Response to Walter Williams’s article
Walter Williams’s recent essay on the FairTax proposal concedes it would be good for the nation and individual taxpayers and that the current tax system is an abomination. At that point, however, he throws in the towel because changing from the income tax system requires Congress to give up its favorite money and power game -- manipulation of the tax code. He wrongly concludes that beating Congress's self-interest is simply impossible.
Thank goodness that the Continental army of George Washington was not entirely made up of "sunshine patriots" who insisted that winning the Revolutionary War could only be accomplished if the task were easy. No doubt about it, forcing Congress to embrace a tax system that eliminates lobbyists' ability to broker tax breaks and Congress's ability to grant such favors is a tall task but as long as this is still a government "of, by, and for the people," we must not conclude that changes in public policy that benefit the nation but shortchange Members of Congress cannot be achieved.
How many issues over the history of the country have been considered "impossible" because the political climate did not favor such reforms? Because our Founding Fathers knew that no government of any design stays true to the will and best interests of the people, the architects of our government built in the ability to petition our government for a redress of grievances -- and to defeat those who stop representing us. Medicare was enacted over the objections of the American Medical Association and the objections of the then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Wilbur Mills, because millions of senior citizens changed the "political reality" through old-fashioned letter writing, town hall meetings, and constant hectoring of their elected officials. The same thing can happen with the FairTax.
More recently, the Congress, led by the two committees Mr. Williams rightly assumes are so powerful, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, enacted the "Catastrophic Health Care Act" in 1988 with the support of AARP and nary a dissenting vote in either the House or the Senate. A strong grassroots objection to this new "seniors-only tax" for marginal health care benefits, however, resulted in overwhelming repeal of the law a year later because seniors avalanched Congress with a mountain of handwritten letters. Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski was even caught on national television being chased from a senior center by a mob of angry retired constituents after he tried to ignore the sentiment of his own district's elderly constituents. Within a few months both Senator Lloyd Bentsen, then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and Rep. Rostenkowski had to admit that they had made a political error and the legislation was overwhelmingly repealed.
Either because so many Americans have concluded that public policy cannot be driven by the public or because too few Americans are familiar with the FairTax, such public pressure on Congress has not yet materialized. To concede before that public pressure is brought to bear that strong public sentiment will necessarily be ignored by our government is a self-fulfilling prophecy that retards progress on the issue and sadly defines our great experiment in democracy as a failure. We reject that conclusion because the merits of the FairTax are so apparent, the flaws of the current tax system are so universally acknowledged, and, perhaps most importantly, because we believe in our democratic process.
We at FairTax.org are more determined than ever to enact the FairTax with a nonpartisan majority. In fact, in these times of such severe polarization of the body politic, we believe that this is the issue that can unite the left, center, and right against the self-dealing of Congress. To Mr. Williams, whom we respect, we ask him to believe in our form of government, to accept that something as worthwhile as the FairTax is never easy, and that we all have a lot of work ahead of us. It's worth believing in. In the leap of faith that we can accomplish what Mr. Williams sees as impossible, we take the first step to changing the "political reality" that has stymied every effort to date to fix the broken tax system that is so destructive to our nation.
For the national FairTax campaign, "sunshine patriots" need not apply. For those who still believe in the promise made by our Founding Fathers of a nation of citizens who are only governed by "consent of the governed," however, we are ready to enlist you in our citizen army at FairTax.org. We have a grievance and we are petitioning our goverment for redress.
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