Congress returned to "work" this week (now there's a laugh) to complete its lame-duck session before taking another holiday. Spending other people's money is a taxing experience.
Their task is to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a geological construct of their own making. It doesn't take a genius to predict both parties will try to do two things: (1) reach an agreement that will allow each side to take some credit and (2) require those who work for a living to pay government more while they come up with phony or inconsequential spending "cuts."
Whatever they do, payroll taxes are going up Jan. 1 and new taxes associated with Obamacare will soon follow. It is beyond argument that additional revenue isn't the solution to the problem of uncontrolled spending.
According to usgovernmentrevenue.com, writer Christopher Chantrill's "resource on government taxes and receipts in the United States," "Total revenue at all levels of government in the United States is 'guesstimated' to be $5.5 trillion in 2013." Unfortunately, our projected debt will be $17.5 trillion. Absent reforms, the U.S. Senate Budget Committee predicts the federal government could be $20 trillion in debt by 2016. Clearly, it's not lack of revenue that is driving the debt; it is lack of spending restraint.
How much more should we subsidize government irresponsibility? If the answer is "not another dime," perhaps the time has come for a taxpayer revolt.
In 1978, the late Howard Jarvis and his wife led a successful drive to put Proposition 13 on the California ballot. The measure, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters, limited rapidly rising property taxes. According to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association website, Proposition 13 "has saved Californians $400 billion and allowed millions of Californians to keep their homes."
What is needed is a leader with the determination of Howard Jarvis who can organize nationally to keep government from constantly pilfering the assets of the productive so politicians can subsidize the unproductive, buy their votes and addict them to entitlements.
As long as taxpayers continue to acquiesce to the politicians in their never-ending search for more revenue, they will keep taking it, all the while attacking "millionaires and billionaires" for not paying their "fair share."
Perhaps the revolt can start with the so-called "rich," those making more than $250,000 a year. That has always been an arbitrary figure applied to all, regardless of their personal circumstances. Suppose people who are able decided to limit their income to $249,999.99 in 2013? If they make a lot more than that, they could consult their tax adviser about legally placing the excess in tax-free municipal bonds or other tax shelters, depriving the government beast its sustenance.
The tax system in this country is based on willful compliance. It wouldn't take many "I'm as mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore" taxpayers to creatively, but legally, withhold from the government some of the money they earn.
Members of both parties are guilty of not reforming entitlements and failing to put the people first. Their intransigence is robbing future generations of their right to economic independence and economic growth.
America was birthed during a tax revolt. Expecting politicians to fix a problem of their own making rarely succeeds. Maybe it's time to force the issue by having taxpayers go on strike. It sometimes works for labor unions. Giving more money to the government hoping it will responsibly spend it is like offering a child chocolate and expecting him not to eat it.
Yes, it sounds impractical, and some will say it isn't doable. But what other avenues are open to wealth creators? The government has become an enormous panhandler, constantly asking for ever-greater amounts of other people's money. Let's tell them "no more" at least until we see real spending reform and policies that result in economic growth, which by itself would produce more tax revenue.
Absent members of Congress acting responsibly, does anyone have a better idea? If so, send it to me. I eagerly await all legal and credible suggestions.
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at email@example.com.