If there is a Party of No, it’s not the tea party.
A week from today, Tax Day, tea partiers will again stage rallies nationwide to protest overgrown government. Last year’s huge April 15 crowds and the momentum they kept up established the loosely organized groups as a political fixture.
But tea partiers next week won’t simply tell Washington what not to do. They’ll present an affirmative plan: a 10-point Contract From America.
This platform has been months, scores of ideas and hundreds of thousands of online votes in the making. Candidates who want tea party support will commit to the ideas chosen from 21 finalists.
There are many good policies among those 21, but a shorter list is wise. In that spirit, here are five of the planks I support.
Note that I intentionally excluded constitutional amendments from my list. A two-thirds vote is required in both the U.S. House and Senate for a potential amendment to be sent to the states for approval. I think such a majority is unlikely in the next two years.
That’s also why I’ve left out the option for market-based health reform. Repealing the newly passed health law and replacing it with a better one is a worthy idea, but it’s not going to happen while Barack Obama is president. I’m going with ideas that are doable, and soon:
1. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform. Other items would keep the Bush tax cuts in place and require a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. I’d rather overhaul the tax code entirely.
This idea calls for adopting “a fair and simple single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words — the length of the original Constitution.”
A single rate — aka the flat tax — would stop the progressive code’s punishment of success. The word limit is key, too: It would slash special-interest carve-outs and loopholes, which reward lobbying power and create inefficiencies.
2. End Runaway Government Spending. This plank would limit spending increases to the rates of inflation and population growth, or roughly 5 percent to 6 percent a year.
History shows that federal revenues are consistently around 18 percent of the economy. Unchecked spending, by both major parties, is what creates budget deficits.
3. Let Us Save. Americans below a certain age (not specified on the Web site) should be able to opt out of most or all Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, taking responsibility for their own retirements. We could even change the programs to require an opt-in.
Some conservatives, most recently Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), propose ways to limit the risk Americans can take with this former entitlement money, perhaps by offering us the same investment options that federal workers have now.
4. Restore Fiscal Responsibility and Constitutionally Limited Government. This one would create a task force to audit federal agencies and programs, “assessing their constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states.”
I’ve advocated a similar plan for state government, HB 236. What’s sauce for the gander …
5. Sunset Regulations and Enact Fundamental Regulatory Reform. Too many obsolete laws linger on the books, part of a federal code that adds tens of thousands of pages each year. It’s impossible to know and comply with in full.
Mandating a periodic review of regulations will cull harmful or ineffective ones, and keep lawmakers and bureaucrats from passing new regs just to justify their existence.
Never let it be said that the tea partiers only oppose ideas. Their detractors now face the challenge of creating a better plan for moving forward.