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Tea Party Patriots The Second American Revolution,9780805094374

Tea Party Patriots The Second American Revolution

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ISBN13:

9780805094374

ISBN10:
0805094377
Format:
Hardcover
Pub. Date:
2/14/2012
Publisher(s):
Henry Holt and Co.
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Summary

The definitive history of one of the most radical, revolutionary movements the country has ever seen, from those who started it all In 2009, an unemployed mother of two and a politically inexperienced northern California attorney met on a conference call that would end up starting one of the largest grassroots political organizations in American history, the Tea Party Patriots. Fueled by the fires of passion and patriotism, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin have become the faces of the most powerful political movement in the country, empowering their more than twenty million members by using both high-tech advances and the time-tested American tradition of rallying in public. Promoting the basic principles of the Tea Party Movementfree market, limited government, and fiscal responsiblitythe Tea Party Patriots have become the largest tea party organization in the world. With unparalleled access to the inner workings of the movement, Meckler and Martin hope to explain how the Tea Party came to be, what it is and is not, and perhaps most important, provide the first comprehensive, forward-looking document outlining a plan to restore America to its prior greatness. Never before has there been such an audience for this material. Americans of all political stripes have been waiting for a thorough and informative account of this movement. Straight from the co-founders themselves, Tea Party Patriotspromises to be the definitive source for a political revolution.

Author Biography

Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin are the co-founders and national organizers of the Tea Party Patriots, Inc. They have appeared as commentators and have been interviewed on ABC, CBS, PBS, BBC, NPR, Fox News, and CNN. Most recently, Time magazine named Martin the fifteenth most influential world leader of 2010.

Table of Contents

Chapter 3

The Economic Pathway to Liberty

If industry and labor are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out.
—James Madison

As we look ahead and plan for the next forty years, we must never lose sight of the fact that America is a nation that was built on fundamentally correct principles. These principles have been proven to work in practice, and when they’re ignored, failure is the result.

Glenn C. Graber’s cut-flower thesis of morality states that morality cannot endure when it is cut from its roots. So too will America’s prosperity wither when cut from the roots that nourish it. Not immediately, of course. As we all know, flowers look vibrant after they have been cut. But eventually, without the nourishment that comes through its roots, every cut flower will die.

In America today, the foundational roots of our economic prosperity are being cut by the very people who swore oaths to nurture and protect them.

Politicians think short term, like someone picking a flower to enjoy for the moment. We must think long term, like farmers who plan beyond the next harvest. For the long run, the only way to ensure economic growth is to study and guard the principles that have graced America with the greatest prosperity in world history. We must guard against those who work to destroy our economic roots, either intentionally or through well-intentioned ineptitude.

In the previous chapter we discussed the imminent economic challenges facing our nation. We saw that the greatest threats to our way of life come from our fellow Americans, from those who are elected to represent us.

Despite proclamations from politicians and the media on the left that America is in recovery and we can all relax, we in the Tea Party movement know the truth. The Great Recession is upon us. Things are bad, and they are not getting better. In fact, it appears they are getting worse.

What is holding America back? Why is its economy suffering? Why are so many people still unemployed? As of August 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 9.1 percent unemployment rate. That statistic does not include the underemployed and the hundreds of thousands of people who have simply lost hope and given up looking. In reality, almost one in five Americans who would like to work simply cannot find a good job. With unemployment historically averaging less than 6 percent, something is definitely wrong.

The government has pumped billions of dollars of “stimulus” spending into the economy, with President Obama promising that doing so would keep unemployment under 8.5 percent. And yet unemployment is still far higher, inflation is on the rise, food and fuel prices are skyrocketing, and it seems there is no end of trouble ahead for the average American family.

Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., is booming. As of summer 2011, the average sale price for a home in our nation’s capital was $415,000. This represented an increase of 7.8 percent, or $30,000, in just three months, and 18.6 percent compared to the prior year. Home prices have appreciated 3.8 percent over the last five years in Washington, D.C., while property values in the rest of the country have plummeted. While the center of government thrives, the rest of the nation is suffering. No surprise there.

So what must we do to return America to the free-market greatness that took us from the Jamestown settlement to the great pioneer migrations to the West, through the industrial revolution, to the moon, and now into the modern era of mobile communications and social media? We have to unlock the spirit of entrepreneurship that has always driven Americans to economic greatness. Men and women invest their time, their smarts, and their money into the economy—not to feed a bloated government or to “spread the wealth around”—because they are motivated by the desire for economic gain. They are motivated by the idea that, through their own hard work and ingenuity, they can improve their lot in life. They are motivated by the American dream. But that dream is now gasping for life in this country, and our government is largely to blame.

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
—Adam Smith

We need to get government off our backs and free the people to do what Americans do best: create wealth, jobs, and prosperity.

Historically, the government has been most involved in the American economy in four ways:

• Taxation
• Regulation
• Monetary policy
• Direct spending

Each of these is a lever used by politicians to control and manipulate what was intended by the Founders to operate as a primarily free economy based on private property rights. Yet each of these levers is now intended to replace the wisdom of the market with the wisdom of a “ruling elite” that believes it knows better.

The results speak for themselves. We could take this moment to remind everyone of the repeated and predictable failures of government intervention these past years. But instead, let’s ask the following questions. If Stimulus 1 was such a good idea, why did we need a Stimulus 2 or all those other rounds of stimulus under different names? If Quantitative Easing 1 (QE1) was such a good idea, then why QE2—or, even worse, a proposed QE3? If propping up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was the right thing to do, why did Fannie Mae report a net loss of $6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2011 and have to come back to the taxpayers for yet another multibillion-dollar bailout? Why are people’s homes still being foreclosed upon? Why is the housing market still in collapse? And where are all those jobs we were promised?

The onus is on government to prove the merits of its anticonstitutional, interventionist, never-worked-any-time-they’ve-ever-been-tried policies. We offer, as a counterpoint, the entire arc of American history, which proves that when we adhere to America’s free-market founding principles we succeed. Period. Works every time it is tried.

Right now, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Washington, D.C., and in departments of economics at universities around the country who are trying to come up with new programs to help the economy. They truly believe that getting our country back on its feet is a matter of developing a new government program, or figuring out which new infrastructure projects to spend your money on, or which new technologies to subsidize.

The truth is that the American economy is like a muscle car, revving its engines and ready to go, but trapped at a government stoplight. Instead of getting out of the way, and letting the economy roar and speed back to life, the government would rather tax those cars to extinction and waste billions of dollars on high-speed trains that are a drag on the economy, not a driver.

Those who run businesses in America, and who don’t depend on huge government subsidies, just want to be left alone. They know where growth comes from. It’s not from Washington. The chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business, William Dunkelberg, put it clearly: small business owners in particular “do not trust the economic policies in place or proposed . . . The U.S. economy faces hurricane force headwinds and the government is at the center of the storm, making an economic recovery very difficult.”

Or as Ronald Reagan stated, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

So what can we do right now to take the shackles off the American economy? Let’s start with our tax system.

Taxation

The American tax system, both individual and corporate, is incomprehensibly complex and growing worse every day. As a simple measurement of this fact, it is worth noting that the number of pages of federal tax rules increased from an absurd 26,300 in 1984 to an astounding 71,684 in 2011. That’s thirty-five times longer than the King James Bible.1 And while the average corporate tax rate in the thirty largest industrialized countries has declined from 38 to 25.5 percent between 1992 and 2011, our comparable rate is now 39.2 percent.

Canada’s corporate tax rate is 16 percent. And its economy is doing better, its unemployment rate is lower, and its dollar is now worth more than ours—none of which was true just three years ago.2

At the individual level, few taxpayers are even capable of figuring out or filing their own income taxes. When America’s treasury secretary can’t even figure out how to file his own income taxes, as was revealed in January 2009, something is radically wrong.

Individual taxpayers spent an estimated 2.43 billion hours in 2010 complying with America’s income tax laws. That is an incredible amount of wasted productivity at the national level. According to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), “Using the most recently reported average employer cost for civilian workers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of $29.37 per hour, this time is worth an incredible $71.4 billion!”

And the cost is not just in lost productivity. It’s also money directly out of pocket for American taxpayers. Again, according to the NTU, “Individual taxpayers will spend a lot of money too: an estimated $31.5 billion this year [2010] for tax software, tax preparers, postage, and other out-of-pocket costs, according to the most recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulatory filing.”3

There are serious moral considerations with our tax system as well. Today, more than half of American households pay no income tax at all.4 That means there are now more takers in America than makers. Which means the majority of Americans now have a financial incentive to vote themselves more money (government handouts) by supporting wrongheaded government policies that punish the productive.

A family of four, with two children at home, that makes less than $50,000 a year contributes no income taxes to support such things as our national defense, our federal court system—or any other constitutional functions of the federal government. And of those who do pay income taxes, an astonishing number of them now work for the government. As reported in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, by Stephen Moore on April 1, 2011, “More Americans work for the government than in manufacturing, farming, fishing, forestry, mining and utilities combined,” which is “an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960.” These government employees (takers) have a personal stake in growing the size and scope of government (their employer), and these takers now outnumber America’s entire manufacturing industry (makers) by a factor of nearly two to one.

Today, a majority of Americans have no fiscal incentive to oppose income tax increases, because they don’t pay them, and an astonishing number of Americans now have a fiscal incentive to grow the size and scope of government, because government is either their employer or their benefactor through government handouts. Such a situation is dangerous and unsustainable, and it must be rectified.

It is time to begin the long fight to restore common sense to the tax codes of the nation, the states, and all the downstream municipalities. It is time to remove the complexity, lower the rates, and reverse a decades-long trend of crushing individuals and businesses under a tax code that destroys our productivity.

What Do the Tea Party Patriots Propose?

At the national level the most interesting debate is the one between a flat tax and a particular kind of national consumption tax called the fair tax.

From an economic perspective, there are many similarities between the fair tax and the flat tax. For example:

• Both the fair tax and the flat tax are effectively “consumption taxes.” In other words, people are taxed for spending money, not earning it. The flat tax would require citizens to file tax returns the way they do now—although the process would be much less complicated. But under the flat tax, people would only be taxed on the money they spend; that is, the amount they make, minus the amount they save. The fair tax is a retail sales tax that would rely on merchants to collect tax at the point of sale, as they now collect state and local sales taxes.
• Both plans would eliminate the death tax and taxes on capital gains.
• Both plans are single-tax-rate systems that eliminate multiple taxation.
• Both plans would dramatically reduce the time and money Americans spend complying with the current, complicated tax code.

Whether flat tax, fair tax, or some other system, we believe that any such system must tax consumption instead of production. It is a fundamental principle of economics that when you subsidize something you get more of it, and when you tax something, you get less of it. Currently, our national tax system taxes production in the form of income, and not consumption. As a result, we get less production—and less income. That is economic insanity. Punishing production gives us less production and producers. Producers generate jobs, investment capital, wealth, and prosperity. If anything, that is the behavior we should be promoting, not punishing, in our tax code.

Regulation

I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.
—Thomas Jefferson,
letter to William Ludlow, September 6, 1824

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow.
—James Madison,
Federalist 62, February 27, 1788

A 1996 report by the U.S. Joint Economic Committee noted that “regulations work like taxes. It makes no difference to the entrepreneur, or the economy, whether the entrepreneur must write a $5,000 check to the government for taxes or a $5,000 check to comply with a regulation. Forcing the entrepreneur to comply with regulations diverts resources to less-productive uses.” In short, regulations waste labor and capital.

Today, entrepreneurs are buried under a pile of regulations based on bills thousands of pages long, passed by a Congress that doesn’t bother to read them. And each page can lead to multiple regulations. Need a recent example?

Obamacare, the health-care reform passed against the public will, is a perfect example of government regulation run amok, regulating approximately one-sixth of our economy. And according to iU.S. News and World Report, the law is a massive regulation multiplier: “Section 3022 of the law, which is about the Medicare shared savings program, takes up just six pages in the 907-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But HHS has turned that into 429 pages of new regulations.”5

Six pages from a recent bill comprising 907 pages spawned 429 pages of new regulations that were not voted on by Congress. That is 71 pages of regulation for every page of law, written and implemented by unelected bureaucrats who have personal, financial incentives to grow the size and scope of government, and who are shielded in Washington, D.C., from the economic damage they unleash with their regulations in the rest of the country.

John Stossel of Fox News reported that the U.S. federal government issued over 70,000 pages of regulations in 2009 alone. Many of those regulations contain financial penalties, and some even provide for criminal penalties.

What is the true cost of all this regulation? Freedom and independence. The notion of taking care of ourselves, making our own decisions, and looking out for our own families is considered outdated by an arrogant central government. Those of us who are average Americans just want to be left alone, but the politicians have decided that we are incapable of looking after ourselves.

What Do the Tea Party Patriots Propose?

The Congressional Review Act

Right now, countless rules can be foisted upon America’s most productive citizens, by unelected government “czars” and unaccountable bureaucrats, with little or no oversight. Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), major rules must be submitted to both houses of Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) before they can take effect. The GAO defines a major rule as “one that has resulted in or is likely to result in (1) an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; (2) a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, federal, state, or local government agencies, or geographic regions; or (3) significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, or innovation, or on the ability of United States–based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and export markets.”

The Congressional Review Act is a potentially powerful tool to rein in out-of-control regulatory agencies. But Congress is unlikely to take this aggressive action without constant pressure from patriots across the country. It is far too easy for Congress to pass the laws, and for the bureaucracies to increase their numbers, power, and budgets, with a never-ending stream of restrictions. It is up to us to force Congress to use the CRA to prevent the imposition of regulatory tyranny.

Return the Government to the First Four Original Departments

Government has now grown far beyond anything ever imagined by the Founders in its intrusiveness, size, number of departments, and complexity. In 1789, the federal government consisted of only three cabinet-level departments: State, Treasury, and War (today called Defense). In addition, the chief legal authority under the executive branch was a cabinet member as of 1789, though the Department of Justice itself wasn’t established until 1870.

Today, there are fourteen cabinet-level departments, each of which has innumerable agencies, bureaus, programs, and administrators. The system has become a vast bureaucratic maze. Many Tea Partiers propose abolishing all cabinet-level departments of the U.S. government other than State, Treasury, Defense, and Justice. Such a reorganization would have to take place over several years but would dramatically reduce the federal government.

Our two prime targets for immediate elimination are the Departments of Energy and Education. These are two recently added departments, which have been dismal failures as we will demonstrate in the following pages. Doing away with them would save hundreds of billions of dollars and vastly improve the lives of the majority of American citizens.

The Department of Energy was created in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter after the first Middle East oil crisis. The majority of Americans still support Carter’s goal of energy independence, but the department he started has not done anything to achieve it. In the 1970s, 36.1 percent of America’s oil came from foreign sources. In the 1980s, after the Department of Energy was fully staffed, the percentage of American oil that came from foreign sources went up to 43.6 percent. In the 1990s, it went up to 49.8 percent. And by May 2011, that number was up to 61 percent.

What about oil prices? When the Department of Energy was created, oil cost $14.40 a barrel. It now regularly exceeds $100 a barrel. Even adjusted for inflation, oil is more than twice as expensive today as it was before we had a U.S. Department of Energy. While basic economics may suggest that the rise in the price of oil is a direct result of a reduction in supply, the amount of recoverable oil has actually increased in the past thirty years, due to advances in technology. In 1970, the world’s proven oil reserves were about 612 billion barrels. By 2006, we had already pumped more than that amount, and the proven reserves stood at more than a trillion barrels.6

As for encouraging domestic production, the department’s record is dismal, particularly if we hold it accountable for all the new experimental energy sources that have not yet been shown to work. But let’s just check in on the domestic energy source that has been proved successful: nuclear power.

Well before the Department of Energy was even established, construction had begun on the most recent American nuclear plant. Since then . . . nothing, although the department’s budget grew from $10.4 billion in 1977 to $26.4 billion in fiscal year 2010, with roughly a 76 percent increase in just the past decade—the same decade in which energy prices skyrocketed, and America became more dependent on foreign oil.

The government has had years to deliver . . . nothing. Worse, it has put America significantly farther behind than it was in 1977 and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars while those same taxpayers were paying more for energy. It is time to unleash the power of the free market, and the ingenuity and hard work of the American people, to get the job done.

Writing for the Heritage Foundation, Nicolas Loris, policy analyst at the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, states:

The reality is that when it comes to energy policy, the free market works. Indeed, the business environment for energy is robust despite seemingly endless forays by policymakers and bureaucrats into the energy industry. But those attempts to control energy markets do have an effect: They result in higher prices, fewer available energy sources, reduced competition, and stifled innovation . . .

By attempting to force government-developed technologies into the market, the government diminishes the role of the entrepreneur and crowds out private-sector investment . . . Thus, almost without exception, it fails in some way.7

Congress should immediately eliminate any Department of Energy function that does not support a critical national interest unmet by the private sector. This could very well result in the elimination of the entire department. Regulation of the nuclear industry and other areas of critical national interest could be handled by much smaller, more efficient, scaled-down entities.

The Department of Education is another example of bureaucracy gone mad. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, its original budget, in 1980, was $13.1 billion (adjusted for 2007 dollars) and it employed a mere 450 people. By 2000 the cost had increased to $34.1 billion, and by 2007 it was up to $73 billion. The president’s 2012 budget request for the Department of Education is $77.4 billion. The department’s staff is now approximately five thousand. So what have all these employees, and all this spending, given us in terms of results?

As the chart above clearly shows, despite spending more and more money, test scores have not improved. Clearly we cannot improve educational quality simply by increasing spending.

I hope it doesn’t have one.

—1981 note by Ronald Reagan in the margin of a letter from a congressman, asking for a meeting to discuss the future of the Department of Education

Tea Partiers understand that federal government involvement in education is more than a colossal waste; it is a damaging influence on generations of children. Chapter 6 of this book lays out a detailed accounting of what is wrong with America’s public education system, and chapter 7 contains our detailed analysis and recommendations on how to improve it.

But for the purposes of economic matters, the short answer is: disband the Department of Education and put that money toward actually educating our children, or, better, give it back to parents so they can choose the education options that are best for their children.

Monetary Policy

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a monied aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power (of money) should be taken away from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.
—Thomas Jefferson

Every effort has been made by the Fed to conceal its power but the truth is, the Fed has usurped the government. It controls everything here and it controls all our foreign relations. It makes and breaks governments at will.
—Congressman Louis T. McFadden, 1933, chairman, Banking and Currency Committee

Audit of the Federal Reserve

The U.S. Federal Reserve System (aka the Fed) describes itself as “the central bank of the United States” with a mandate to “provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system” and notes, in a flourish of understatement, “Over the years, its role in banking and the economy has expanded.”

Yes. It has.

Its duties today, according to its own documentation, are to regulate banking institutions, author and control the nation’s monetary policy, and create stability in the financial system. It also provides a variety of services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and a multitude of international entities.

Lately, the Fed’s main job has been to print money, which has debased U.S. currency, driven up inflation, and caused the world to seriously reconsider decoupling itself from the U.S. dollar. And the Fed has been doing all this beyond the reach of the people’s representatives. The Fed has consistently taken the position that it operates outside the supervisory purview of both the legislative and executive branches. However, its authority is granted by the U.S. Congress, and it is supposed to be subject to congressional oversight. But the Fed is strenuously resistant to an audit of its operations, stating that a true accounting would restrict its independence and autonomy.

Stated another way: the entity that controls our money supply, sets our interest rates, and creates inflation or deflation at its whim doesn’t even have to comply with the basic principles of accounting oversight that any company has to observe to be listed on a stock exchange. Most people find this fact stunning. And 75 percent of Americans, according to a 2009 Rasmussen poll, want the Fed audited. We, the Tea Party Patriots, agree with 75 percent of Americans: the time to audit the Fed is now.

Out-of-Control Spending

The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife.
—Thomas Jefferson,
letter to Spencer Roane, March 9, 1821

Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.
—Ronald Reagan

All levels of government have grown in size and scope. Even in the time of Thomas Jefferson, way back in 1821, people were concerned about national debt. And today we keep going deeper and deeper into a black hole of government debt.

The 2012 budget offered by President Obama in January 2011 showed a projected $1.6 trillion deficit for fiscal 2011. The current debt owed by the U.S. government is $14.7 trillion (but will be substantially more by the time this book is in print). That comes out to over $47,000 per citizen. That’s right, every child born in America today will face a $47,000 debt. And that’s just at the federal level. If you live in a fiscally irresponsible state like California or New Jersey, every baby will be burdened by another $10,000. For those children born in New York, add an extra $15,000. (If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the debt grow minute by minute at http://www.usdebtclock.org.) That is the gift our politicians are bequeathing to future generations.

So what can we do? The answer is simple. Stop overspending. We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem. Spending, whether politicians call it discretionary or mandatory, is really all discretionary. Every law can be repealed or amended, and every program can be revised or scrapped. The question is not really whether something can be done; the question is whether our politicians have the political will to act.

We have to accept some basic facts about America’s deficit before we can hold any reasonable discussion:

• The tax base is too small to solve the problem.
• Discretionary spending is too small to solve the problem.
• Mandatory entitlement programs are the real problem.

The scale of the problem can be assessed like this:

• Even if all discretionary spending were cut 50 percent, there would still be a $1-trillion deficit in 2011.
• Even if all current taxes were increased by 50 percent, there would still be a $1-trillion deficit in 2011.

When you examine both concepts, it becomes clear that “mandatory” programs are the real problem.

Some lawmakers want to raise individual income taxes on the “wealthy” to reduce the federal deficit. But aside from the fact that Tea Party members are almost universally opposed to tax increases, what would such an increase accomplish?

The projected federal deficit in the 2012 budget is $1.1 trillion. This is significantly lower than the deficit of 2011, which the 2012 budget estimates will wind up as $1.6 trillion. Let us assume that the progressive/liberal dream could be accomplished with a snap of the fingers, and income taxes on everyone doubled without affecting the economy. Even if the entire individual income tax were doubled, the projected deficit could not be bridged.

Obviously, the damage to the economy would be catastrophic. Consumer spending would plummet, businesses would collapse, unemployment would skyrocket, and the economy would plunge into chaos. Of course, assumptions about tax revenues would have to be revised, because so many people would be out of work. So if we can’t double everyone’s income taxes, how about just raising them on the rich?

If we use 2008 IRS data, this would roughly be the result: In 2008, the top 1 percent of all earners in America (those making more than about $380,000 a year) paid approximately 38 percent of all individual income taxes. This tax revenue to the federal government was $392 billion. So if taxes on these individuals were doubled, only $400 billion in new revenue might be raised. With a $1.6-trillion deficit, this is clearly not enough to solve the deficit problem, let alone pay off our existing debt.

When we take it down to the next level, the top 5 percent of all income earners (those making about $159,000 a year or more) are responsible for the payment of 59 percent of income taxes. This results in revenues of about $600 billion. Many of those people, while financially well off, certainly aren’t hugely wealthy. However, even if taxes on these “rich fat-cats” were doubled, an additional $600 billion could be raised. Still not enough to make a dent in that $1.6-trillion deficit.

Let’s take it down one more step. If taxes on the top 25 percent of all taxpayers were doubled, an additional $809 billion could be raised (assuming that it wouldn’t just crater the economy and destroy America’s tax base). Now we have to double income taxes on everyone earning over $67,000 per year. Ouch. That really hurts. And it still doesn’t cover the deficit. And because the top 25 percent of all taxpayers paid 86 percent of all income taxes, their income tax would result, more or less, in the same harmful impact as doubling taxes for everyone.

We could run through the same analysis for corporate

income taxes, but we would get the same results. No matter how much we tax, there is simply not enough revenue to cover the deficit or pay off our long-term debt. This leaves cutting government spending as the only way to control deficits.

Government Spending—Discretionary versus Mandatory

The biggest obstacle to reducing government spending is the fact that the majority of it goes to entitlement programs, where the spending is “mandated” by federal laws. If any citizen meets the appropriate set of criteria, the government must make the payments.

The biggest of these programs is Social Security, followed by Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare and Medicaid are quickly approaching bankruptcy, and Social Security is not far behind.

These entitlement programs must be reformed if we are to avoid fiscal calamity. For those not currently in these programs, and who have enough time to plan, we must reduce promised benefits and even eliminate some programs altogether. Younger people need to sacrifice more to make sure we honor the promises we as a nation have made to older people who are depending on us.

We, the coauthors of this book, travel around the nation and have the privilege of speaking with literally thousands of Tea Party Patriots. Sometimes we are at events with thousands of people, and sometimes just sitting around a table at a coffee shop. But wherever we go, we always talk to people about the issue of entitlement spending. We always ask if they are willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to save the nation. The answer is always a resounding yes.

Recently, we have been hearing more and more people suggest that maybe younger Americans should give up the thought of receiving anything from Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. Folks have suggested they would still be willing to pay into those systems to protect our current seniors and to save our country for our children and grandchildren.

This is the real spirit of the Tea Party. We can look out for ourselves and for each other. We don’t need or want the government to do it for us. We have seen where the “big government” approach takes us: impossible promises and a future mortgaged beyond the lifetimes of our children’s children.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it’s always right. The real solution is fiscal discipline and entitlement reform. The big question is whether the politicians have the will to put their careers on the line to get it done. In the next chapter we’ll talk about our broken political system and offer some Tea Party thoughts on how to fix it.


1 http://www.cato.org/research/fiscal_policy/facts/tax_charts.html.

2 http://www.cato.org/research/fiscal_policy/facts/images/tax-corp.gif.

3 http://www.ntu.org/ntu-pp-127-tax-complexity-2010.pdf.

4 http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/ranking/download/?id=9fe27e9f-a5e0-4010-8461-ffc00b5c00ef/.

5 http://www.usnews.com/news/washington-whispers/articles/2011/04/07/6-pages-of-obamacare-equals-429-pages-of-regulations.

6 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/20/AR2009112002619.html.

7 http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2011/04/Department-of-Energy-Spending-Cuts-A-Guide-to-Trimming-President-Obamas-2012-Budget-Request.


Copyright © 2012 by Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin

Excerpts

Chapter 3The Economic Pathway to Liberty

If industry and labor are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out.
—James Madison

As we look ahead and plan for the next forty years, we must never lose sight of the fact that America is a nation that was built on fundamentally correct principles. These principles have been proven to work in practice, and when they’re ignored, failure is the result.

Glenn C. Graber’scut-flower thesisof morality states that morality cannot endure when it is cut from its roots. So too will America’s prosperity wither when cut from the roots that nourish it. Not immediately, of course. As we all know, flowers look vibrant after they have been cut. But eventually, without the nourishment that comes through its roots, every cut flower will die.

In America today, the foundational roots of our economic prosperity are being cut by the very people who swore oaths to nurture and protect them.

Politicians think short term, like someone picking a flower to enjoy for the moment. We must think long term, like farmers who plan beyond the next harvest. For the long run, the only way to ensure economic growth is to study and guard the principles that have graced America with the greatest prosperity in world history. We must guard against those who work to destroy our economic roots, either intentionally or through well-intentioned ineptitude.

In the previous chapter we discussed the imminent economic challenges facing our nation. We saw that the greatest threats to our way of life come from our fellow Americans, from those who are elected to represent us.

Despite proclamations from politicians and the media on the left that America is in recovery and we can all relax, we in the Tea Party movement know the truth. The Great Recession is upon us. Things are bad, and they are not getting better. In fact, it appears they are getting worse.

What is holding America back? Why is its economy suffering? Why are so many people still unemployed? As of August 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 9.1 percent unemployment rate. That statistic does not include the underemployed and the hundreds of thousands of people who have simply lost hope and given up looking. In reality, almost one in five Americans who would like to work simply cannot find a good job. With unemployment historically averaging less than 6 percent, something is definitely wrong.

The government has pumped billions of dollars of “stimulus” spending into the economy, with President Obama promising that doing so would keep unemployment under 8.5 percent. And yet unemployment is still far higher, inflation is on the rise, food and fuel prices are skyrocketing, and it seems there is no end of trouble ahead for the average American family.

Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., is booming. As of summer 2011, the average sale price for a home in our nation’s capital was $415,000. This represented an increase of 7.8 percent, or $30,000, in just three months, and 18.6 percent compared to the prior year. Home prices have appreciated 3.8 percent over the last five years in Washington, D.C., while property values in the rest of the country have plummeted. While the center of government thrives, the rest of the nation is suffering. No surprise there.

So what must we do to return America to the free-market greatness that took us from the Jamestown settlement to the great pioneer migrations to the West, through the industrial revolution, to the moon, and now into the modern era of mobile communications and social media? We have to unlock the spirit of entrepreneurship that has always driven Americans to economic greatness. Men and women invest their time, their smarts, and their money into the economy—not to feed a bloated government or to “spread the wealth around”—because they are motivated by the desire for economic gain. They are motivated by the idea that, through their own hard work and ingenuity, they can improve their lot in life. They are motivated by the American dream. But that dream is now gasping for life in this country, and our government is largely to blame.

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
—Adam Smith

We need to get government off our backs and free the people to do what Americans do best: create wealth, jobs, and prosperity.

Historically, the government has been most involved in the American economy in four ways:

• Taxation
• Regulation
• Monetary policy
• Direct spending

Each of these is a lever used by politicians to control and manipulate what was intended by the Founders to operate as a primarily free economy based on private property rights. Yet each of these levers is now intended to replace the wisdom of the market with the wisdom of a “ruling elite” that believes it knows better.

The results speak for themselves. We could take this moment to remind everyone of the repeated and predictable failures of government intervention these past years. But instead, let’s ask the following questions. If Stimulus 1 was such a good idea, why did we need a Stimulus 2 or all those other rounds of stimulus under different names? If Quantitative Easing 1 (QE1) was such a good idea, then why QE2—or, even worse, a proposed QE3? If propping up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was the right thing to do, why did Fannie Mae report a net loss of $6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2011 and have to come back to the taxpayers for yet another multibillion-dollar bailout? Why are people’s homes still being foreclosed upon? Why is the housing market still in collapse? And where are all those jobs we were promised?

The onus is on government to prove the merits of its anticonstitutional, interventionist, never-worked-any-time-they’ve-ever-been-tried policies. We offer, as a counterpoint, the entire arc of American history, which proves that when we adhere to America’s free-market founding principles we succeed. Period. Workseverytime it is tried.

Right now, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Washington, D.C., and in departments of economics at universities around the country who are trying to come up with new programs to help the economy. They truly believe that getting our country back on its feet is a matter of developing a new government program, or figuring out which new infrastructure projects to spend your money on, or which new technologies to subsidize.

The truth is that the American economy is like a muscle car, revving its engines and ready to go, but trapped at a government stoplight. Instead of getting out of the way, and letting the economy roar and speed back to life, the government would rather tax those cars to extinction and waste billions of dollars on high-speed trains that are a drag on the economy, not a driver.

Those who run businesses in America, and who don’t depend on huge government subsidies, just want to be left alone. They know where growth comes from. It’s not from Washington. The chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business, William Dunkelberg, put it clearly: small business owners in particular “do not trust the economic policies in place or proposed . . . The U.S. economy faces hurricane force headwinds and the government is at the center of the storm, making an economic recovery very difficult.”

Or as Ronald Reagan stated, “Government is not the solution to our problem, governmentisthe problem.”

So what can we do right now to take the shackles off the American economy? Let’s start with our tax system.

Taxation

The American tax system, both individual and corporate, is incomprehensibly complex and growing worse every day. As a simple measurement of this fact, it is worth noting that the number of pages of federal tax rules increased from an absurd 26,300 in 1984 to an astounding 71,684 in 2011. That’s thirty-five times longer than the King James Bible.1 And while the average corporate tax rate in the thirty largest industrialized countries hasdeclinedfrom 38 to 25.5 percent between 1992 and 2011, our comparable rate is now 39.2 percent.

Canada’s corporate tax rate is 16 percent. And its economy is doing better, its unemployment rate is lower, and its dollar is now worth more than ours—none of which was true just three years ago.2

At the individual level, few taxpayers are even capable of figuring out or filing their own income taxes. When America’s treasury secretary can’t even figure out how to file his own income taxes, as was revealed in January 2009, something is radically wrong.

Individual taxpayers spent an estimated 2.43 billion hours in 2010 complying with America’s income tax laws. That is an incredible amount of wasted productivity at the national level. According to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), “Using the most recently reported average employer cost for civilian workers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of $29.37 per hour, this time is worth an incredible $71.4 billion!”

And the cost is not just in lost productivity. It’s also money directly out of pocket for American taxpayers. Again, according to the NTU, “Individual taxpayers will spend a lot of money too: an estimated $31.5 billion this year [2010] for tax software, tax preparers, postage, and other out-of-pocket costs, according to the most recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulatory filing.”3

There are serious moral considerations with our tax system as well. Today, more thanhalfof American households pay no income tax at all.4 That means there are now moretakersin America thanmakers. Which means the majority of Americans now have a financial incentive to vote themselves more money (government handouts) by supporting wrongheaded government policies that punish the productive.

A family of four, with two children at home, that makes less than $50,000 a year contributes no income taxes to support such things as our national defense, our federal court system—or any other constitutional functions of the federal government. And of those who do pay income taxes, an astonishing number of them now work for the government. As reported in an opinion piece in theWall Street Journal, by Stephen Moore on April 1, 2011, “More Americans work for the government than in manufacturing, farming, fishing, forestry, mining and utilities combined,” which is “an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960.” These government employees (takers) have a personal stake in growing the size and scope of government (their employer), and these takers now outnumber America’s entire manufacturing industry (makers) by a factor of nearly two to one.

Today, a majority of Americans have no fiscal incentive to oppose income tax increases, because they don’t pay them, and an astonishing number of Americans now have a fiscal incentive to grow the size and scope of government, because government is either their employer or their benefactor through government handouts. Such a situation is dangerous and unsustainable, and it must be rectified.

It is time to begin the long fight to restore common sense to the tax codes of the nation, the states, and all the downstream municipalities. It is time to remove the complexity, lower the rates, and reverse a decades-long trend of crushing individuals and businesses under a tax code that destroys our productivity.

What Do the Tea Party Patriots Propose?

At the national level the most interesting debate is the one between aflat taxand a particular kind of national consumption tax called thefair tax.

From an economic perspective, there are many similarities between the fair tax and the flat tax. For example:

• Both the fair tax and the flat tax are effectively “consumption taxes.” In other words, people are taxed for spending money, not earning it. The flat tax would require citizens to file tax returns the way they do now—although the process would be much less complicated. But under the flat tax, people would only be taxed on the money they spend; that is, the amount they make, minus the amount they save. The fair tax is a retail sales tax that would rely on merchants to collect tax at the point of sale, as they now collect state and local sales taxes.
• Both plans would eliminate the death tax and taxes on capital gains.
• Both plans are single-tax-rate systems that eliminate multiple taxation.
• Both plans would dramatically reduce the time and money Americans spend complying with the current, complicated tax code.

Whether flat tax, fair tax, or some other system, we believe that any such system must tax consumption instead of production. It is a fundamental principle of economics that when you subsidize something you get more of it, and when you tax something, you get less of it. Currently, our national tax system taxes production in the form of income, and not consumption. As a result, we get less production—and less income. That is economic insanity. Punishing production gives us less production and producers. Producers generate jobs, investment capital, wealth, and prosperity. If anything, that is the behavior we should be promoting, not punishing, in our tax code.

Regulation

I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.
—Thomas Jefferson,
letter to William Ludlow, September 6, 1824

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow.
—James Madison,
Federalist 62,February 27, 1788

A 1996 report by the U.S. Joint Economic Committee noted that “regulations work like taxes. It makes no difference to the entrepreneur, or the economy, whether the entrepreneur must write a $5,000 check to the government for taxes or a $5,000 check to comply with a regulation. Forcing the entrepreneur to comply with regulations diverts resources to less-productive uses.” In short, regulations waste labor and capital.

Today, entrepreneurs are buried under a pile of regulations based on bills thousands of pages long, passed by a Congress that doesn’t bother to read them. And each page can lead to multiple regulations. Need a recent example?

Obamacare, the health-care reform passed against the public will, is a perfect example of government regulation run amok, regulating approximately one-sixth of our economy. And according to iU.S. News and World Report, the law is a massive regulation multiplier: “Section 3022 of the law, which is about the Medicare shared savings program, takes up just six pages in the 907-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But HHS has turned that into 429 pages of new regulations.”5

Six pages from a recent bill comprising 907 pages spawned 429 pages of new regulations that were not voted on by Congress. That is 71 pages of regulation for every page of law, written and implemented by unelected bureaucrats who have personal, financial incentives to grow the size and scope of government, and who are shielded in Washington, D.C., from the economic damage they unleash with their regulations in the rest of the country.

John Stossel of Fox News reported that the U.S. federal government issued over 70,000 pages of regulations in 2009 alone. Many of those regulations contain financial penalties, and some even provide for criminal penalties.

What is the true cost of all this regulation? Freedom and independence. The notion of taking care of ourselves, making our own decisions, and looking out for our own families is considered outdated by an arrogant central government. Those of us who are average Americans just want to be left alone, but the politicians have decided that we are incapable of looking after ourselves.

What Do the Tea Party Patriots Propose?

The Congressional Review Act

Right now, countless rules can be foisted upon America’s most productive citizens, by unelected government “czars” and unaccountable bureaucrats, with little or no oversight. Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), major rules must be submitted to both houses of Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) before they can take effect. The GAO defines amajor ruleas “one that has resulted in or is likely to result in (1) an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; (2) a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, federal, state, or local government agencies, or geographic regions; or (3) significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, or innovation, or on the ability of United States–based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and export markets.”

The Congressional Review Act is a potentially powerful tool to rein in out-of-control regulatory agencies. But Congress is unlikely to take this aggressive action without constant pressure from patriots across the country. It is far too easy for Congress to pass the laws, and for the bureaucracies to increase their numbers, power, and budgets, with a never-ending stream of restrictions. It is up to us to force Congress to use the CRA to prevent the imposition of regulatory tyranny.

Return the Government to the First Four Original Departments

Government has now grown far beyond anything ever imagined by the Founders in its intrusiveness, size, number of departments, and complexity. In 1789, the federal government consisted of only three cabinet-level departments: State, Treasury, and War (today called Defense). In addition, the chief legal authority under the executive branch was a cabinet member as of 1789, though the Department of Justice itself wasn’t established until 1870.

Today, there are fourteen cabinet-level departments, each of which has innumerable agencies, bureaus, programs, and administrators. The system has become a vast bureaucratic maze. Many Tea Partiers propose abolishingallcabinet-level departments of the U.S. government other than State, Treasury, Defense, and Justice. Such a reorganization would have to take place over several years but would dramatically reduce the federal government.

Our two prime targets for immediate elimination are the Departments of Energy and Education. These are two recently added departments, which have been dismal failures as we will demonstrate in the following pages. Doing away with them would save hundreds of billions of dollars and vastly improve the lives of the majority of American citizens.

The Department of Energy was created in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter after the first Middle East oil crisis. The majority of Americans still support Carter’s goal of energy independence, but the department he started has not done anything to achieve it. In the 1970s, 36.1 percent of America’s oil came from foreign sources. In the 1980s, after the Department of Energy was fully staffed, the percentage of American oil that came from foreign sources went up to 43.6 percent. In the 1990s, it went up to 49.8 percent. And by May 2011, that number was up to 61 percent.

What about oil prices? When the Department of Energy was created, oil cost $14.40 a barrel. It now regularly exceeds $100 a barrel. Even adjusted for inflation, oil is more than twice as expensive today as it was before we had a U.S. Department of Energy. While basic economics may suggest that the rise in the price of oil is a direct result of a reduction in supply, the amount of recoverable oil has actuallyincreasedin the past thirty years, due to advances in technology. In 1970, the world’s proven oil reserves were about 612 billion barrels. By 2006, we had already pumped more than that amount, and the proven reserves stood at more than a trillion barrels.6

As for encouraging domestic production, the department’s record is dismal, particularly if we hold it accountable for all the new experimental energy sources that have not yet been shown to work. But let’s just check in on the domestic energy source that has been proved successful: nuclear power.

Well before the Department of Energy was even established, construction had begun on the most recent American nuclear plant. Since then . . . nothing, although the department’s budget grew from $10.4 billion in 1977 to $26.4 billion in fiscal year 2010, with roughly a 76 percent increase in just the past decade—the same decade in which energy prices skyrocketed, and America became more dependent on foreign oil.

The government has had years to deliver . . . nothing. Worse, it has put America significantly farther behind than it was in 1977 and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars while those same taxpayers were paying more for energy. It is time to unleash the power of the free market, and the ingenuity and hard work of the American people, to get the job done.

Writing for the Heritage Foundation, Nicolas Loris, policy analyst at the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, states:

The reality is that when it comes to energy policy, the free market works. Indeed, the business environment for energy is robust despite seemingly endless forays by policymakers and bureaucrats into the energy industry. But those attempts to control energy markets do have an effect: They result in higher prices, fewer available energy sources, reduced competition, and stifled innovation . . .

By attempting to force government-developed technologies into the market, the government diminishes the role of the entrepreneur and crowds out private-sector investment . . . Thus, almost without exception, it fails in some way.7

Congress should immediately eliminate any Department of Energy function that does not support a critical national interest unmet by the private sector. This could very well result in the elimination of the entire department. Regulation of the nuclear industry and other areas of critical national interest could be handled by much smaller, more efficient, scaled-down entities.

The Department of Education is another example of bureaucracy gone mad. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, its original budget, in 1980, was $13.1 billion (adjusted for 2007 dollars) and it employed a mere 450 people. By 2000 the cost had increased to $34.1 billion, and by 2007 it was up to $73 billion. The president’s 2012 budget request for the Department of Education is $77.4 billion. The department’s staff is now approximately five thousand. So what have all these employees, and all this spending, given us in terms of results?

As the chart above clearly shows, despite spending more and more money, test scores have not improved. Clearly we cannot improve educational quality simply by increasing spending.

I hope it doesn’t have one.

—1981 note by Ronald Reagan in the margin of a letter from a congressman, asking for a meeting to discuss the future of the Department of Education

Tea Partiers understand that federal government involvement in education is more than a colossal waste; it is a damaging influence on generations of children. Chapter 6 of this book lays out a detailed accounting of what is wrong with America’s public education system, and chapter 7 contains our detailed analysis and recommendations on how to improve it.

But for the purposes of economic matters, the short answer is: disband the Department of Education and put that money toward actually educating our children, or, better, give it back to parents so they can choose the education options that are best for their children.

Monetary Policy

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a monied aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power (of money) should be taken away from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.
—Thomas Jefferson

Every effort has been made by the Fed to conceal its power but the truth is, the Fed has usurped the government. It controls everything here and it controls all our foreign relations. It makes and breaks governments at will.
—Congressman Louis T. McFadden, 1933, chairman, Banking and Currency Committee

Audit of the Federal Reserve

The U.S. Federal Reserve System (akathe Fed) describes itself as “the central bank of the United States” with a mandate to “provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system” and notes, in a flourish of understatement, “Over the years, its role in banking and the economy has expanded.”

Yes. It has.

Its duties today, according to its own documentation, are to regulate banking institutions, author and control the nation’s monetary policy, and create stability in the financial system. It also provides a variety of services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and a multitude of international entities.

Lately, the Fed’s main job has been to print money, which has debased U.S. currency, driven up inflation, and caused the world to seriously reconsider decoupling itself from the U.S. dollar. And the Fed has been doing all this beyond the reach of the people’s representatives. The Fed has consistently taken the position that it operates outside the supervisory purview of both the legislative and executive branches. However, its authority is granted by the U.S. Congress, and it is supposed to be subject to congressional oversight. But the Fed is strenuously resistant to an audit of its operations, stating that a true accounting would restrict its independence and autonomy.

Stated another way: the entity that controls our money supply, sets our interest rates, and creates inflation or deflation at its whim doesn’t even have to comply with the basic principles of accounting oversight that any company has to observe to be listed on a stock exchange. Most people find this fact stunning. And 75 percent of Americans, according to a 2009 Rasmussen poll, want the Fed audited. We, the Tea Party Patriots, agree with 75 percent of Americans: the time to audit the Fed is now.

Out-of-Control Spending

The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife.
—Thomas Jefferson,
letter to Spencer Roane, March 9, 1821

Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.
—Ronald Reagan

All levels of government have grown in size and scope. Even in the time of Thomas Jefferson, way back in 1821, people were concerned about national debt. And today we keep going deeper and deeper into a black hole of government debt.

The 2012 budget offered by President Obama in January 2011 showed a projected $1.6 trillion deficit for fiscal 2011. The current debt owed by the U.S. government is $14.7 trillion (but will be substantially more by the time this book is in print). That comes out to over $47,000 per citizen. That’s right, every child born in America today will face a $47,000 debt. And that’s just at the federal level. If you live in a fiscally irresponsible state like California or New Jersey, every baby will be burdened by another $10,000. For those children born in New York, add an extra $15,000. (If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the debt grow minute by minute at http://www.usdebtclock.org.) That is the gift our politicians are bequeathing to future generations.

So what can we do? The answer is simple. Stop overspending. We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem. Spending, whether politicians call itdiscretionaryormandatory, is reallyalldiscretionary. Every law can be repealed or amended, and every program can be revised or scrapped. The question is not really whether something can be done; the question is whether our politicians have the political will to act.

We have to accept some basic facts about America’s deficit before we can hold any reasonable discussion:

• The tax base is too small to solve the problem.
• Discretionary spending is too small to solve the problem.
• Mandatory entitlement programs are therealproblem.

The scale of the problem can be assessed like this:

• Even ifalldiscretionary spending were cut 50 percent, there would still be a $1-trillion deficit in 2011.
• Even ifallcurrent taxes were increased by 50 percent, there would still be a $1-trillion deficit in 2011.

When you examine both concepts, it becomes clear that “mandatory” programs are the real problem.

Some lawmakers want to raise individual income taxes on the “wealthy” to reduce the federal deficit. But aside from the fact that Tea Party members are almost universally opposed to tax increases, what would such an increase accomplish?

The projected federal deficit in the 2012 budget is $1.1 trillion. This is significantly lower than the deficit of 2011, which the 2012 budget estimates will wind up as $1.6 trillion. Let us assume that the progressive/liberal dream could be accomplished with a snap of the fingers, and income taxes on everyone doubled without affecting the economy. Even if the entire individual income tax were doubled, the projected deficit could not be bridged.

Obviously, the damage to the economy would be catastrophic. Consumer spending would plummet, businesses would collapse, unemployment would skyrocket, and the economy would plunge into chaos. Of course, assumptions about tax revenues would have to be revised, because so many people would be out of work. So if we can’t double everyone’s income taxes, how about just raising them on the rich?

If we use 2008 IRS data, this would roughly be the result: In 2008, the top 1 percent of all earners in America (those making more than about $380,000 a year) paid approximately 38 percent of all individual income taxes. This tax revenue to the federal government was $392 billion. So if taxes on these individuals were doubled, only $400 billion in new revenue might be raised. With a $1.6-trillion deficit, this is clearly not enough to solve the deficit problem, let alone pay off our existing debt.

When we take it down to the next level, the top 5 percent of all income earners (those making about $159,000 a year or more) are responsible for the payment of 59 percent of income taxes. This results in revenues of about $600 billion. Many of those people, while financially well off, certainly aren’t hugely wealthy. However, even if taxes on these “rich fat-cats” were doubled, an additional $600 billion could be raised. Still not enough to make a dent in that $1.6-trillion deficit.

Let’s take it down one more step. If taxes on the top 25 percent of all taxpayers were doubled, an additional $809 billion could be raised (assuming that it wouldn’t just crater the economy and destroy America’s tax base). Now we have to double income taxes on everyone earning over $67,000 per year. Ouch. That really hurts. And itstilldoesn’t cover the deficit. And because the top 25 percent of all taxpayers paid 86 percent of all income taxes, their income tax would result, more or less, in the same harmful impact as doubling taxes for everyone.

We could run through the same analysis for corporate

income taxes, but we would get the same results. No matter how much we tax, there is simply not enough revenue to cover the deficit or pay off our long-term debt. This leaves cutting government spending as the only way to control deficits.

Government Spending—Discretionary versus Mandatory

The biggest obstacle to reducing government spending is the fact that the majority of it goes to entitlement programs, where the spending is “mandated” by federal laws. If any citizen meets the appropriate set of criteria, the government must make the payments.

The biggest of these programs is Social Security, followed by Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare and Medicaid are quickly approaching bankruptcy, and Social Security is not far behind.

These entitlement programs must be reformed if we are to avoid fiscal calamity. For those not currently in these programs, and who have enough time to plan, we must reduce promised benefits and even eliminate some programs altogether. Younger people need to sacrifice more to make sure we honor the promises we as a nation have made to older people who are depending on us.

We, the coauthors of this book, travel around the nation and have the privilege of speaking with literally thousands of Tea Party Patriots. Sometimes we are at events with thousands of people, and sometimes just sitting around a table at a coffee shop. But wherever we go, we always talk to people about the issue of entitlement spending. We always ask if they are willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to save the nation. The answer is always a resounding yes.

Recently, we have been hearing more and more people suggest that maybe younger Americans should give up the thought of receivinganythingfrom Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. Folks have suggested they would still be willing to pay into those systems to protect our current seniors and to save our country for our children and grandchildren.

This is the real spirit of the Tea Party. We can look out for ourselves and for each other. We don’t need or want the government to do it for us. We have seen where the “big government” approach takes us: impossible promises and a future mortgaged beyond the lifetimes of our children’s children.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it’s always right. The real solution is fiscal discipline and entitlement reform. The big question is whether the politicians have the will to put their careers on the line to get it done. In the next chapter we’ll talk about our broken political system and offer some Tea Party thoughts on how to fix it.


1 http://www.cato.org/research/fiscal_policy/facts/tax_charts.html.

2 http://www.cato.org/research/fiscal_policy/facts/images/tax-corp.gif.

3 http://www.ntu.org/ntu-pp-127-tax-complexity-2010.pdf.

4 http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/ranking/download/?id=9fe27e9f-a5e0-4010-8461-ffc00b5c00ef/.

5 http://www.usnews.com/news/washington-whispers/articles/2011/04/07/6-pages-of-obamacare-equals-429-pages-of-regulations.

6 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/20/AR2009112002619.html.

7 http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2011/04/Department-of-Energy-Spending-Cuts-A-Guide-to-Trimming-President-Obamas-2012-Budget-Request.


Copyright © 2012 by Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin



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