with dignity. Voters are smart enough to see that taxes are one of the ways we get those things. They are the price we pay for civilization.

This article first appeared in the Washington Post.