After an aggressive rebuke from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Thursday, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist told TPM that he never actually compared the senator’s legislation to actions taken by the Nazis.
“My criticism of our friend Mr. Schumer was that his bill was similar to the German legislation from the ’30s,” Norquist said in a phone interview. “He’s the guy who yelled Nazi. I didn’t say Nazi. I didn’t say National Socialist.”
The Nazi analogy was characterized in a story by The Hill last Saturday, after Norquist told the paper of Schumer’s citizenship tax-dodging bill: “I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the ’70s and in South Africa as well. He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.”
Norquist, the president of Americans For Tax Reform, says his reference was to a 1931 law instituted by the pre-Nazi Centre Party, which imposed an exit tax on those who fled Germany. The Nazis continued to implement the law.
“It was a tax of 25 percent on people leaving. Didn’t have anything to do with Jews. Didn’t have anything to do with Nazis,” Norquist said. “It was a German law passed by the Weimar Republic. It stayed in place and was there when the National Socialists took power as well.”
While Norquist did not specifically refer to the Nazis, the article in The Hill, headlined “Norquist compares Sen. Schumer’s tax-dodger bill to the Nazis, communists,” pointedly characterized the anti-tax activist as having “compared” the senator’s bill “to policies employed by the Nazis and communists.” The analogy has since been picked up by many outlets, including TPM, and Norquist did not challenge it until Thursday.
“It was wrong for the Weimar Republic and it was wrong for the National Socialists to keep it in,” Norquist said.
On the Senate floor Thursday, Schumer, who is Jewish, said, “Grover Norquist says our bill is like fascist Nazi Germany. I know a thing or two about what Nazis did. Some of my relatives were killed by them.” He said his legislation — which would force fleeing American tax-dodgers to pay a 30 percent capital gains tax on all future U.S. investments — was “not even on the same planet as what the Nazis did to the Jews.”
“I never said Nazi,” Norquist told TPM. “I’m tired of liberals saying ‘you called me a Nazi!’ I was talking about the Weimar Republic bill. I didn’t say it was like fascist Nazi Germany.”
The influential conservative activist predicted that Republicans won’t accept the specifics of Schumer’s bill but added that they may revisit the concept after Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s decision to flee the country to avoid a large tax payment.
“How about making our country attractive enough that everyone wants to be there rather than figure out how to stop people from walking across the border,” he said.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.