Beginning when we are children, we all take pledges. The earliest pledge for most of us is when we pledge allegiance to the flag. Most of us earnestly do this before we know what “pledge” or “allegiance” mean. All I knew was that it involved “the Republic for which it stands” which I assumed was all one word (“Forwhichistan“) and was probably near some of the smaller, similarly named countries in Soviet Siberia.
As I grew older I learned there are other pledges people take, almost all of which are bad ideas. For example, some people take a “Pledge of Chastity,” which, if the statistics are any indication, is tantamount to a pledge to get pregnant, immediately.
Then there are the loyalty pledges we made people sign during our dark, McCarthy period (I refer to Senator Joseph McCarthy, not Charlie McCarthy, the ventriloquist’s dummy, whose view of anti-communist purges is more ambiguous). Turns out, that people who are disloyal, have absolutely no problem signing loyalty pledges. Go Figure.
I remember taking the Boy Scout pledge. I don’t remember all of it, but part of it was me swearing to be “brave, clean and reverent.” But as a 15 year old, I was a scrungy, blasphemous coward, so clearly that pledge needed some tweaking.
Then there was the “Pledge Pin” where a young man would insert his fraternity pin directly into the pectoral muscles of his best gal. At least that’s what I did. Maybe that’s why I never got second dates. And then some pledge their “troth,” and who the hell knows what a “troth” is?
The point is that most pledges are a bad idea. They usually involve promises to do things that you know won’t feel right or won’t be right in days to come. That’s why you take the pledge now. You are saying:
“No matter what happens in the future, no matter what facts change, or what circumstances change, or how I change, I am pledging to this bone-headed thing, no matter what. So help me God.”
Let me give you an example. suppose I take the “No Right Turn Pledge,” which says as follows
I ____________, am of reasonable intelligence. This means I am not as dumb as a __________, nor is my name _______W. _____. I hereby pledge, when driving on the streets of Pennsylvania, that I verily, and with utmost rectitude, will never, under any circumstances, make a “right turn,” or “right hand turn” as people who need extra help call it.
I shall refrain from turning right even if I am driving straight and my destination is on the right. Or, if I am heading towards a brick wall and my breaks fail, and there’s a huge cliff on the left. Or, lets say I see a big sign that says “Lots of Money ahead, on right!!!” Nope not even then.
By my Hand ___________________
Seems kind of silly, huh? Well, our governor has signed a pledge which makes the “No Right Turn” thing seem like pure genius. I refer to the “The Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”
This is a pledge written by a man named Grover Norquist, who has, to my knowledge, never even been to Pennsylvania (he may have taken a pledge not to), but who nonetheless appears to be running the state.
Mr. Norquist’s pledge requires the signer to never, ever vote to create a new tax or increase an existing one. It does not matter how low the existing tax rate is, what kind of tax would be raised, what it would go for, how dire the state’s fiscal situation is or how tiny the increase would be.
So even if the rapture did happen on May 21 (and I’m quite sure the guy is right about the new date) and we needed a small tax on…say…cigars to help deal with all of the unexpected rivers of molten lava and swarms of locusts, that would be unacceptable to Grover.
This pledge applies under absolutely all circumstances. If it only applied when it made sense, you wouldn’t need a pledge. That would be a no-brainer and not require the services of Mr. Norquist.
Recently, some in the legislature suggested that we charge the Marcellus Shale drilling industry a “local impact fee” to help defray the costs of the damage they do to the communities where they drill. The supporters of this proposal made it very clear that this was NOT a “tax.” It was a “fee.” You can tell because “tax” and “fee” aren’t even spelled the same. Plus, the money raised would not go to educating kids or giving medicine to sick people, or any other part of the radical, Kenyan Socialist agenda. Surely, Grover Norquist would smile on this.
But alas unicorns, it was not to be. Grover, communing with the Spirit of Jack Kemp, as well as the spirits of the Koch Brothers, who while not actually dead, are too rich to require physical bodies, issued his edict. This fee was really a tax, and would be a violation of THE PLEDGE.
So apparently, because the govenor signed this ridiculous pledge to ignore all facts forever, our hands are tied. Grover Norquist rules the day, despite the fact that this does great damage to our state, despite the fact that he was never elected to anything in Pennsylvania, and despite the fact that his name is Grover.
I have an idea for a pledge. It goes something like this…
“I, ________ hereby pledge that I will address every public policy question with an open mind, and that I will consider all the facts and do my best to do what’s right for the people of Pennsylvania, without regard to rigid ideologies, or bone-headed pledges written by dudes I’ve never met named “Grover.”
In the name of Zeus ______________
Done. Now I’m off to put my troth on EBay.