Richard Cohen: A Rightwinger Compares the Estate Tax to the Holocaust

Roundup: Media's Take

Richard Cohen, writing in the Wash Post (Jan. 6, 2004):

This is the way things happen in my business. In October the extremely influential GOP activist and White House insider Grover Norquist was interviewed by Terry Gross on her National Public Radio program,"Fresh Air." By December a portion of that interview was reprinted in Harper's magazine, where, over the holidays, I happened to see it. I am writing about it today because, among other things, Norquist compared the estate tax to the Holocaust.

This remark, so bizarre and tasteless that I felt it deserved checking, sent me to the transcript of the show, where, sure enough, it was confirmed. In it Norquist referred to the supposedly specious argument that the estate tax was worth keeping because it really affected only"2 percent of Americans." He went on:"I mean, that's the morality of the Holocaust. 'Well, it's only a small percentage,' you know. I mean, it's not you. It's somebody else."

From the transcript, it seems that Gross couldn't believe her ears."Excuse me," she interjected."Excuse me one second. Did you just . . . compare the estate tax with the Holocaust?"

Norquist explained himself."No, the morality that says it's okay to do something to a group because they're a small percentage of the population is the morality that says the Holocaust is okay because they didn't target everybody, just a small percentage." He went on to liken the estate tax to apartheid in the old South Africa and to the communist regime of the old East Germany. How he neglected Iraq under Saddam Hussein I will never know.

It's hard to overstate Norquist's importance in contemporary Washington. He is head of Americans for Tax Reform, is an intimate of Karl Rove, the president's chief political aide, and has easy access to the White House. He presides over a weekly meeting of important Republican activists and lobbyists where the agenda -- at least Norquist's -- is to ensure that taxes are reduced to a bare minimum, the government is starved and everyone, the rich and the poor, is taxed the same, which is to say almost not at all.

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