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Grover Norquist: Tariffs Are Blunting the GOP Tax Bill

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The tax cut did a great job with that, but some of that has been canceled, overwritten, delayed by tariffs. The good news is that as soon as you have to deal with tariffs, that problem goes away, and you’re right back on track and in much better shape.

Berman: Republicans and conservatives have been working for so many years to overhaul the tax code, to reduce taxes. How did it happen that you were finally able to do it, and Americans don’t even notice and don’t even give you credit for it?

Norquist: Well, on the day that the bill passed, it was underwater, more people against it than for it. As you got closer to April 15, The New York Times had a poll that showed it getting increasingly popular, while at the time, the establishment press and Democrats on TV were saying, “This is only a tax cut for rich people, only for corporations.” Nobody had seen their tax returns. And frankly, when you paid your taxes in 2018, you didn’t get a tax cut, because the tax cut took effect in 2019 for the 2018 taxes. So at first people said, “Things didn’t change.” Well, they’re changing in 2019. As you pay your taxes, you actually see the dramatic reduction.

Berman: Do you put any of the blame, though, on President Trump in terms of selling it? He’s this guy who prides himself on his marketing ability. Do you think he could have sold this in a way that would have blunted what you say was a Democratic misconception campaign?

Norquist: I don’t think so. I mean, the president doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting. As somebody who has focused an awful lot on the tax issue and not on whether or not we’re going to blow up Syria, I think the president should have spent all his time talking about the benefits of the tax cut. But he was managing many issues. And he has one voice. But you have plenty of networks saying stuff that’s palpably not true. It’s tough headwinds. But Reagan overcame them. The tax cut that Reagan ran on hit on January 1, 1983. And he had one year of strong growth. Four million jobs created; he won 49 states [in 1984].

If we get the tariff wars calmed down, get [business investment] back online, and are pumping at 3 percent–plus [GDP growth], I think people will be pleasantly surprised by the strength of … the economy, but also the politics of the strength of the economy.

Berman: You said that the law has done exactly what you and other Republicans said it would do. Substantively, however, a big criticism is that corporations used the tax cut for record stock buybacks—money that could have gone to new investments like boosting workers’ pay. Even Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was critical of that. Do you think Republicans should have done more to restrict the buybacks or to incentivize companies to invest in a way that would have more directly supported job creation, investment, and higher wages?

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