Archive for November, 2012
A few days before Thanksgiving the Treasury Secretary gave an assessment of what he believed should be done about our increasingly problematic debt. Instead of the responses we are used to, raising taxes or cutting spending, he believed that we should eliminate the debt ceiling altogether. Over its nearly one hundred year history the debt ceiling has shown itself to be more than flexible, after all the original 1919 ceiling was a mere $43 billion. As out debt shoots past $16 trillion it is faulty to pretend that our ceiling is protective in any way. But as porous as it is, it does serve a vital purpose.
For it to be raised it must be passed by Congress. This provides an opportunity for public debate and for the public to be informed, such as they wish to be. We have seen our government given extraordinary powers far beyond the enumerated limitations of the Constitution, but now we see the desire for the removal of any sort of accountability. As temporary as our debt limit seems to be, it at least provides parameters for a discussion and a legal limit to the expenditures of Congress. Without it, there is zero incentive for fiscal responsibility. To pretend otherwise it to be ignorant of current events. We have seen the unprecedented downgrade of our credit, which raising the debt ceiling was supposed to avoid, followed by consistent yearly $1 trillion+ deficits. Our leadership is more interested in politics than economics.
The FairTax plays into this discussion very well. It acts as a check on the unimpeded binge of government spending by placing, not the Congress but, the people front and center in the tax and spending debates. If we pay taxes on what we purchase, then we cannot avoid the reality of taxes that persist around us today. If we have a truly equitable tax structure that treats people of all income levels fairly then we do not have to worry about the division of class warfare obfuscating the debate. We can demand responsible stewardship of our tax money with a stringent refusal to accept constant tax increases to pay for irresponsible spending. Far too often Congress forgets that the money it is spending belongs to other people. We have been conditioned under this system to believe that the government has a right to remove funds from our paycheck before we even see it. It is a violation of the right to private property that has long been held as the bulwark of liberty.
When we have our next tax debate, and one is coming, we need to do our best to make sure the FairTax is featured prominently. The debate as it currently stands only offers two real options. Raise taxes or not to raise taxes. Several prominent Republicans seem to be overcome with these options and are now breaking or say that they could break pledges signed many years ago. Whether or not this is a good idea, it is always a bad thing to see politicians pushed into the corner so that they feel they must break promises they have made to constituents. That is a situation in which the people lose, not the politicians. By making the FairTax a visible alternative, some of these elected leaders could still keep their promises and change the tax system that removes the need for such pledges.
We cannot expect however, that the FairTax will rise to national prominence on merit alone. We cannot sit back and expect that leap forward to come from politicians either. Even our most dedicated sponsors in the House and Senate should not be expected to do this on their own. It is not our job to watch from afar and criticize them; it is incumbent upon us to help them.
We have to recognize that there is more than just a status-quo. A government policy, once enacted, sets us on a path. It is not a stationary beast. It grows and changes along with the times. We are now set upon a path toward a more complicated tax code that seeks to direct our behavior in ways not seen before. Unchecked, our current setting will lead us farther away from the goals surrounding the FairTax. Both parties are focused on a course directed more by politics then economic or constituent interests. With a government centered focus in the current tax debates it only stands to reason that the will or wishes of the people will continue to be lacking from the discussion and thus the outcome. That means that the only way we will be able to alter the course of the political debate, and our destiny, is to insert ourselves into the discussion. That will require our dedicated action. Our history began with individuals rising the people into action. Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer that set American minds ablaze with thoughts of freedom. General Washington was a seasoned and pragmatic leader whose bravery inspired a populace to fight. We had a Continental Congress full of leaders willing to lay their lives on the line for an idea they believed in. In the great struggles that mark our history books there is always a group of activists dedicated to an idea. Our cause is no different in its revolutionary outlook and our prospects have never looked better. People are looking for leadership on the tax debate. From Democrats they are hearing higher taxes and class warfare, the Republicans are giving them broken promises. Bureaucrats are wishing for spending without consequence and a government accountable to no one. Now is the time to move our idea into the national spotlight. Now is the time to act.
There is a great tendency in this country to root for the underdog. Those are the stories we tend to remember. Some believe that this inclination can be traced back to our roots in Minutemen and midnight rides. I think there is something to that. But regardless of its origins, the general feeling persists. It can be a powerful motivator but also a dangerous trap. The long held affinity for the underdog has created an unconscious belief that they are destined to win, despite the odds. This is especially true in politics, when the moniker of “right and wrong” are placed on ideas, candidates, or parties. We like to believe that what is right will win out in the end, and that because it is right it must be fated to do so. What very many still do not realize is that the end, in politics, is almost never decided on these arbitrarily drawn lines. The winner is never decided on who is right and who is wrong. We cannot rest assured that because our plan is the right one, and that it is better than all the others that we will end up victorious. The best ideas do not necessarily win, the simplest ones do, rocking the boat can be a bad idea, and having the “establishment” on your side is a definite benefit in terms of organization, fund raising, a volunteer force, and attention. All of which are important in a political campaign.
We have covered before here, and it bears repeating, that Abraham Lincoln’s “A house divided against itself cannot stand” speech was written and used as a part of his Senate campaign. A campaign he would go on to lose. Even if the truth is spoken eloquently, even if the message is important, even if the times are dire, we are not guaranteed an electoral victory. Our present day battle with tyranny comes under the guise of the tax code. It shares much in common with David’s battle with Goliath. A key difference in the success is David was a man described as after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). A helpful trait to be sure. But we cannot rely upon the righteousness of God to slay our foes with sling and stone. We cannot rely on established political entities; we cannot expect their leadership, support, or their fellow activism. And we face a Goliath of our own, just as dangerous as the giant in Scripture. An enemy that is much larger and more powerful than ourselves, backed by an army that outnumbers ours, and supremely focused on our destruction, that constantly belittles our cause as something nonexistent or impossible.
The future of our cause is uncertain. But while it is far from foreseeable, I find myself optimistic in the extreme. Because my view of the future is cemented in your actions and the voice of the American people. What this past election has proven is that, while unpredictable, the vote of the public is conclusive. Which means that even the perennial politician will listen to it. That gives me hope, because we have always known that this idea relies upon the will of the American people. We recognize that this plan will not come from Congress, it will not be started in the Senate, and we have not found a reliable Presidential candidate that has made it a key plank in their platform. Our hope rests with the American people, as it always has.
My hope for our future is bright because of this fact, but not this fact alone. I also have come to know the people involved in this movement. They should be commended for all that they do and for all the work to come. They should also realize that their involvement is integral. There is no backup for our movement, no one else coming up behind to carry the torch should we fail. Without the support of those involved, the banner would fall ignominiously to the ground. Therefore the future of our movement also rests with you. We have no future without your action, and no hope without your voice. And the coming years will require action. We cannot rely on easy methods of the past. Email evangelism, sending out blanket messages is ineffective and a waste of time, armchair politicking is a useless endeavor; we require involvement in campaigns, in political parties, in local communities to spread our message on a person to person basis. Our action, not our talk of actions, gives us legitimacy in communities, then states, then the nation.
But this is the week of Thanksgiving. I encourage you to take time out, to be with family, and to reflect. Because the coming years will ask much of us. Sometimes to put our pride aside, sometimes to work with those we disagree with, sometimes to cede control in the name of unity, but all of the time to keep our gaze affixed to the bigger picture and the true goal. There are some who believe that the purity of our cause will destine us to glorious victory, but we need to realize that what is required to win is work. Keep this thought in mind though. Abraham Lincoln lost his Senate bid but became the President who restored the Union. The Israeli army lost its faith and will but a shepherd held firm and defeated a giant. As a native Texan I grew up learning that the Alamo was a military defeat, but one that galvanized a force to win the war. To those in the doldrums of defeat I offer this message. The war yet rages. Your input is invaluable and we cannot win without it. We may not be awaiting a destiny already determined, but we still live in a country where we can create our own. With effort and will we can win, as easily as anyone else. All we need is you.
As a disclaimer, the majority of this article was written on election night, mere minutes after the decision was made. I thought it best to be more removed, emotionally, from the event and have edited it for a more objective analysis.
Any opposition group runs the risk of alienating uninitiated voters by cloaking themselves in an overly self-righteous sense. Acting out of a sense of moral superiority, regardless of accuracy, is a turn off to undecided bystanders and those in actual authority. There is a pain to those who seek substantive tax reform in the outcome of the 2012 election. I do not seek to stick my thumb in that wound or to rub salt in it. But there is a failure in not realizing mistakes that create outcomes. While it may be early in the night to attempt to lay claim to a clear understanding of the complexities of national exit polls; and it may be too presumptuous to even attempt to peer into the minds of voters nationwide, it is clear that the side that argues for financial independence from government and individual responsibility did not do its job this go-around.
There is an assumption that merely stating our case is enough, and that people will follow our pied piper’s tune with the merest of mentions or the casual passing phrase. They do not. I am just as guilty of this devastating deceit. We believe that we are right and that others will simply see as we do. It is plain to us that the FairTax is obviously the best way to go, and to view those who oppose us as greedy, self-serving, or cowardly. And we might be exactly right. But to convince a majority of those in power and a majority of those voting for those in power, we cannot act on that judgment alone.
I had an entirely different idea for an article tonight. It recalled the famous speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V. It begins with a war “pep talk” with a stirring, “Once more into the breach, good friends, once more”. But as a passionate and fervent FairTax supporter, I can honestly say I feel discouraged tonight. A rousing war time speech is the last thing I want to hear, much less write. But I do hearken back to an incredible question. “Why do we fall?” It is bound to happen, to even the best of us. We can fail to gain the support we thought we could, or fall short of our own expectations. We can lose a big election which will sap our sponsorship. But to give the fall meaning, we have to act upon it. We can learn to pick ourselves up. It is this action and response that makes the tumble down, while painful, worth it. What can we learn here? While it is true that the FairTax was not up for debate, the broad principles behind it were. While we did not have a candidate that supported the FairTax, we elected one who supports furthering our current system. While we may be demoralized and worse for wear, we are not beaten and our idea still lives to fight another day. It is true that for now we toil away in darkness, away from the political limelight. Tonight we saw that this has its advantages. But we need to realize that it was really only about tonight, tomorrow is another day. And if there is a reason that we fall, it is to realize that with tomorrow comes the chance to rise again. If we fall, we learn to pick ourselves up, and in doing so become something that we were not before.
The outcome of this election has also provided us with something that we did not have before. Time. The next four years will not see our idea implemented. While lip-service is paid to some general principle of tax reform, we should know that the author of the 2011 speech at Osawatomie, Kansas does not sound like someone who will be willing to remove power from the federal government and give it back to the people. But we have an opportunity to build something over the next four years that we currently lack, a ground game. When it is time for the next national election, we will be ready to have the FairTax discussion on our terms. Our goal of education is made all the more difficult because we do not control the language of the debate, the currently entrenched interests do. And if they wish to stay entrenched then we will bombard them from the outside since we have the time to do so now.
This is a perfect chance to utilize the State Resolution Initiative. (A tab explaining this can be found at the top of the website.) If we can speak to local legislatures, where we should have more access and influence, then we can begin our revolution at the local level. Any successful regime change begins in such a way. Accomplishing this will have a multi-faceted effect. We will generate publicity, create discussion, gain authority and legitimacy, put people on record, and apply public pressure, all of which we currently do not do to effective levels. All successful revolutions are grown at the individual level, our own included. John Adams proved as such in 1818 with these words,
“The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”
I have talked to far too many this past week that would suggest that the spirit of this great revolution has been lost in the midst of an aggressive entitlement society, a growth of moral relativism, an increased sense of selfishness, and a disrespect of history. But there are matters in life which require faith. There are moments in life where we are pushed into unfamiliar territory and spread thin. This is when we fall. And why do we fall? It is so that we can learn to pick ourselves up. And ladies and gentlemen, we have some work to do.
There are a number of similarities between this point in our Presidential contest and the final part of a long distance run. The finish line usually in sight, the work poured into the race thus far has done a great deal to determine your place, and all that is left is to push your body beyond its physical and mental limits to reach the end ahead of your opponent. You know, simple stuff. At this point, the words of the candidates are becoming lost in the fevered frenzy of an election, people are bustling to get out the vote and moving to make any and all last minute organizational moves to prepare for tomorrow. We have moved past the point of the “October surprise” and have watched all the debates; it all comes down to the voting now. The candidates have made their case and it is up to the American people to choose their government over the next four years. As FairTax advocates, the time to make our cause an issue in the campaign is long past, but our influence can still extend in the impact we make on Election Day. We still have candidates that we support and races we want to win. For us, Election Day marks an important step on the road to success but the real work we have to do begins on Wednesday, November 7. After the fallout of the election we have the task of shoring up the support that we have now and extending our reach into the newly elected officials and existing leadership structure. The FairTax will be re-filed at the start of the new Congress which means we have to regain all of our current cosponsors, we should use that opportunity to reach others as well. There is a focus on talking to members of the House Ways and Means Committee and Party leaders already. Tax reform will be addressed regardless of whoever wins at the top of the ticket and FairTax deserves to be a part of that debate. The closing arguments for both of the candidates have been made, there is little more for me to say today. The “ground game” operations are in place, the swing states seem to be up for grabs, and the future of the Senate is still undecided. Nothing I say here will change that and will only take up more of your time. We are on the eve of destiny and it is up to you to see us through. Good luck, work hard, and have fun, because when the dust finally settles the real work to pass the FairTax can begin!