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Sunshine patriots: The time is now!

12/5/2006

With the holiday season upon us, the news media is abuzz with tracking Christmas shopping stats, watching the Washington dance to fill new majority committee seats in Congress, and full of speculation about minimum wage legislation, immigration legislation, and yes new tax legislation.

 

Both the right and the left know that the Alternative Minimum Tax is growing like the South's kudzu vines and will soon exact a political toll on whichever party allows further creep. Democrats understand that their majority is not so great that they can legislate without Republicans and Republicans, just now awakening from shock and dismay, are beginning to dust off their old minority party perspective.

 

A highly partisan friend asked me recently why I was not overly upset with the Republican defeat. "Because I have long believed that neither party serves the public very well," I replied. Whether Republican or Democrat, the true interests of the public seem to me to often be lost in the crossfire of partisan advantage, political posturing, and just plain venal behavior by people who give a lot more thought to their hair than to most Americans.

 

Meanwhile, out in “real America” our day-to-day existence is peppered with worries about terrorism, the war, and pollution that occasionally punctuate our exceedingly normal daily concerns about having enough time for work and kids, how to pay all the bills, what's for dinner, and what might be next on our favorite TV show. The more serious issues that can color our lives like affordable health insurance, the cost of gasoline, the employment picture, and the amount of taxes we pay almost never get the serious treatment that we desire from our government leaders.

 

One might conclude that those tasked with solving the big picture problems lead different lives than the rest of us, and when you get right down to it, don't much care about the realistic, hard work needed to fix the broken tax system or a host of other problems that have faced us all for too long. And as long as we look at our government as "Daddy" instead of "Uncle Sam," we're probably getting just about what we deserve.

 

Too many of us have accepted the notion that government does not work very well, and public policy issues are almost never decided in our collective favor. We have forgotten that our Founding Fathers knew this was true about any government and so designed a system allowing the body politic to shake up those driving government and public policy decisions. We have forgotten that in order to make government work, we have to direct government. Our "Uncle" will accept this direction but "Big Daddy” (who makes all the decisions) won't.

 

FairTax Central’s last National Call to Action asked supporters to write Rep. Charles Rangel to explain to him the virtues of the FairTax. He is, after all, slated to chair the powerful tax writing Ways and Means Committee. He has made statements that he wants a tax system that is "fair." He has also been quoted as saying that "of course" there will be winners and losers. Meanwhile, out in the wings is a simmering, pent up demand to "soak the rich," raise corporate taxes, and generally take much more from those who are seen by some to have enjoyed too easy a ride in recent years. We can easily imagine yet another food fight between the "trickle down" crowd and the "soak the rich" team.

 

The response from the grass roots to this latest Call to Action was anemic. Theories abound:  Too many disappointed Republican supporters, too many citizens frustrated that such a common sense proposal as the FairTax has been ignored for so long, or just plain disbelief that we, the people, can actually affect public policy anymore. In the absence of our voice and millions of others, yet to be recruited, we are almost inevitably headed toward that unproductive, partisan  food fight over taxes between elected officials pandering either to the right or the left.

 

To all of those who cannot find the time to direct our government leaders into a more productive path, I want to remind them that General George Washington rallied barefoot, cold, and hungry American troops in a bold and desperate tactic of crossing the Delaware River to attack Hessian mercenaries in frigid predawn hours. With only weeks left on their enlistments, this citizen army, outgunned and undermanned, long unpaid and ill equipped by an inattentive Congress bent on petty squabbling, decided to ignore the easy path of the "sunshine patriot" and crossed that near frozen river with General Washington to turn the tide of the Revolutionary War. 

 

Time and time again, it is the people of the United States who have turned the tide and made our experiment in democracy, personal freedom, tolerance, fair play, and inventiveness actually work. Now, too, is not the time for FairTax "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots." Rather, this is the time for those who know that making history always requires a struggle, and that if changing a public policy issue like our federal tax system was easy, it would have been done a long time ago.

 

Now is the time to believe once again that perseverance, sacrifice, hard work, and the American talent for creativity and invention can force a self-interested and conflicted Congress to pay attention to our demand for passage of the FairTax. Yes, Mr. Rangel, this tax system is "fair" and no, Mr. Rangel, it does not create "losers," but a whole nation of winners on the left, in the center, and on the right. It is, quite simply, a system that will transfer power away from Washington, is resistant to efforts to pit our citizenry against each other, and yes, amazingly, is good for the wealthy, the middle income, and the poor. It is the FairTax, and you will be hearing about it more and more until it is enacted.

 

For the "sunshine patriots" who have not responded to the latest call to write Charlie Rangel catch your breath and get busy. We are not giving up. We are as determined as ever to knit Republicans and Democrats together for this cause. We are in for the long haul and will do whatever it takes to win the FairTax.

 

Ken Hoagland