So, the Tea Party Congress is seated and the “revolution” is underway. After voting to repeal Obamacare, a largely symbolic gesture that has no hope of passing in the Senate or overturning a presidential veto, the new Congress has outlined its plan to attack the federal deficit. The result: A proposal to cut $100 billion in “non-defense discretionary spending.” While that may sound like a lot of money to someone who hasn’t taken a gander at the federal budget in about 50 years, it amounts to a little under seven percent of this year’s deficit.
That’s right. Seven percent of the deficit, not the budget. In other words, the tea parties, the stormy town hall meetings, the supposed “mandate from the people” to cut the size and scope of the federal government will result in the government spending $1,380 billion more than it collects in taxes this year instead of $1,480 billion more. Worse yet, the same people who “stormed the Bastille” and threw the former bums out will defend this proposal with half-hearted panaceas like “you have to start somewhere.”
However, if history has taught us anything, it is that this isn’t “just the beginning,” with more substantial cuts to follow. This will be the high water mark as far as reduction in government spending is concerned. We should expect that by the time that this proposal goes through the process of back room deals and compromises with special interest-motivated committee members, that the $100 billion number will be reduced by at least half, perhaps more. They may even end up increasing federal spending. Would anyone honestly be surprised?
It has been obvious for at least a century that “throwing the bums out” doesn’t make a lick of difference in the behavior of our elected officials. Now we know that staging protests, waving signs, raising a ruckus at town hall meetings, and then throwing the bums out doesn’t make a difference either. Clearly, it is time to stop doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
The nullification movement has been decried by the left as right wing extremism at its most dangerous, despite the fact that it was conceived and introduced by Thomas Jefferson, the father of the Democratic Party. However, I have a proposal that I believe both conservative and liberal Americans would find very reasonable. There is a way to use the idea of state interposition to force the Congress to at least listen to its constituents. Let’s put the idea of interposition together with another of Jefferson’s ideas, drafted by him in a resolution of the Continental Congress in 1775 in response to Lord North’s Conciliatory Proposal.
“That this privilege of giving or of withholding our monies is an important barrier against the undue exertion of prerogative, which if left altogether without our control may be excercised to our great oppression; and all history shews how efficacious is its intercession for redress of greivances and reestablishment of rights, and how improvident it would be to part with so powerful a mediator.”
Let me be clear. As opposed as I am to all taxation, I am not suggesting that one dollar be cut from the existing tax schedule for 2011. What I am suggesting is that the people exercise their right to withhold their taxes until the Congress does what the people have clearly mandated them to do – balance the budget. A seven percent cut in the deficit just isn’t enough and we are running out of time. We can argue later about the role of government and the wars in the Middle East and Social Security and the rest. Right now we have to take away this Congress’ ability to borrow any more money or we’re going to be in the same boat as Greece.
I am not calling upon people to exercise civil disobedience or rebel. The stakes are high in either of those endeavors and we have other options. I am calling upon people to utilize their state legislatures to support them in withholding their taxes until a balanced budget is passed by Congress. As much as I’d personally like to see them withhold their tax money permanently, they would then release the funds to the federal government.
This would be accomplished in the same way as several other recent nullification/interposition efforts. The state legislatures would pass a law indicating that no person or business in their state could be prosecuted or fined by the federal government for failing to file an income tax return or failing to pay their quarterly payroll tax deposits, so long as said filings and payments were made within sixty days of the Congress passing a balanced federal budget. For those who still trust the people less than they do the government, a stipulation could be added that the funds go into escrow and be audited by the states, if necessary.
This would accomplish two things. First, it would reestablish exactly who works for who in this relationship. Obviously, elections have failed to do that. More importantly, it would work. The blind fear that would grip our legislators when they realize that the party is really over would at least scare them sober enough to balance what would still be an over $2 trillion budget. While it wouldn’t solve our long-term problems, that truly would be a start.
Bloated governments are imploding all over the world and ours is poised to do likewise for all of the same reasons. Now that we have seen what “extremism” really looks like in Greece, Egypt, and Tunisia, this proposal should strike any rational person as reasonable and moderate. We do not need a rebellion or violence to balance the federal budget – just a little adult supervision.
© Thomas Mullen 2011