LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, which is an anti-tax advocacy group. He also organized the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is a commitment to vote against tax increases. That has become a standard element of Republican campaigns. Grover Norquist, welcome to our program.
GROVER NORQUIST: Linda, good to be with you.
WERTHEIMER: So are you happy with his choice of Paul Ryan?
NORQUIST: Absolutely. It is an excruciatingly brilliant choice, and really signals this election is going to be a referendum on Obama's economic policies - not just by saying gee, notice they haven't worked, worst recovery in 70 years; but there is a plan. It's written down. And it does a couple of things. Ryan's plan, his budget, has been written down. It's in legislative form, it's been scored; as opposed to all of the things Obama talked about, with hope and change, none of which were written down; which is why when they were written down, they were received kind of poorly.
WERTHEIMER: So do you think that Mr. Ryan brings something to Mr. Romney, that he didn't have before? I mean, are you feeling more comfortable with the idea of Mitt Romney, than you were?
NORQUIST: Well, I was reasonably happy with Romney. He has taken the pledge not to raise taxes. He made it clear he was going to be a low-tax, pro-growth candidate. And that's - however, by running with Ryan, it makes it clear that the game plan is lower marginal tax rates, 1986-style tax reform and...
WERTHEIMER: That was the - that was President Reagan's tax reform.
NORQUIST: Correct - taking rates down, broadening the base, revenue-neutral, not a Trojan horse for higher taxes.
WERTHEIMER: Canceling a few - a few loopholes, here and there.
NORQUIST: Eliminating deductions and credits and loopholes, in order to get the rates down and make it revenue-neutral. The other piece of the Ryan plan that people tend not to focus on is it looks to block grants - most, perhaps eventually all, of the means-tested welfare programs. Now, it's going to be a little difficult for Obama to trash that because this is what Bill Clinton signed, and is considered the signature success of the Clinton years; of sending out to the states a block grant for, here's how much money you get, and then you handle welfare from there. And you had a lot of - 50 different states took 50 different approaches. A lot of people got off of welfare dependency, and we had a lot of improvements.
To do that with food stamps and Medicaid and jobs programs - and there's somewhere between 77 and 200 means-tested welfare programs that we face right now. And so that's a very important reform. And it's one that's very difficult for the Democrats to criticize because all the things that they'll criticize Ryan for, they once criticized Clinton for. And they turned out to be wrong.
WERTHEIMER: Now, I wonder if you think that having Mr. Ryan in the White House - where he'll be in the, you know, sometimes sort of backseat position of vice president - is going to work for your agenda as well as having him running the House Budget Committee, has.
NORQUIST: Well, I was on the record, saying I thought that Ryan would be a great vice president and a great president, and I hoped he wouldn't get picked for just that reason; that I think Ryan running the economic program from the House, in synch with a Romney in the White House, would be a tremendous asset. Now, you know, having Romney make it so clear that this is the future - a future of lower marginal tax rates, of reform of entitlements - it's going to work out fine. There are enough guys in the House who can lead on the Ryan-Romney plan.
WERTHEIMER: And pick up the slack. Thank you so much. That was Grover Norquist, who's president of Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax advocacy group. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.