That’s what politicians do. It’s how things get done. Nobody gets a whole loaf. There’s got to be something in it for everybody. Putting together a compromise is building a majority, or, in the case of Article V, a bipartisan supermajority.
The Internal Revenue Service is, deservedly, roundly despised by most Americans. It’s almost like a rogue agency. The Internal Revenue Code is a national disgrace, and our greatest obstacle to the economic growth we need. As society we’re aging, and old people need to be taken care of. Most of them haven’t saved very much. To get the revenue necessary to take care of them we need a booming economy. What’s to be done? Replace the Code with another source of revenue to the federal government. Is bipartisan agreement possible on a replacement? Not in Washington. Washington is broken. Congress, as an institution, is dysfunctional.
Enter Article V. If there were a second Amendment Convention, the delegates from the 50 states could hammer out a compromise. I don’t know what would be in it. There will be a lot of competing proposals — flat tax, fair tax, consumption tax, another Simpson-Bowles, you name it. I have a few ideas myself, which I would want to argue for. But going in, there’s no preordained template. The charge to the Convention, contained in the call, is to reform the federal tax system. Delegations from 26 states would have to agree on something. You have to get some Democrats to go along. This can’t be partisan. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown of California, when he ran for President the second time, in 1992, endorsed a flat tax. So you can get some Democrats to sign on. Whatever the product is, it would have to be preferable, to the voters of 38 states, to what we have now. This can be done. I’ve gotten to know a fair number of legislative leaders from all around the country. These are very capable, and patriotic, men and women. They’re politicians. They know how to compromise.
Art Laffer, Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore have formed the Committee to Unleash Prosperity. I’m going to suggest to them that they start promoting the use of Article V in their cause. Resolved, that an Amendment Convention be called for the sole and exclusive purpose of proposing an Amendment to reform the tax system. It’s that simple. Starting next year, have such Resolutions introduced into as many state legislatures as possible. When the BBA gets to 34, and Congress aggregates them and sets the time and place for the Convention, simultaneously the Tax Reform Amendment Resolutions can be progressing through legislatures around the country. The veterans of the BBA campaign can lead the charge.
But this has got to be bipartisan. Otherwise it’s not going to work. You don’t make fundamental changes in something as important as the tax system on a partisan basis. Not in this country. A compromise is possible. I never much cared for Simpson-Bowles, but it did attract the support of Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and — a real shocker — Dick Durbin of Illinois. Politics makes strange bedfellows.
Senate Minority Leader Ev Dirksen of Illinois was a great proponent of compromise. I was in the Cow Palace in 1964 when he nominated Barry Goldwater for President. Ev was an orator, and he gave a wonderful speech. Goldwater was the grandson of an itinerant Jewish merchant who came to Arizona in the nineteenth century. Ev called his speech, “The Peddler’s Grandson.”
Goldwater knew he wasn’t going to win. William F. Buckley and others recruited him or the purpose of taking the Republican Party away from the East Coast liberals, like Nelson Rockefeller. Sound familiar? Jeb Bush is the new Rockefeller. We don’t know who our Goldwater is, or our Reagan. But it’s the same fight.
Barry might have been able to run simultaneously for the Presidency and reelection to the Senate, as Rand Paul is doing. He chose to give up his Senate seat. Marco Rubio is following his example. Barry liked being a Senator. He was very popular in Arizona, and he liked to fly his plane all over the state. He had a sweet deal. He gave it up for the cause.
Ev Dirksen described himself as a man of principle, and one of his main principles was compromise.
Words to the wise.