and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
May #2

Activist warns of cost of government intrusion
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, May 15, 2008

As a taxpayer activist and longtime friend of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, I have a standing invitation to attend what has been called the most important meeting in Washington the monthly Wednesday meetings of conservative Capitol Hill aides and center-right "Leave Us Alone Coalition" representatives held in Grover's offices.

I don't get to Washington much and have attended only one Wednesday meeting. But that's OK. Grover has organized monthly meetings of the coalition in 44 states as well, and Citizens for Limited Taxation's associate director, Chip Faulkner, runs one of the largest of them for Massachusetts leave-us-aloners. Here we meet on a Friday, in what is named the Friday Morning Group. Invited organization leaders/members and independent activists get together for two hours to hear one main speaker and to keep each other informed about issues. Staffers of supportive legislators are also invited.

In general, the center-right coalition is made up of taxpayer groups, small businesses, supporters of the Second Amendment, home-schoolers, property rights activists, communities of faith and activists for parental rights. We do not always agree on specific issues, but we share a conviction that government should leave us alone as long as we leave other people alone, except to defend ourselves.

Our common opponents are what Grover calls the "Takings Coalition" statist politicians, labor union leaders, trial lawyers, and many recipients of government grants that wants to substitute its intrusive laws for our freedom to do what we want, then make us fund its agenda through our taxes. We are, most of us, gentle revolutionaries; and despite the differences on some social issues, we get along well.

There is general agreement on tax limitation, since our taxes are what fund the various government activities of which our various groups disapprove.

Sixty-three of us attended the May Friday Morning Group meeting at which Grover spoke about his new book, "Leave us Alone." His first book, "Rock the House," was about the Gingrich Revolution of 1994, which he helped orchestrate. This year he is working to rock the national election to begin the restoration of the Reagan Revolution. And in this weird election climate, who knows what will happen in November?

Revolution is always a matter of timing, and here in Massachusetts, both Ronald Reagan and Proposition 2 won in 1980. This year John McCain could win, and Carla Howell, who also addressed the meeting, is getting her second round of signatures now to place her income tax-repeal initiative on the ballot.

During his presentation, Grover was asked about John McCain, with whom some leave-us-aloners are uncomfortable. He praised the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican presidential candidate for his consistent opposition to Washington's spending excesses, including a courageous opposition to ethanol subsidies.

He identified the Barack Obama campaign as a simple, feel-good fantasy about an unknown candidate. Whimsically, he explained an evolving voter attitude:

In the beginning, Grover said, many voters wanted to show they were "post-racial" and therefore "good people" by liking Obama But this changed with the San Francisco speech about bitter, religious gun lovers. Clearly, Grover asserted, "if he (Obama) doesn't like you, you can now safely say, 'Well, I don't like you either" and proceed to investigate his experience for the job and his position on the issues.

When I asked about the trade deficit with China, Grover made his ongoing point about issues that move voters by not answering my question. People talk about many issues, and get worked up about some of them, he explained, but in the end they vote on only a few that are very important to them like taxes, guns, and the direct economy.

The other issues, he reminds us, should not divide our coalition; if we are lucky enough to live in an initiative-petition state like Massachusetts, we can put those other issues on the ballot and let voters address them directly. Of course, we can put the voter-important issues on the ballot too.

When Grover was executive director of the National Taxpayers Union, he got his organization to pay for Chip Faulkner's position as CLT field director during the Proposition 2 campaign. Now Americans for Tax Reform contributes to the taxpayer battle in this state and keeps us in touch with other taxpayer groups.

Many copies of "Leave Us Alone" were sold after the meeting. The final chapter lists "The Five Great Reforms" required to advance, or return to, freedom and personal responsibility in America. They are:

1.)  Make all pensions individually owned and portable;

2.)  Make health insurance individually owned and control costs through competition;

3.)  Give parents real choice in education;

4.)  Competitive sourcing; no government monopolies; and

5.)  Transparency putting all government spending and contracts online for voters to see.

Not so coincidentally, all these reforms would need to be addressed here if the income tax repeal passes; and in fact, transparency is a major issue in Carla Howell's campaign. Voters who want to make informed decisions this fall at both the state and national levels should read "Leave Us Alone" this summer, and decide if they want to become part of a new American revolution instead of sorry enablers of the government status quo.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.