Conservatives Push Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.

As Democrats proposed a massive new tax increase in Congress last week, fiscally conservative lawmakers and their allies answered with their own legislation: the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.”

At a Capitol Hill press conference and rally Wednesday, March 21, I joined about a dozen U.S. representatives who are members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC). The RSC is the force behind the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and other limited-government ideas in Congress.

Legislative Entrepreneurs

As former House majority leader, I am especially proud to support the next generation of young legislators at the RSC fighting to defend our freedoms. I call them “legislative entrepreneurs” because they need to be ambitious, risk-taking and creative in order to advance our agenda in a hostile Congress.

Two busloads of FreedomWorks members from North Carolina also made the trip and were on Capitol Hill to cheer on the champions of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Every day, the typical congressman hears from lobbyists and special interests demanding more spending, so it is pretty special when ordinary Americans show up on Capitol Hill holding signs that read, “We Want Less.”

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights consists of four principles designed to give working, taxpaying Americans some protection from the big spenders in Washington, D.C. These four planks are:

  1. Adopt limits or caps to slow spending growth. As Rep. John Campbell (R.-Calif.), one of the architects of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights explained, “Congress should have constraints on spending so Americans have more freedom.” For the last few years, Congress and the Bush Administration have been borrowing and spending money at an unsustainable pace. Congress should adopt a basic principle that the government should live within its means, and growth in spending should be restricted to population growth and inflation.
  2. Stop the raid on Social Security. As most people know, every year Congress spends workers’ Social Security payroll taxes on other programs. Stopping that budget raid will be the first step toward allowing workers to keep their payroll taxes in personal retirement accounts that they own and control.
  3. Sunset the entire federal tax code. America’s federal tax code is too complicated, wasteful and corrupt. It is time to scrap the code altogether. By killing the current tax code by a date certain, we will force Congress to finally get moving to pass fundamental tax reform that makes the system more simple, honest, fair and flat.
  4. A balanced budget without raising taxes. As Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R.-Tenn.) said on Wednesday, “The federal government doesn’t have a tax revenue problem, it has a spending problem.” Congress needs to balance the budget through spending restraint, not higher taxes, as some Democrats are proposing.

While there is not a lot of hope that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) will give the Taxpayer Bill of Rights a vote in the House, our allies in the U.S. Senate such as Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) will be able to use Senate rules to force votes on different pieces of this agenda.

More importantly, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights is a good new rallying point for the conservative movement. Like the “Contract with America” in 1994, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights is a big idea that can help reenergize our cause in the wake of the policy failures of the past Congresses and the results of the 2006 midterm elections.

FreedomWorks is urging all candidates for President to publicly support the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In addition, a number of influential organizations such as Citizens Against Government Waste, the Club for Growth, the American Conservative Union, the Heritage Foundation and the National Taxpayers Union also attended the press conference and pledged to help build support for the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

As freshman Rep. Jim Jordan (R.-Ohio) said Wednesday: “Yes, this is going to be difficult to pass. But nothing of meaning and significance is ever easy … it always takes time and effort and work.”

Rep. Jordan is exactly right, and this week, the hard work of passing the Taxpayer Bill of Rights began.