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Guest Post from Congressman John Linder 22 January, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Economic Policy, Election 2008, Fair Tax.

By John Linder

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives 34 years ago. I have watched this party change for a long time. Some changes have been better than others.

Two years after that first election, I went to work on the Reagan campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. I was one of the leaders of that campaign in Georgia, and my friend, Paul Coverdell, led the establishment’s efforts to nominate President Ford.

It was the typical establishment-versus-interloper campaign. Most of the friends I had made in the party were in the establishment. Most of them thought the nomination of Ronald Reagan was not only impractical, but would destroy our party.

Reagan had just served two terms as the governor of California. His record was not all that conservative. He signed the biggest tax increase in the history of the state. He got the best he could get with a Democrat-dominated general assembly. He signed a bill legalizing abortion. But governors have different challenges than presidents.

Frankly, most of the establishment couldn’t have cared less about abortion. They thought the discussion of it was, well, tacky. But we were, at the time, the party that Barry built, and the new foot soldiers cared about abortion.

Their concern with Reagan was that he just wasn’t up to it. What did he know about foreign policy? How could he stand up to the Soviets? Did he understand detente?

During that campaign, as in all campaigns, the establishment sat at the head table, and the rest of us milled around the small round tables below.

Coverdell approached me, after Ford had won the first several primaries, and urged me to switch sides. Paul was convinced that Ford had the best chance of winning. Paul recited all of the reservations mentioned above and then said, “John, Reagan cannot win. No one will take him seriously.” That was also the consensus of the Republican writers and commentators.

I said, “Paul, I think politics is all about what you believe. I know what Reagan believes. I have no idea what Ford believes. But you need to watch Reagan connect with the people. He is the best communicator I have ever seen. He is bringing new people into the party. And these are folks you won’t be meeting at the club for lunch. They carry a lunch bucket to work.
Or a brown paper bag.”

Four years later, I worked again for Reagan and Paul worked for George H. W. Bush. Again, the Wall Street crowd sat at the head table, and the Main Street crowd sat at the small round tables on the floor.

The same arguments came from the establishment. His tax cut idea was a “riverboat gamble.” In fact, his tax cuts doubled the size of the economy and doubled revenues to the treasury. Unfortunately, they spent that and more.

Reagan didn’t understand that the world is a dangerous place and dealing with the Soviets required a more “understanding” policy. It also required a willingness to sign more treaties. They didn’t know that Reagan had no interest in understanding the Soviets. He wanted communism consigned to “the ash heap of history.”

It was a neverending series of put-downs until New Hampshire. Then it was over.

Reagan won that election with the support of Larry Lunch-bucket and Betty Brownbag. They were called the Reagan Democrats. When we celebrated that victory, I asked some of them why they chose to join us. They said, “When he talked, we felt that he was talking to us.” The Reagan Democrats believe they have been ignored since 1988.

The establishment doesn’t like change. They have always felt that their seats at the head table were threatened by those new to the club. The establishment that so ardently opposed Reagan’s nomination in 1980 crawled all over each other to chair his 1984 race.

Today they now see themselves as those who put Reagan in power. His presidency was their presidency. They believe they are the keepers of the flame.

Today’s establishment includes elected officials, consultants, lobbyists and even conservative writers and commentators. Unless you allow them to write the rules and approve of your positions you are unwelcome. Anyone who does not genuflect before their altar is “not conservative.”

When you look at the many fine candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president, who do you believe can best speak to those Reagan Democrats?

I believe that candidate is Mike Huckabee.

When Reagan became president, one of his first moves was to reduce income taxes from 70 percent to 50 percent and ultimately down to 28 percent. As pointed out above, both the size of the economy and the federal revenues doubled in eight years.

Huckabee doesn’t want to lower income taxes. He wants to abolish them -along with the IRS, the most intrusive, coercive and corrosive federal agency ever. Mike would replace those taxes on income with a sales tax – the FairTax. Every American will become a voluntary taxpayer paying taxes when you choose, as much as you choose, by how you choose to spend. How conservative can one get?

Rep. John Linder, R-Duluth, has served in the House of Representatives since 1992.



1. CodeRoutes - 13 February, 2008

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2. Michael Kontras - 11 June, 2009

With all due respect Congressman, I couldn’t disagree more, and I voted for Reagan.

Unlike what you have written here, with no documentation to support your “facts,” my recent post dispells much of what you are stating, with documentation.


And THANK GOD Mike Huckabee is not a viable candidate for President in 2012 or later. He would put our country back in the dark ages.


Michael Kontras

3. david anderson - 12 June, 2009

A lot of economists and the plurality of the public disagree with you Mr. Kontras.https://stoptaxing.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/80-influencial-economists-sign-endorsement-of-the-fair-tax/

4. Michael Kontras - 12 June, 2009

This idea is an example of EXACTLY why Republicans lost the last two elections. Unless the party starts to think progressively instead of regressively, it will be in the wilderness for quite some time.

The idea that somehow eliminating taxes will address this country’s challenges is how we got in this mess. The wealthy DO NOT invest in the middle class, they invest in themselves. The money DOES NOT trickle down. None of these ideas help to lift up the less fortunate, the severely ill or the elderly. The last 30 years has made that obvious to the majority of Americans.

As I said earlier, I voted for Reagan, but knowing what I know now, I would never vote for those ideas again. If you want my vote, come up with some new concepts and get rid of these antiquated tax ideas that only serve the top 2% of the income earners in this country. Get past the stale thinking; let go of the cultural issues like abortion, gay marriage and guns; denounce Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Savage, Beck, Gingrich, Cheney and the rest, and show us that you mean business.

There’s plenty of talent in the party. Shut down the NOISE machines and go after that talent. The results might surprise you.


Michael Kontras

5. David Anderson - 13 June, 2009

Following your advise would insure the party fails with all do respect. Why should the party jetison the very ideas that people agree with it on? Now the FAIR Tax is not regressive unlike the Democrats proposed VAT. Study the FAIR tax proposal not some other national sales tax. It has a prebate component.

It is not a Republican proposal. It is a bipartisan proposal. The concept also has the support of more people than the income tax and the public would support it replacing the income tax.

“let go of the cultural issues like abortion, gay marriage and guns,” once again the public agrees with the Republicans on all three. Many Democrats are moving to the right on these issues. If the GOP left these issues, it would leave 70% of its own party behind and the majority of the voting public. Not to mention abortion is killing, gay marriage is an abomination, and gun snatching is unconstitutional. The merits of the issues as well as the politics favor the GOP position. Far from winning, the GOP would just have a Canadian style Progressive Conservative meltdown. The party went from ruling with over 200 seats to 2 seats in one election on such advise. A new upstart reform party became the opposition and now rules as the Conservative Party. No party can jettison its base. It is like cutting out your vital organs and wondering why it is getting dark.

The Republican party already has half of what it needs to start winning— a fresh start apart from the Bush Whitehouse. The other half is something that you hit upon. “Come up with some new concepts and get rid of … that only serve the top 2% of the income earners in this country”. The GOP does need new concepts. The solutions of the 1990’s worked. We reformed welfare. We eliminated the marriage penalty. We balanced the budget—we can try that one again. We did a lot of good. We lived off those laurels for a decade. It is time to tackle today’s problems. The pressure on the middle class, the pressure of health care costs, the decline of our manufacturing sector beyond normal market reordering, the manipulation of energy by OPEC, sensible private sector job creation, and many other issues.

I will be highlighting some good ideas in the very near future. Look out for them soon.

6. Michael Kontras - 13 June, 2009

First, let me thank you for the dialogue. This is useful debate, which is a rare occurrence on a blog.

On Abortion: No one WANTS abortion as a part of our American culture. We do however, as American s, with the freedom of choice that we enjoy in some many other aspects of our lives, want THIS choice as well. This is where the separation of church and state must occur. As Christians, we value every life, and therefore should do everything we can to reduce abortions in this country – through our communities and our churches. But as a society, we should never go back to criminalizing this procedure. The risk to the mother is too great. This should remain an individual’s (specifically, a woman’s) decision. If we want to reduce abortion, let’s fund programs that lift up the less fortunate, give them access to good public education and healthcare, thereby creating opportunities that will increase their chances of achieving the American Dream. That is the route that will reduce abortions. In addition, find ways to make adoption easier and affordable (or free), so we have a better chance of keeping the child from being aborted. If a mother feels her child will receive good prenatal care and be placed in a good home after it is born, she’s more likely to carry to term. These decisions are difficult enough without the government imposing its will.

On Gay Marriage: As much as some may not like the idea, this is being identified as a civil rights issue. Again, as Christians, many of us choose to be against the concept of same-sex marriages. That is the freedom of choice we enjoy in this country. As a society, we must adhere to the rule of law, which differs from religious teachings, nearly all the time. If courts in different states find this to be a civil rights issue and vote to allow gay marriage on that basis, then we, as Christians, must abide by the court’s ruling. It doesn’t mean we agree with it. If Christians want to present a different argument to the court, that’s fine. But religious arguments opposing secular law don’t bode well in our courts.

On Guns: No one in a government leadership role wants to take the lawful ownership of guns away from our citizens. This is a FEAR-BASED issue drummed up by the NRA and pushed by politicians who are supported by that organization. Both of us know that. There has been decades of congressional majorities by both parties over the last half-century and no one has lost their gun-ownership rights. Do the laws need to be adjusted for the 21st Century? You bet they do. The “slippery-slope” fear rhetoric is losing ground every time someone opens fire in a school, a post office, a restaurant or a museum. We first need to enforce, with far more diligence, the laws that are already on the books and then go a step further by creating additional legislation that helps to better protect citizens while keeping the 2nd Amendment intact. If there is the political will, it can be done. The NRA needs to get over it. They are NOT helping the situation, they are inflaming it.

The point I did not make so well is that conversations around these issues will not move the party forward. Clinging to the far-right portion of the base, and letting it be the voice of the party, i.e. Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. only makes the party look dated and out of touch. When I said “let go” I meant move the rhetoric away from these issues. Keep them in the platform, just don’t make a big deal out them. The minute you bring them into the conversation, you are looking behind, not ahead. The traditional Evangelical movement is still going to vote Republican, whether these issues are front and center or not. What you risk losing is the youth (those under 30) in that movement. They have moved passed these issues and are taking the movement in the direction of Jesus’ teachings such as finding ways to help the least among us. They’ve heard all the arguments on the cultural issues and have already made up their minds.

As for the tax proposal, there is SO MUCH that it does not address when it comes to real fairness for the middle class. Taxes are not the central issue – employment is. As long as we continue to allow corporations to hide profits and move manufacturing overseas, we will never be able to build the middle class this country so desperately needs. De-regulation has hurt us. Free trade is fine, as long as it’s FAIR and well regulated trade, so that OUR country and its citizens aren’t reduced to third-world nation status in individual income. We need to re-build Main Street. If we do that, Wall Street will do just fine – like it did in the 1990s.

An across-the-board sales tax on someone with low income or no employment is punishment. Saying that this tax is somehow revenue-neutral sounds like another term for drastically reducing government spending on programs that the millions in this country rely on, such as public education, vocational rehabilitation, drug abuse clinics, battered women’s shelters, affordable child-care, and on and on. Again, this is not the way to go if you want to attract people back to the Republican party.

I agree the tax code is a mess. Simplification is absolutely warranted. But campaigning on this idea, and thinking that it will get the attention of the millions of people that have drifted away from the party, will not work. The minute you start talking about taxes, you will lose them, again. Regardless of the details in the proposal, it will be perceived as another way of stating the same thing: Tax-cuts for the wealthy.

A leader that can deliver a message he or she truly believes needs to emerge with new ideas that have clarity when spoken. Taxes are complicated. Jobs aren’t. Cultural issues are complicated. Education isn’t. See what I mean? Focus on those things that affect peoples’ lives EVERY day, not once a month, or once a year. Everyone expects to pay taxes. Changing the tax structure, while well-intentioned, will not make a person re-think voting for a Republican. In their minds, they’ve heard it all before.

Come up with something they haven’t heard. The Democrats don’t have all the answers, for sure! Truth-be-known, no party does. But when I see John Boehner walk out to the podium and spew blather that is nothing more than obstructionist rhetoric, it does not entice me to vote Republican. Short of a major catastrophe by the Democrats, I don’t know how Republicans get back into the game quickly.

So take the time to do it right.

We need two strong parties in Washington.


Michael Kontras

7. Sammy Sullivan - 30 June, 2009

Kewl site man…

keep up the good work man…….

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