I received an e-mail invitation in August from
Americans for Tax
Reform (ATR) in Washington, DC. They were announcing an Annual
Coalition Leaders Summit in Miami Beach for mid-October. Would I be
interested in attending with all expenses paid? I certainly would.
I’ve been a guest of ATR at several conferences over the past 15
years. I’m invited because I host a monthly meeting of conservative
activists called the “Friday Morning Group” (FMG) here in
Massachusetts, one of 55 center-right groups meeting periodically
throughout the country. They are patterned after the Wednesday
morning meetings that
Norquist, president of ATR, hosts in Washington, DC.
These annual conferences typically draw around 35-40 activists, who
have been running groups from Maine to Hawaii. I was pleasantly
surprised to learn that my FMG meeting is the longest running of all
55 groups — our FMG started in December of 2001. My group has met
every single month since then, with one exception for a snowstorm.
In second place starting in April of 2002 is the meeting hosted by
Mary Adams — Maine’s version of the late Barbara Anderson. The
governor of the state,
Gov. Paul LePage, attends most of their meetings.
One great aspect of these annual gatherings is networking with
leaders from Texas, Alabama, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Alaska, etc.
and finding out what‘s going on in their states.
There were several panel discussions scheduled over 2½ days on a
variety of topics. One was called: “Corrections and Sentencing
Reform: Saving Taxpayers Money and Reducing Crime through Smarter
Investments.” Points being made in this session: Too many people are
incarcerated for minor crimes; expanded drug courts, community
treatment, and other alternatives dramatically reduce the number of
prisoners behind bars. Grover Norquist mentioned in a recent
Wall Street Journal column that Texas has avoided $3 billion in
new spending and has closed four prisons with four more planned
Crime has dropped to levels not seen since the ‘60s. As Grover has
said repeatedly, conservatives can effectively lead the charge on
these reforms. If the liberals tried to do them, everyone would just
accuse them of being soft on crime.
Another panel I found interesting was entitled: “The Co-opting of
the Right: Emerging Threats to Energy Consumers.” This discussion
centered on the dangers of a carbon tax. One panelist showed that
carbon taxes are imposed on over 80% of the energy we use. Also
carbon taxes were depicted as a poor way to stimulate the economy,
reduce the cost of production, and make poor people spend a greater
proportion of their household budget on energy than the rich.
Grover Norquist put it all in a nutshell: “The creation of any new
tax such as a VAT or energy tax — even if originally passed with
offsetting tax reductions elsewhere — would inevitably lead to
higher taxes as two taxes would be at the disposal of politicians to
increase. Two smaller tapeworms are not an improvement over one big
tapeworm. Tapeworms and taxes grow.
A session called “Improving Access to Health Care through
Telemedicine” discussed a procedure that allows people to take an
eye test in their own home with the use of a computer and smart
The Wednesday luncheon featured
Governor Rick Scott (R-Fla.) who began his speech by
proclaiming: “Move here and spend all your money.” Gov. Scott told
the group that almost 1,000 people a day move to Florida; there is
no income tax, while 25% of Florida’s sales tax is paid by tourists.
His was a very upbeat message despite the recent hurricanes which
Florida handled well, according to the Governor. What impressed me
the most about his appearance was his staying around and chatting
with attendees for at least half an hour after his speech. Much
better than politicians who give a talk then quickly head for the
exit surrounded by aides.
It was well worth the trip, met a lot of like-minded tax-fighters —
and CLT and I didn’t spend a dime.