Thursday, September 01, 2011


The Slowness of Memory

Perhaps that should be "the sloth of memory," on the ground that "sloth" is an old word that means "slowness", formed by affixing the suffix -th to the word slo(w).  Thus, grow > growth; slow > slowth or sloth; etc.  I like to think about old words and former versions of the English Language.  I have acquired, for example, a copy of "Beowolf" in tenth century English, a language which is virtually incomprehensible to me.

Anyway, ancient or obsolete English is not the subject of this essay.  I write this because I just remembered a name.  I have a slow memory.  The other day I was trying to recall the name of the man who has so intimidated the Republican party that any candidate for any public office who wants to run as a Republican must sign a "no taxes" pledge.  This pledge states that the candidate, if elected, will never, never, ever vote to increase any tax or any tax modification that may result in an increase in government revenue.  This intimidating man has said publicly that his goal is to shrink government down to a size that it can be drowned in a bathtub.

I couldn't recall his name the other day, although I've thought about him and his tax pledge and his drowning baby government in the bath tub for many years.  All I could remember was that the name is Scandinavian, something like Oskar Carlsson or Sven Ostrom, but not either of those.  A few minutes ago the name came to me, loud and clear: Grover Norquist.  The name Norquist is clearly Scandinavian and probably Swedish.  I grew up in a part of Michigan that had been populated in earlier times by Swedish and Dutch immigrants.  In addition to members of my own familiy, there were people with names like Ostrom, Lundquist, Carlson, Peterson, Nyblad, and Trofast, whose ancestors had come from Sweden.  There were also many Dutch names such as Van Single, Van Dyke, Vandenberg, Dykstra, Hoekstra, Jonkman, Meijer, Van Zant, and others.  These immigrants and descendants of immigrants were farmers and brought with them habits of thrift and hard work.  They were also mostly Republicans.  My Swedish grandfather was the only Democrat in the family.  His brothers, sister, and cousins were Republicans.  It is not surprising to me, therefore, that Grover Norquist is a Republican.

The surprising thing is that he's got all the Republican politicians in the country terrified and intimidated.  I don't know the source of his power but I believe money is a big part of it.  He must control a major source of campaign contribution money that he can grant to or withhold from selected candidates.  If you are an aspiring Republican and running for office as a State legislator, Mr. Norquist is, I presume, a source of much-needed funding.  Funds are available to you in return for the "no tax" pledge.

However, money for campaigns isn't the whole story.  Republican candidates are nominated at primary elections.  In most States these elections attract only voters with rather extreme political views.  In particular, the promise of "no new taxes" is one that these voters cherish.

When I ramble on and on about "skinflint Republicans" who insist that necessary government services can be provided without additional revenue in spite of increased population density and increased longevity, my conservative friends tell me that they just don't understand my thinking.  What is there not to like about low taxes?  I have no luck trying to explain that some of the consequences of "low taxes" bother me.  Low taxes imply the curtailment or end of benevolent and merciful public services, such as:
I invite you to add to the list.

I don't know why I wanted to remember Grover Norquist.  Thinking about him makes me nervous.
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