Thursday, 27 September 2012 03:18 by Admin
It's something new and notable in Colorado politics: An unapologetic liberal and an unwavering conservative agreeing in spite of themselves that tax increases for metro-Denver municipalities and school districts on the November ballot are an overreach.
In the September round of Head On mini-debates for Colorado Public Television, sponsored by Centennial Institute, Susan Barnes-Gelt, a Democrat and former Denver city councilwoman, takes the lead in calling for a "no" vote on these measures and John Andrews, a Republican and former Senate President, seconds her motion. Here is the script:
DENVER and CENTENNIAL SEEK TO DE-BRUCE
Susan: Denverites should vote NO on 2A. The measure promises to repave streets, add police training classes, expand library and recreation center hours and eliminate furlough days for city employees. Truth is, it’s a substantial tax hike with no guarantees – just unenforceable promises.
John: Government always wants more. It never has enough. Politicians always believe they can spend our money better than we can. I too would oppose Denver’s tax hike, if I were an urban guy. I am opposing Centennial’s tax hike as a suburban guy. Our little city wasn’t created to be a revenue hog.
Susan: Denver voters have a choice. Approve a blank check that never expires for higher taxes, or send Mayor Hancock back to the drawing board to craft a balanced initiative with a mix of reduced expenses and tax increases. 2A is bad for jobs, small business and homeowners. Vote NO.
John: The first word in Tea Party stands for “taxed enough already,” and I’m delighted to hear you of all people urging Denverites to vote that way on school construction and the Hancock proposal. If Coloradans look at the huge tax increase Obama plans for Jan. 1, they will vote him out too.
PUBLIC SCHOOL TAX INCREASES
Susan: Several school districts are on November’s ballot with tax increases for K-12 education, including Denver. DPS wants more than a half a billion for new schools, renovation and updating of existing schools and increased operating funds. It’s a tough time to ask for the biggest tax increase in history.
John: I’m voting no on Cherry Creek school taxes. And I agree with your no vote in Denver. Taxpayers in Jeffco, Aurora, and all 29 Colorado districts where a total of $1 billion is being requested should join us. The answer for better education is more choice, not more money.
Susan: Regarding DPS, I’m undecided. Should Denver build new schools when existing ones are way under capacity. Should the District go to a 12-month school year to support student achievement? Yes – I support 3B – increased operating funds. I’d like to see more reform before we build more schools.
John: A lot more reform. Something is happening when I as a conservative Republican and you as a liberal Democrat begin agreeing that taxpayers forever digging deeper while teacher unions keep making excuses is no longer a viable strategy for helping kids learn. For devastating proof, see the new movie “Won’t Back Down.”
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 15:08 by Admin
Here's more from the March 2 debate, "Does the Tea Party or the Occupy Movement Best Represent the Needs and Goals of America?"
Michelle Morin readies her "get in the game" football prop as Tom Tancredo, Daniel Kagan, and Pat Steadman respond to a joking remark by moderator John Andrews
As the exchange began, State Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Denver) and State Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) disclaimed any direct affiliation with, or endorsement of, OWS but argued for its superiority to the Tea Party.
Tom Tancredo, whose remarks are given in the previous post, had a spirited partner in opposing the Occupy side - Colorado Springs homemaker Michelle Morin.Morin (rhymes with "begin") sketched her activist resume, then played the Reagan card. Here's the outline she spoke from as the debate opened:
I'm Michelle Morin and I’m honored to be here. For those of you who don’t know me, here’s a little about me. Mostly, I’m a blogger. But….
• I’ve walked precincts,
• co-founded a successful grassroots group,
• spoken at every tea party in COS since 2009 plus others across the state,
• created and maintained an online cause with national reach of over 120,000 to stop ObamaCare,
• created my own blog Mom4Freedom.com,
• created and hosted my own Political Power Tools workshops across the state to teach average folks how to advance freedom’s cause using online and other tools, led the volunteer petition effort for 2010’s ballot initiative 62,
• written for local freedom newspaper the Constitutionalist Today,
• formed a statewide online discussion forum and coalition providing opportunity for over 100 Colorado freedom activists to network and coordinate efforts,
• organized a variety of freedom events,
• awarded the 2010 Vern Bickel grassroots leadership award by the Independence Institute,
• and named a top 5 Republican influencer in Colorado by Campaigns and Elections magazine.
And that’s really just some of what I’ve done. I think you would call me a triple A personality type who just happens to love America and value my freedom. I really do enjoy talking with folks, I’m thrilled to be here.
WHAT WE'RE DEBATING HERE...
The most exceptional nation in world history is at a critical cross roads. The issues that face America today actually cross party lines. But they are not issues which were new to our founding fathers.
Want to start with quote….1964 Ronald Reagan – “We’re told we must choose between left and right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream – the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order – or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path.”
I’m going to boldly state that the tea party movement is a reflection of the original intents of America’s founding fathers and that the tea party represents the virtues which bring America up.
In contrast, the means of the occupy movement are the very weights which would bring America down to that heap of totalitarianism.
WHAT A CONTRAST...
Tea Party – individuals and power of individual
Occupy – masses, 99% - basic focus seems to be upon transferring power from individuals to community
TP- responsibility, self-reliance
Occupy – dependence on community and government
TP – free markets
Occupy – would crush capitalism
Tea Party – arises from a spirited people who have the pride and courage to resist and reject the advance of despotism.
Occupy – stems from an excessive dependence from those who would easily invade the property and civil rights of others. A dependence which feeds individual weakness and governmental strength.
Tea Party - tea party wins when America’s founding principles win
Occupy - occupy wins when america’s founding principles lose
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 14:42 by Admin
"Does the Occupy Movement or the Tea Party best reflect the needs and goals of America?" That was the debate question at CCU on Jan. 30 as an overflow crowd cheered, laughed, and occasionally hissed at the crossfire between former congressman Tom Tancredo and Colorado Springs activist Michelle Morin on the Tea Party side and Democratic legislators Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Daniel Kagan on the Occupy side. More than 200 partisans of the two viewpoints (conservative for the most part) packed the Beckman auditorium for the 90-minute event, moderated by Centennial Institute Director John Andrews.Video of the full program will be posted online later this week. Here is Tancredo's opening statement:I begin by congratulating CCU and John Andrews for hosting this program. Our political season is largely devoid of good quality humor, and this debate question should get awards for political parody: Anyone who takes the “Occupy Movement” seriously as a force for fulfilling America’s destiny probably also believes Stephen Colbert is a serious political commentator.Maybe in Greenwich Village, Hollywood and Boulder, but not in the America I know and love.
However, in a perverse way, the debate question is indeed a good jumping off place for a vigorous debate on “America’s needs and goals” because the differences between those two political forces are about as stark and extreme as you can find in politics today.The debate may put a bright spotlight on the deep divide in America today, a divide between two radically different understandings of America---And I mean more than differences over “needs and goals.” I mean deep differences over the very meaning of the Constitution, different concepts of our “core values,” and extremely different visions of what constitutes American greatness.
§ On the most obvious level, the Tea Party Movement began as a citizens' protest against high taxation and government debt, whereas the Occupy Movement wants even higher taxes and ENDLESS GOVERNMENT DEBT.
§ So which of THOSE visions do you think offers hope for America?§ On the level of political activism and civil behavior, the Tea Party movement has followed and respected traditional American tools of protest—public rallies under legal permits, speeches, petitions, and organizing for political participation in caucuses, conventions, primaries and elections.§ On the question of civic virtue and the rule of law, it is worth pointing out that at the HUNDREDS of Tea Party rallies across the country since the first ones in February 2009, conducted in full view of a critical and often hostile media, there was not one rape, one shooting, or one reported theft of property. YET, in the dozen or so OCCUPY movement’s tent cities, there have been several such crimes.§ On the level of grassroots legitimacy versus “Astroturf choreography,” the Tea party Movement is as genuine a grassroots protest movement as we have seen since the Populist revolt of 120 years ago.§ It is totally funded by local donations. Led by local citizens, young an old, and not coordinated by national funding or national structures. And its program of grassroots organizing and protests does not rely on or depend on media favoritism or messaging.§ WHEREAS, BY CONTRAST, the “Occupy” movement is totally dependent on a fawning media to tell its story and gain a national audience.§ The Occupy Movement explicitly rejects the traditional American means of protest and chooses -- instead—WHAT? –§ The “Occupy Movement” chooses PHYSICAL VIOLENCE as its preferred means of protest, not petitions, not rallies, not speeches, not organizing for candidates in an election.§ The very NAME of the movement – “OCCUPY” is a PHYSICAL assault, not a form of speech.You see, behind the choice of its name and its choice of violent rhetoric, the “Occupy Movement” has made a choice to reject the basic institutions of American democracy. Its primary tactic is not persuasive argument but physical threats and intimidation. We know where those tactics come from, and its called totalitarianism. To the “Occupy” movement, all of these American institutions are illegitimate.To the Tea Party Movement, by contrast, America is a nation with problems that can still be fixed and our basic institutions are still legitimate.To the Tea Party Movement, our problem is to restore faith and adherence to basic values and core institutions that have been slowly undermined and weakened over the past decades.In short, the Occupy Movement cannot claim to represent America’s needs and goals because it does not understand what America IS. And to the extent it does have any understanding of American values and institutions, it REJECTS them.The contrast between the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party Movement is not a contrast between Republicans and Democrats, for I cannot believe all Democrats or even a majority of Democrats share the thoroughly socialist principles of the Occupy Movement.
I prefer the Tea Party Movement, which reveres the legacy of freedom and seeks to preserve and extend our freedoms, not further control our lives through an expanded and avaricious federal government as envisioned and championed by the Occupier–in-Chief, Barack Obama.
Friday, 20 January 2012 08:09 by Admin
"It's time to take back our system of education from government control," proclaims the New Jersey Tea Party Caucus in announcing its forum in Jersey City this Sunday, Jan. 22. Details are here http://www.njteapartycaucus.com/?page_id=115 "We'll kick off National School Choice Week by asking the tough questions" about why public education costs so much, performs so poorly, and seems impervious to reform, the website adds. William J. Moloney, former Colorado Education Commissioner and now a Centennial Institute Fellow, heads the speakers panel for the half-day event. Moloney will outline an agenda for real change, based on his Centennial policy brief, "Much Better Schools on Much Lower Budgets." Bob Bowdon, producer of "The Cartel," a hard-hitting documentary film about teacher unions and the education establishment, will serve as panel moderator. Other panelists include New Jersey education activists Derrell Bradford, Chris Kniesler, and Dan Hagerty, along with Hillsdale College charter school experts Philip Kilgore and Terrence Moore. Moore is well-known to Coloradans for his past leadership of Ridgeview Classical Schools, an award-winning Fort Collins charter school.
Spend Less, Achieve More Centennial Inst Jan 2012.pdf (340.16 kb)
(Denver Post, Sept. 25) Why are the Democrats so afraid of democracy? Do they worry that the will of the people won’t go their way? So it would seem.
Several Colorado court cases illustrate the pattern. The Fenster suit to annul the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the Lobato suit to increase education spending, and the ACLU suit to block school choice in Douglas County, all ask unelected judges to substitute their wisdom for that of we the people. Dems are orchestrating each of them, token GOP support notwithstanding.
Preferring litigation to legislation is not the only symptom of Democrats’ voter-phobia. The negative propaganda blitz is another. If you’re a liberal and you fear a conservative election wave, crank up the shrill charges and count on echoes from your media allies. Slime the opposition voters until they are delegitimized in public opinion and demoralized in their hearts.
America has never seen this tactic more desperately deployed than in the all-out attack on the Tea Party movement. Which makes sense from the left’s point of view, since the country has not experienced such a surge to the right since the rise of the conservative movement itself, 35 years ago under Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Off balance, the Democrats reached for a stopper: race.
A nonpartisan responsibility backlash from the heartland against the bipartisan irresponsibility of Washington, a citizens’ outcry to stop us going off the cliff fiscally and constitutionally – that and nothing more – this phenomenal new force in national politics had to be branded with bigotry when status-quo defenders realized other smears (terrorists, extremists, nihilists, saboteurs) weren’t scary enough.
It started last year – unsuccessfully – and just recently we in the Tea Party had Congressional Black Caucus stalwarts Maxine Waters calling us intimidators who could go to hell and Andre Carson likening us to a KKK lynch mob, while the Rev. Jesse Jackson tagged segregationists in the 1950s as “a tea party” no different from today’s.
On what evidence? None. The sum total of racist incidents ever documented at Tea Party rallies is one jerk with the N-word on a sign in Houston in 2009. Denver saw a bigger and better sample this July, when I held the gavel as hundreds of Tea Party activists from 25 states gathered for the Western Conservative Summit – and a less racist group you could not find.
They gave the presidential straw poll victory to Herman Cain over a dozen white candidates. Listening to Cain, a black businessman, speak against the mess in Washington, the Summit delegates saw character, competence, and charisma – not color.
Meanwhile in Colorado Springs, a young entrepreneur transplanted from Chicago, Derrick Wilburn, has founded the Rocky Mountain Black Tea Party. Its mission, one learns at www.RMBTP.org, is “bringing together persons of color to educate, inform, and encourage true diversity of political thought and expression.”
The group’s well-attended monthly meetings prove that “black and conservative are not mutually exclusive,” says the cheerfully counter-cultural Wilburn. He’s a registered independent who was, like so many Tea Party activists, apolitical until Obama’s leftward lurch alarmed the bejesus out of him two years ago.
Democratic scare-mongers like Reps. Carson and Waters could journey to the foot of Pike’s Peak and learn that the R we care about as Tea Partiers isn’t race, or even Republicans as such. It’s renewed responsibility – restraint in spending and recovery in the economy, so the United States does not become Greece.
We want to use our votes to make sure the land of opportunity isn’t driven into decline while our least-fortunate fellow citizens remain trapped at the bottom. You’d think Democrats, minorities in particular, would want that too. But if it threatened the incumbents’ power and privilege, maybe not. Their party sure has trouble living up to its name.
(Washington Times, Aug. 12) Perhaps the most telling remark during the whole of the debt-ceiling negotiations came on Aug. 7 from White House consultant David Axelrod. Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Axelrod echoed a growing chant from the left wing: The Standard and Poor’s downgrade of America’s credit rating was “essentially the Tea Party downgrade,” he charged -- adding that the “Tea Party brought us to the brink of default.”
What a shameful abdication of responsibility from an office which once was, as an earlier occupant said, where the buck stopped. Apparently not any more. Barack Obama, you’re no Harry Truman. This administration’s passing of the buck is even more brazen when you remember that never has the White House offered a debt-ceiling plan of its own.
Who did? Well, the Tea Party members in Congress for starters passed “Cut, Cap and Balance” well before the debt-ceiling deadline. Even Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, put forth a plan. Since the Supreme Court isn’t a legislative body, that leaves the Obama Administration as the only branch of government which failed to lead.
Still, if you listen to no one but the media, you’d think that the Tea Party had done something malicious by forcing Congress and the White House to agree to serious spending cuts – exactly what S&P had demanded. The talking heads on the left – and even some Democrats in Congress – unleashed a flurry of criticism, calling the Tea Party “terrorists,” “hostage takers,” and akin to one “holding a gun to the head” of the American people.
Most Americans see what the Tea Party did as something else: Taking responsibility. At least someone has to.
Which brings us back to President Obama’s – via David Axelrod – disclaimer of responsibility. While in no way is this the “Tea Party downgrade,” those aroused millions of working Americans known as Tea Party have shown themselves more than ready to assume the responsibility that no one in Washington appears brave enough to take on. On our mountain trails here in the Rockies, they’ll tell you to lead, follow, or get out of the way. It’s time to get out of the way, Mr. President.
That sentiment was strong when we convened a thousand delegates from 25 states at Western Conservative Summit 2011 in Denver last month. It was not a partisan gathering, but there were many activists from the Tea Party, 9.12 chapters, and taxpayer groups. They expressed disgust with the administration’s fiscal indiscipline and economic ineptitude, mixed with impatience for constitutional restraints on taxes and spending at the federal level similar to those that have served Colorado so well.
As a force for renewal of our nation’s founding principles, the Tea Party is the most potent reassertion of individual citizen responsibility since the grassroots conservative movement of the 1970s propelled Ronald Reagan to victory over Jimmy Carter. The parallels between the two eras are clear: Then as now, the Washington elite were flummoxed on the economy. Some even explained America’s seemingly insurmountable problems as the natural result of a nation in decline. Criticism of the president was dismissed as a juvenile reaction to the only “adults in the room.”
Because congressmen attentive to the Tea Party are only one element of one house of one branch of government, today’s heirs to the Reagan legacy can only do so much. But look at what they’ve already done. 2011 began with the president sending a bloated budget to Congress which added to the nation’s deficit. The presence of the Tea Party ensured that the irresponsible Obama budget was dead on arrival. After the debt-ceiling debate, the Tea Party has now shifted the dialogue in Washington away from job-killing tax increases to serious, long-term budget cuts that reduce the nation’s $14 trillion debt. In a city that considers budget cuts as akin to Armageddon and higher taxes as the Holy Grail, the Tea Party’s success is no small feat.
The fiscal deficit is a grave concern. But the worst pathology threatening the USA with terminal decline is the responsibility deficit, a “not me” denial syndrome which infects too much of American society right now. And nowhere is this deficit more on display than in the current White House occupant. We can only hope that 2012 will bring us a candidate who, like Reagan, wants to lead with more than just words. Until then, the bottom-up responsibility movement famously or infamously called the Tea Party is America’s best hope.
(Nantucket)The 18th century English political sage Edmund Burke wrote that the vigor of any society can be measured by the “balance between its impulses of innocence and decadence”. He further noted that when that balance tilts decisively toward decadence then “decline is steady and inexorable”. In the recent fulminations over the debt ceiling “crisis” one could clearly see if not innocence and decadence then certainly their counterparts populism and elitism vigorously battling for political advantage. The elitists were the usual alliance of Democrats and “mainstream” (i.e. left wing) media. The face of the alliance was, of course, Obama with Reid, Biden and others filling out the chorus. The populist role ultimately fell to that which is known as the “Tea Party”. This entity however because of its inchoate and evolving nature had no face or identifiable center, and in fact wasn’t even a party. This elusiveness created a problem for Democrats who tried very hard to attack the Tea Party using the “identify, isolate, and demonize” strategy patented by Obama guru Saul Alinsky. Because the identify and isolate part proved inapplicable the Democrats concentrated on demonize, and variously characterized the Tea Party as uneducated, easily led, racists, hostage takers, and terrorists. The more restrained voices in the punditocracy described Tea Party adherents as politically innocent, naïve, simplistic, and most damming “unrealistic”. To the pundits realism is the highest good. A realist is someone who never stands on principle, is always ready to make a deal, and worships regularly in the Church of Compromise. For years this worldview has profited the Democrats who define compromise as “you give me what I want, and I agree to take it”. This approach resembles John Foster Dulles’ long ago description of Soviet negotiating strategy: “What’s ours is ours; what’s yours is negotiable.” In the recent stand-off Democrats defined compromise as follows: Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling and taxes NOW; Obama agrees to discuss spending cuts and entitlement reform LATER. The media echo chamber insisted that Obama had Republicans over a barrel: Accept his demands or be blamed for worldwide economic catastrophe. Even some Republicans believed this. Strangely, things didn’t turn out that way.The final “deal” while greatly flawed- at best a very modest step in the right direction- nonetheless utterly confounded conventional Washington wisdom. In the end it was Obama who caved, not the Tea Party. Suddenly spending cuts- albeit painfully small were NOW. Tax increases were off the table- banished to the land of discussions later. In a heartbeat Obama threw his left-wing base under the bus, sacrificing long cherished liberal orthodoxies on the altar of his dimming hopes for re-election. Additionally the Fear-Monger-in-Chief threw away his Medicare trump by including that program in the “automatic cuts” in Part II of the legislation. In the final act it was not the Republican Party that imploded but rather the Democrats as perfectly reflected by their 95-95 split in the House vote. At day’s end the Tea Party’s perceived intransigence did not scuttle Boehner’s credibility as a leader, but instead was the Speaker’s bulwark in standing firm against the Democrats’ “sky is falling” rhetoric. By the numbers Boehner commanded three quarters of his conference, including a majority of the Tea Party Caucus while a majority of Pelosi’s minions voted against her. That Obama recognized the magnitude of his capitulation was made clear when he signed the legislation- not before a fawning Rose Garden crowd with souvenir pens all around, but alone in the Oval Office in silence. Thus the Tea Party- innocent, naïve, inexperienced, simplistic, and unrealistic- had been more than anyone else the principal driver of the narrative in this American melodrama that ended better than most conservatives thought possible. How did they do it? David Gregory- host of NBC’s Meet The Press- spoke for “pundits” everywhere, when he addressed a mostly liberal and largely baffled gathering here on Nantucket: “It’s hard to explain. They’re not like most people we know”. On the night the legislation was signed the ever pretentious Bill O’Reilly insisted to a guest on his Fox program that it wasn’t the Tea Party who made Obama cave, but rather the American people- “The Folks” in O’Reilly speak – who did it. His guest- the 21st century American political sage Charles Krauthammer- contradicted him saying, “Bill, the Tea Party are the Folks.” Who knew?
(The Daily Caller, Aug. 9) Terrorists, are we? How banal the left’s invective has become. Fiscal responsibility is no doubt a terrifying prospect to the irresponsible spenders and entitlement addicts. But really: In their horror of sobering up, can’t Vice President Joe Biden, Congressman Mike Doyle, and Joe Nocera of the New York Times do better than to equate Tea Party patriots with suicide bombers?
I’ve seen this bad movie before. Twenty years ago, after beating me for Governor of Colorado in a race where I advocated constitutional tax and spending limits (narrowly rejected on the 1990 ballot), Democrat Roy Romer called my fellow Republican, Douglas Bruce, a terrorist for bringing up the limitation amendment again in 1992.
The scare tactic failed, and Colorado voters approved our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which has served the state well as both a fiscal guardrail and an economic accelerator ever since. The competitive advantage it gives us over other states has been worth billions in jobs gained, incomes boosted, taxes unlevied, debts unincurred.
Now it is the country as a whole that must either assert global competitiveness or slouch into the sunset. The president’s hatchet man, tough-talking defender of a bankrupt status quo, hysterically denigrates those who urge us to save ourselves. But Biden’s slur against the citizens responsibility movement of today will hurt his cause, and embolden ours, just as Romer’s rhetoric stiffened the backbone of fed-up Coloradans in the ‘90s.
The Veep’s frothing and flailing bespeak the desperation of the defeated. While this week’s deal on the debt ceiling is no great triumph for the forces of austerity, the Democrats’ fond hopes of revenue enhancement have been dashed. Obama’s bluff was called and found false. The irresponsibility binge, if far from over, is on warning for detox.
Margaret Thatcher laughed off this kind of thing. She regarded Biden-style invective from opponents as a sure sign that her side was winning. Take heart, said the Iron Lady: when the other guy turns to venom, it means he’s run out of facts and logic. So it seems we’ve got them right where we want them.
Nor are Democrats the only ones sputtering farcically at the scary sight of middle America up on its hind legs in anger over Washington’s red ink. Sen. John McCain spoke for many Beltway Republicans when he anathematized the anti-tax forces as “hobbits.” Talk about fighting words. It’s clear there would have been no White House honors to Tolkien, if alive, from McCain, if elected.
These panicky comparisons of the aroused grassroots to Frodo the Ringbearer or Carlos the Jackal by a frightened establishment are one more indicator the truly historic upheaval we’re witnessing. America has never seen anything like this before, and the fiscal zombies of Capitol Hill have no idea what to make of it.
Within 100 days after McCain conceded limply to the triumphant Obama, a new political voice had begun roaring its demands for an end to Washington business as usual by both men’s parties. The Tea Party – not a just another caucus of partisans but a banner for the people’s insistent purpose, as in “search party” or “farewell party” – has been on a three-year winning streak since then.
In 2009 they hit the townhall circuit, raising the alarm against Obamacare and puncturing the president’s messianic pretensions. Then in 2010 they fired Speaker Pelosi and elected a Republican House. Now in 2011 they have stood as a stern conscience forcing Boehner’s GOP to keep its word and begin steering the country off the course to fiscal suicide. Quite a run so far, and 2012 is still ahead.
The tendency of great nations to spend themselves to death after about 250 years, and America’s need for a responsibility movement to save ourselves – morally as well as fiscally – was concerning some of us long before Republicans lost the White House.
In Colorado since 2007 we’ve been talking about Element R, a nonpartisan third force of citizens who would vow, “Responsibility begins with me.” From this has come my new book about what America the Responsible once was and could be again – must be again, if we want the United States to see 2076.
When the Western Conservative Summit, which I chaired, convened in Denver last month with a thousand delegates from 25 states, there was a lot of focus on personal responsibility as the USA’s only guarantor of freedom and only safeguard of success. Tea Party spirit was strong, as evidenced when Herman Cain won big in the straw poll over Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and ten other 2012 contenders.
Cain’s rousingly delivered, pro-principle, pro-reform, anti-Washington message punctuated the weekend like a thunderclap. But there no threats of jihad from him or the other speakers, nor did the summiteers talk of dynamiting anything but the dependency ethic. Not a hostage-taker or a terrorist in the bunch. Joe Biden would have been so let down.
John Andrews is a former president of the Colorado Senate, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, and the author of Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen’s Guide to the Next American Century (Denali Press, 2011)
('76 Contributor) As Americans, for the third year running, hold Tax Day Tea Parties, it’s worth setting down a few thoughts on the tax code itself.
1) It’s too progressive
The US has the most progressive tax structure in the developed world. More progressive than the Japan, more progressive than the UK, more progressive than Sweden, for crying out loud. You make it big with Ikea, you’re better off going back to HQ than staying here.
This is a result of generations of structuring the code based on “who can afford” rather than “who has a stake.” Well, of course if you make more you can afford more. But it also means you can afford more shoes, maybe a nicer car, possibly a boat. It also means you can afford – if you choose – to indulge in hobbies or possibly lead charitable efforts.
The question “who can afford” answers itself, but it notably fails to ask, “afford what?” Pretty much every activity except stuffing cash under the mattress helps create more wealth, and in a society with a rule of law and secure property rights, even – perhaps especially – the poor get to participate in that wealth, too. So when the government says that it “needs” more of your money, it really “needs” to be sure that the least important thing it’s going to do with that dollar is more important than the most important thing its owner can do with it. That’s a high bar to get over. As it should be.
2) It picks favorites
Any tax system is going to do this sort of thing. Sales taxes will exempt food or clothing. But the possibilities for rent-seeking seem almost endless with out current tax system. Regulations may raise barriers to entry, but the Aristocrats of Pull are really made through the tax code, rewarding political allies and misdirecting massive amounts of resources in the process.
The income tax, since it’s stated as a percentage of some known amount – what you made last year – also encourages the government’s delusion that it’s really all their money, except for what they let you keep. It’s only with a tax code susceptible to endless manipulation that a President could talk about “reducing spending in the tax code.” When it gets to that point, there’s really nowhere left to go.
3) It encourages debt
This used to be worse. It used to be that all interest was deductible, but that was phased out a couple of decades ago, so now for individuals, we’re down to the mortgage interest deduction. But for businesses, most interest is still deductible, and while this encourages capital formation, it also leads to a debt-heavy capital structure. We’ve all seen what excess leverage can do, but other decisions get distorted as well. Successful mergers tend not to be financed with debt, but with cash, and it’s likely that a whole lot of bad M&A activity – doomed deals – wouldn’t happen if that interest weren’t deductible.
4) It can’t be complied with
Not, “it’s hard to comply with.” It can’t be complied with. We all know about the NTU studies asking IRS employees to work a difficult tax question, and having each of them come up with a different answer. The fact that an average citizen has to spend hundreds of dollars to file taxes every year, and still could end up getting hauled into tax court because he got the wrong one of twenty different right answers is an offense against everything we expect from the rule of law.
5) Business taxes are too high
Right now, the US not only has the most progressive tax system in the western world, we also have the highest business taxes in the industrialized world. Inidividually, either of these would be enough to start chasing wealth production out of the country. Together, they virtually guarantee it, particularly because we also tax dividend income. Dividends, of course, are just a distribution of profits to the owners. Profits which have already been taxed. Not all countries do this. Some allow a tax credit against dividends, and some just don’t tax them at all.
So as we go to our Tax Day Tea Parties, remember, it’s not just how much they’re taking. It’s the way they’re taking it.
(Denver Post, Jan. 9) “Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away.” The little poem from a century ago should haunt Colorado’s new governor and legislature as they climb the Capitol steps and set to work this week.
John Hickenlooper is shrewdly adding Republicans as well as fellow Democrats to his cabinet, but no one has been appointed from the Tea Party. Speaker Frank McNulty, reclaiming a GOP majority for the first time since 2004, will preside over a House of 33 R’s, 32 D’s, and no T’s. Senate President Brandon Shaffer enjoys an opposite and more comfortable margin of 20 D’s, 15 R’s, and again, zero T’s.
So what? This is our state’s two-party system in the same seesaw of power we’ve known since 1876 – politics as usual. These are politically unusual times, however. The men and women who aren’t there under the gold dome in 2011, but whom our elected leaders can’t afford to ignore, are the Tea Party insurgents of the past two years.
Fewer than half of Colorado’s eligible voters turned out last November. The half that stayed home were not all Tea Partiers, of course. T’s came out in large numbers to help Republicans take the state House, unseat two Democrats from Congress, and support Tom Tancredo or Dan Maes for governor. Yet the fact remains that as campaigning now gives way to governing, T’s have no formal seat at the table. So it’s insiders beware.
The late Bill Buckley allowed LBJ only about a week in office before announcing in his magazine: “National Review’s patience with the Johnson administration is exhausted.” The Tea Party, a movement of hard-working Americans fed up with over-spending and over-government, is THAT impatient with politicians of both parties. You can imagine them sending Valentines such as these to the power-brokers at 200 E. Colfax:
“Dear Gov. Hickenlooper: No doubt you’re a good guy to have a beer with, though the motor scooter is a bit effete. But for now, forget the image stuff, park your presidential ambitions, and get the economy roaring again. Go after the unions and the spenders like you were Chris Christie. We’re dying out here. Love, Adams County.”
“Dear President Shaffer: What’s with you proposing to make it harder for us to change the state constitution? The constitution belongs to us, not to you and the other suits. Try reading it on opening day, the way Congress did. Then try again on fixing PERA, before it bankrupts the state. Respectful but steamed, Grand Junction.”
“Dear Speaker McNulty: You must have been quoted wrong about not repealing Ritter’s car tax, that outrageous affront to TABOR. When one of your members said the revenue is needed, you woodshedded him, right? Can a couple hundred of us come see you in the Old Supreme Court some afternoon? Patriotically, Pueblo.”
“Dear Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp: Please fire up your caucus to fight harder than last year against the Obama transformation agenda on things like energy and health care. The GOP is Colorado’s best hope of not turning into California or Greece, but if you don’t show us more, a bunch of us are outta here. Worried in Widefield.”
“Dear House Minority Leader Sal Pace: Ouch, a few dozen votes in the Ramirez race and you could have been Speaker. For 2012, instead of lurching left with labor, why not become a fiscal hawk, a Dick Lamm-style Democrat? We can be had. Available in Arvada.”
Government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem. So said Reagan 30 years ago this month, and the Tea Party believes it is even truer today. If Colorado’s bipartisan establishment doesn’t pay heed, it will pay dearly.