It’s the Tax Payers versus the Tax Eaters

Prompted by a recent conversation with friends I dug into the off-line archives to find the following article that originally posted September 16, 2002. In light of the events in Madison, Wisconsin, and two years into the tea party phenomenon, the information in it is still relevant.

Wanted: Lobbyists.

Do you know where your state tax dollars are going? If you’re interested, take a look at the 800-page outline of the FY03 budget at the State of Illinois website.

Some might argue that you’d be better off picking up Tom Clancy’s latest 800-page novel. At least then you can look forward to a happy ending.

Skimming through the state’s “budget book” is a sad reminder of how far we’ve come since the Boston Tea Party.

For those of you who went to public schools and may not have heard of it, the Boston Tea Party was a fine example of early American lobbying. In response to Britain giving the East India Company what amounted to a monopoly in the tea market, a small group of people dressed up as Mohawk Indians demonstrated their disapproval by dumping a boatload of tea into Boston Harbor.

Today we seem to put up with much worse from government – especially when it comes to record levels of taxation to cover excessive government spending. Forget the cliché “waste, fraud, and abuse.” The issue is fat — plain old unnecessary spending — and lots of it.

For more depressing reading, check out the website of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been chronicling the 50 states’ spending sprees.

The news isn’t any better at the federal level. A recent Heritage Foundation study found that the growth in federal spending has totaled more than $5,000 per household over the last four years — and only a small percentage of that is related to the war on terror.

Don’t think for a minute that it’s easy to find good examples of government fat. Professional bureaucrats spend a lot of time and energy making sure it sounds as if every tax dollar is accomplishing the equivalent of world peace.

I’ve worked in and have been around legislative offices from Washington, D.C. to those scattered around Illinois, and from my experience the vast majority of the voices heard by legislators are pro-government spending interests. And it’s important to note that the biggest business and biggest special interest is the government bureaucracy itself.

Is it any wonder government spending is out of control?

The problem is one of process. Forget the notion that our elected officials represent us, because they don’t. They represent their own views that too often just reflect how they’ve been lobbied and who has contributed to their campaigns.

What’s needed is for elected officials to start hearing from lobbyists in the form of angry taxpayers who will argue for less spending, not more.

If you are the head of a business or other organization, you need to be a regular fixture on the schedule of every elected official that’s on your ballot. If you are an individual, put together a group of like-minded taxpayers and regularly meet with your legislators face to face.

Effective lobbyists know that influencing decisions involves providing not just good information, but also critical financial support for the campaigns of like-minded candidates and office holders.

It’s time for the hardworking Americans who are paying for all that government spending to begin their own lobbying effort. The message of these lobbyists is simple: government that governs best governs least.

In recent decades, government has been doing things far worse than giving a tea company an advantage over its competitors. Our forbearers showed us the value of lobbying. It’s time for taxpayers to express their disapproval, don the Mohawk garb, and head for the harbor.