A few days before Thanksgiving the Treasury Secretary gave an assessment of what he believed should be done about our increasingly problematic debt. Instead of the responses we are used to, raising taxes or cutting spending, he believed that we should eliminate the debt ceiling altogether. Over its nearly one hundred year history the debt ceiling has shown itself to be more than flexible, after all the original 1919 ceiling was a mere $43 billion. As out debt shoots past $16 trillion it is faulty to pretend that our ceiling is protective in any way. But as porous as it is, it does serve a vital purpose.
For it to be raised it must be passed by Congress. This provides an opportunity for public debate and for the public to be informed, such as they wish to be. We have seen our government given extraordinary powers far beyond the enumerated limitations of the Constitution, but now we see the desire for the removal of any sort of accountability. As temporary as our debt limit seems to be, it at least provides parameters for a discussion and a legal limit to the expenditures of Congress. Without it, there is zero incentive for fiscal responsibility. To pretend otherwise it to be ignorant of current events. We have seen the unprecedented downgrade of our credit, which raising the debt ceiling was supposed to avoid, followed by consistent yearly $1 trillion+ deficits. Our leadership is more interested in politics than economics.
The FairTax plays into this discussion very well. It acts as a check on the unimpeded binge of government spending by placing, not the Congress but, the people front and center in the tax and spending debates. If we pay taxes on what we purchase, then we cannot avoid the reality of taxes that persist around us today. If we have a truly equitable tax structure that treats people of all income levels fairly then we do not have to worry about the division of class warfare obfuscating the debate. We can demand responsible stewardship of our tax money with a stringent refusal to accept constant tax increases to pay for irresponsible spending. Far too often Congress forgets that the money it is spending belongs to other people. We have been conditioned under this system to believe that the government has a right to remove funds from our paycheck before we even see it. It is a violation of the right to private property that has long been held as the bulwark of liberty.
When we have our next tax debate, and one is coming, we need to do our best to make sure the FairTax is featured prominently. The debate as it currently stands only offers two real options. Raise taxes or not to raise taxes. Several prominent Republicans seem to be overcome with these options and are now breaking or say that they could break pledges signed many years ago. Whether or not this is a good idea, it is always a bad thing to see politicians pushed into the corner so that they feel they must break promises they have made to constituents. That is a situation in which the people lose, not the politicians. By making the FairTax a visible alternative, some of these elected leaders could still keep their promises and change the tax system that removes the need for such pledges.
We cannot expect however, that the FairTax will rise to national prominence on merit alone. We cannot sit back and expect that leap forward to come from politicians either. Even our most dedicated sponsors in the House and Senate should not be expected to do this on their own. It is not our job to watch from afar and criticize them; it is incumbent upon us to help them.
We have to recognize that there is more than just a status-quo. A government policy, once enacted, sets us on a path. It is not a stationary beast. It grows and changes along with the times. We are now set upon a path toward a more complicated tax code that seeks to direct our behavior in ways not seen before. Unchecked, our current setting will lead us farther away from the goals surrounding the FairTax. Both parties are focused on a course directed more by politics then economic or constituent interests. With a government centered focus in the current tax debates it only stands to reason that the will or wishes of the people will continue to be lacking from the discussion and thus the outcome. That means that the only way we will be able to alter the course of the political debate, and our destiny, is to insert ourselves into the discussion. That will require our dedicated action. Our history began with individuals rising the people into action. Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer that set American minds ablaze with thoughts of freedom. General Washington was a seasoned and pragmatic leader whose bravery inspired a populace to fight. We had a Continental Congress full of leaders willing to lay their lives on the line for an idea they believed in. In the great struggles that mark our history books there is always a group of activists dedicated to an idea. Our cause is no different in its revolutionary outlook and our prospects have never looked better. People are looking for leadership on the tax debate. From Democrats they are hearing higher taxes and class warfare, the Republicans are giving them broken promises. Bureaucrats are wishing for spending without consequence and a government accountable to no one. Now is the time to move our idea into the national spotlight. Now is the time to act.