Last Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people left the comfort of their homes to come to Washington to make a statement to their elected representatives:
“We want you to shrink the size of our bloated government. We don’t want it increased, not for health care, the environment, education, art, farmers, saving the children, world peace or a thousand and one other excuses politicians have used over the last century to increase the size of the federal government to the point that it has crippled the free market and the ability of taxpayers to provide for themselves.
“In other words, we want you to do less, not more!”
Spending money is the road of least resistance in Washington. It is well-traveled. The people who assembled over the weekend came from all parts of the country, from many different backgrounds and political persuasions to put up this warning for those who blindly follow the political herd down this well-beaten path: “Use extreme caution: Travel at your own risk.”
My favorite sign read, “Go Green! Recycle Congress!”
The big question for the Tea Party participants is this. Can you deliver on this threat?
In order for Washington to do less, you have to do more. It’s that simple.
The Republican Party sees the tea party moment as a way to make big gains in 2010. But this is not about the Republican Party. After 40 years in the congressional wilderness, Republicans were swept into power in 1994. In a few years – a very few – they were spending like Democrats.
The price of liberty really is eternal vigilance. No political party will save you. You must save yourself. You can no longer afford to vote and then hit the snooze button for the next two years. You must stay engaged. You must hold those you elect to represent you, whether Democrat or Republican, accountable.
Every tea party participant must know the spending record of their congressman and senators. It’s not difficult. The nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union issues a report card each and every year.
Every tea party participant should know if their congressman and senators have signed the “No-Earmark” pledge. Earmarks, commonly referred to as “pork,” are appropriations lawmakers slip into the federal budget in the dead of night. Each year, Citizens Against Government Waste issues a report on these earmarks called “The Congressional Pig Book.”
Lawmakers argue that pork is difficult to define. Not so! CAGW has developed the following seven criteria:
- Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
- Not specifically authorized;
- Not competitively awarded;
- Not requested by the president;
- Greatly exceeds the president’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
- Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
- Serves only a local or special interest.
Some of these projects can mean big bucks for a hometown project that citizens will enjoy. Here’s the important thing to remember: It makes no sense to send a taxpayer dollar to Washington and have our lawmakers horse trade with one another in order to get back 50 cents. Those taxpayer dollars would be better off staying at home. Local citizens can then prioritize and fund their own projects.
Earmarks must stop if we are to get the federal budget under control!
Most lawmakers talk about being fiscally conservative, but they don’t walk the walk. If your congressman and senators are not “keepers” – and most aren’t – find someone in your local area to run against them in the primary election. If you wait until the general election, it is too late. Most people line up behind a party at that point and vote for the lessor of the two evils. That is not good enough.
Remember. Every congressman and one-third of all senators must stand for re-election in 2010.
Your candidate doesn’t have to be a career politician, but he or she should be someone who knows and understands the issues and what is at stake. A local businessman, physician or talk-show host would be an ideal candidate. When your candidate is identified, organize your tea party members to recruit everyone in their circles of influence to work on behalf of this candidate. And, here’s the really important parts, begin financially supporting that candidate now. Write a monthly check and encourage others to do the same.
We have a great country. It’s worth saving, but, in order to get the government to do less, you must be willing to do more.