Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman calls for an end to the Norquist tax pledge

In this short talk, Professor Robert Thurman of Columbia University highlights the contradiction involved in congresspeople taking the oath of allegiance to the US Constitution and also pledging never, under any circumstances, to raise taxes. Further, he argues that the desire of Grover Norquist, who started this pledge, to shrink government to the size that it can be “drowned in a bathtub” is anarchistic and profoundly unconstitutional: in effect an act of sedition or treason.

The core of the sedition argument is that the oath of office says:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

Congress members, he argues, who take an oath to an outside organization — an oath moreover that could compromise the intent of the constitution, which includes “to provide for the common defence” and to “promote the general welfare” — cannot say they have taken their oath “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

Thurman hopes that this meme will spread and take root on The Daily Show and other popular outlets. The video’s been out for a while, though, and although it’s garnered some attention the YouTube video has only had about 18,000 views so far. The virality of the attempted meme is probably undercut by the length of the video (almost 12 minutes), and the fact that the professor takes his time making his point.

Here’s a highlight:

“…95% of the congressmen and Republican senators have sworn a written oath to someone called Grover Norquist and an organization called American For Tax Reform that they will under no circumstances, and for no reason, raise taxes of any kind on anyone. And therefore, they have taken an oath to an outside organization which was not supported by the U.S. Constitution – which gives Congress the right to levy taxes, to do the work of the people through the government– but this is a non-governmental organization. It is not elected by anybody; it is supported by big money people who are making money by not having to pay taxes.

“And these people have signed a sworn oath that contradicts their oath of office. And therefore, in fact, they do have mental reservations, and they do have purpose of evasion and they are not sincerely taking their oath of office. And if they persist in that, and if they are held to that by this outside person who is not a member of the government, then they are, in fact, breaking their oath of office and they are not serving what they swore to serve, the American people.

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