Alan Simpson and Grover Norquist Go to the Zoo

Grover Norquist, Alan Simpson and I spent a summer afternoon at the National Zoo. This is what I saw.

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Chris Buck for TIME

Alan Simpson and Grover Norquist, sans talking points, at the zoo.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  The process you mean, the bringing them on and paying back taxes and —

MR. NORQUIST:  Yeah, I think look, we make people wait.  If you are arrested today for being here without papers, they send you home.  You couldn’t reapply for ten years.  That’s the penalty.  Under the new rules, you can stay and work, but you can’t apply for citizenship or a green card for ten years.  And you have to pay a fee.  So it hardly strikes me amnesty if the penalty is stiffer than what you’d get otherwise.  And you stay here and work, 10 million people.  We want them working here.  They make us younger.  They make us — we’re the future and China isn’t and Japan isn’t because they can’t do immigration and we can.

I’m enthusiastic of something along the lines of what they look like they’re coming up to —

SENATOR SIMPSON:  That’s interesting because those are the things — we didn’t use the word amnesty.  We used legalization.  That’s why we were able to move it and got three million people came out of the dark from 93 countries.  That was the only good thing about the bill.  It didn’t have any teeth because we couldn’t get a more secure identifier.  What the hell is that?

MR. NORQUIST:  That thing?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  A gymnast or something.

MR. NORQUIST:  The orangutans walk up that.


MR. NORQUIST:  Yeah.  They go from one side to the other.  There you are, there’s one.

[Simpson and Norquist had spotted an orangutan moving on a wire crossing the walking path. Soon two others appeared.]

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Oh, my God.  Look at that.

MR. NORQUIST:  Murder at the Rue Morgue.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Now that is — that’s built just for them.  They look like those congressmen that say save us from ourselves, either party.  Here you go.

MR. NORQUIST:  Look at that, wow.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  That is amazing.

MR. NORQUIST:  Somehow they agree not to run for it.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Of course, it reminds me of every foul Tarzan joke I ever learned and they’re all bad.  They can’t be repeated.  Me, Jane.  Me, Tarzan.  Oh, no, the vine.  Oh, where were we?

MR. NORQUIST:  I don’t even know a single naughty Tarzan joke.  Is there a book somewhere?


MR. NORQUIST:  Yeah, I know no naughty Tarzan jokes.  I’m not sure I know any Tarzan jokes.  Limericks, I’ve heard, yes.  Naughty limericks I know.  None about Tarzan.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  There was a maiden from Chichester who made the saints in their niches stir. One evening at matins their breasts clothed in white satin, she made the bishop of Chichester, britches stir.  You can’t use that at the Rotary Club. Look at the little guy.

MR. NORQUIST:  That’s the third one.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Look at that one.  He’s a little hairy for God’s sake.  Look at that.

MR. NORQUIST:  And they each do it differently.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Isn’t that amazing.  And there they’re coming down over there.  I would have missed all that, I’ll tell you.

MR. NORQUIST:  He needs to shave.

MR. SCHERER:  So at this moment of levity, what happens if Grover has his way and there are no tax increases?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  I don’t know, but at some point you’ve got a country that’s borrowing — I have to stay with my figures.  I do math and not myth.  We borrow $2 billion plus a day.  Every buck we spend we borrow 40 cents.  We owe $17.3 trillion.  It’s going to $20 trillion because of the giveaway in January.  And I just say that at some point in time there’s a tipping point.  And the tipping point is very real and the people who have — who have loaned us a quarter of that stuff, half of it is public, half of it is private and half of the public is China.

The people say we love you, you’ve proven two things.  You’re addicted to debt and you’ve got a (inaudible) Congress and we want more money for our money.  At that point, inflation will kick up and interest rates will kick up and the guys who get screwed is the little guy that everybody talks about all day and all night.  The money guys will always take care of themselves.

MR. NORQUIST:  The alternative future, the one I’m working on is we get our Republican Senate to go with the Republican President in ’16 or ’20 because we’ll have the House until ’22, and then you pass the Ryan Plan.  And if you pass the Ryan Plan, you block grant all the welfare programs, 185 means tested welfare programs, you block in the states, and you do Medicare reform.  And that brings spending down without a tax increase, down to 16.5 percent.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  How do you do that without a tax increase?  Just have to go into the entitlements and do a tax reform.

MR. NORQUIST:  Yes, yes.


MR. NORQUIST:  No, no, this is the Ryan Plan which is written down and can be passed with 51 Senators.  It doesn’t require 60 votes or two thirds.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Don’t forget why Ryan is getting savaged is because he’s dealing with the mastodon in the kitchen which is healthcare.


SENATOR SIMPSON:  And when you rivet on that, you really piss off everybody, especially senior groups and the AARP and the rest of them, but he is honest.  Erskine and I both agree, Erskine said I think this is one the finest, brightest, young men I’ve ever worked with on this Hill.  But he gets ripped to shreds because he’s touching precious senior citizens and all the rest of the docs and the doc fixes and hospitals.

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