Just this week, Senators McConnell, Hutchison, and Shelby — the latter two of which have long histories as serial appropriators — agreed to support a ban on earmarks. This was exciting news and a key insight into the power of the grassroots. It is true that earmarks comprise a small, even miniscule, percentage of government spending, but they are a flashpoint in the debate about spending and a top issue for the Tea Party and other grassroots activists.
Critics, of course, like to say that the Tea Party only reflect the views of a minority of Americans; that the vast majority of people are far more “moderate” than the Tea Party about spending and the role of government. But data from The Polling Company reveals that 53% of actual voters agree that earmarks should be banned in the next Congress. Among self-identified independents, the numbers are even more significant: 73% want to end earmarking.
To see these senators, along with Democrats Claire McCaskill and Mark Udall, support the elimination of pork projects highlights the power of these numbers. Thanks to the formidable impact of the Tea Party movement, and Liberty Central’s role in bridging the conservative establishment to the grassroots, Americans can finally be hopeful that the fresh faces in Congress will bring about a new brand of “change.”
Change that brings tangible economic growth and holds lawmakers more accountable to the American people.
However, the fight is far from over. In the lame duck session this week, and again after Thanksgiving, the nearly 100 retiring or defeated incumbent representatives and the 16 retiring or defeated incumbent senators — the “Zombie Congress” — will return to debate a number of issues with absolutely zero accountability to the American people. Even though the lame duck Congress should only vote on extending the current tax rates and approving minimal spending to prevent a government shutdown, congressional leaders are threatening to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (“a job-killing, trial lawyers bonanza act” in the words of former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao), raise tax rates for some Americans, pass another $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, and offer more than 2 million illegal aliens amnesty through the Dream Act.
Given Congress’s repeated refusal to listen to the American people over the past two years, there’s little reason to doubt that these “zombie” lawmakers will be exceedingly reckless with our taxpayer dollars as they scramble to curry favor with lobbying firms, the White House, and leftist think tanks.
Of the issues mentioned above, the primary debate during the lame duck session is sure to be about extending the current tax rates. The typical family of four will see their paychecks shrink by nearly $200 a month — more than $2,000 a year — starting January 1 unless Congress extends the current tax rates. To most Americans, losing $200 per month means having to make even tougher choices. Summer camp, piano lessons, gymnastics, and family vacations may be sidelined.
While the president’s top advisor recently indicated that he may compromise with Republicans and temporarily extend the tax rates through next year, there are still members of Congress, “zombies,” who remain convinced that raising taxes during a recession is a prudent way to shrink the deficit.
Liberty Central encourages grassroots activists to remain on alert, not only about the potential tax hikes, but also about the way in which the Paycheck Fairness Act will actually discourage employers from hiring women, the risks of granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, and the danger of passing a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill.
We are heartened that real “change” may be coming in January, but we must first stop the outgoing members of Congress from moving forward with a dangerous lame duck agenda. These votes are of equal consequence for all of us.
Sarah Field is the Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of Liberty Central, Inc., a non-profit organization whose primary objective is to harness the power of citizen voices, inform everyday Americans with knowledge, and activate them to preserve liberty.