Last Friday, the Goldwater Institute held a forum called the Road to Recovery, focused on Arizona's tax and budget policies. As they like to say in Scottsdale, everyone who is anyone was there.
Fortunately, those in attendance were the best thinkers and policymakers I could have dreamed of. I was stunned by the quality and quantity of ideas pouring forth from the panels.
Goldwater President Darcy Olsen opened the pow-wow with a joke. If you want to get somewhere, like Arizona wants to get to prosperity, you use a roadmap. If you're female, that is.
Actually there were some men in attendance, and they, too, were trying to map out a prosperous future. I didn't realize we had such great leadership in the Legislature.
Eddie Farnsworth, the House Majority leader, is light years beyond most politicians in his grasp of fiscal issues and individual rights--a de facto libertarian in the mold of Barry Goldwater. One of his gems: When asked if every proposed law should be vetted for constitutionality, he lamented, "Most of what the state does today is unconstitutional."
One gets the feeling he would really like to do something about that. I'm thinking future governor, and I hope he is too.
The Goldwater Institute's own staff economist, Steve Slivinski, is a fully amped, policy-crunching machine. I love people who love what they do. He is one of those people, and the intense energy spilling from him as he talks about growth rates, consumption taxes, and regional competitiveness is infectious.
If you are deeply interested in public policy, nothing is better than geeking out with a man like Steve.
Now for the ideas. Actually, there was one overwhelmingly good idea that stole the show for me. Carol Springer, former gubernatorial candidate and state treasurer, coolly proposed that we abolish the state's personal and corporate income tax, and replace it with a simplified and expanded sales tax.
Basically, all goods and services would be taxes at a low, uniform rate. This makes sense, as there is no sense in taxing physical goods at retail, but not services.
Eliminating the income tax would turn Arizona into one of the fastest-growing states in the nation--and I mean real economic growth, not just population. Carol, we hardly new ye.
Another proposed gem was the Budget Stabilization Act of 2003, sponsored by state Sen. Dean Martin. It's loosely modeled on Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights and puts real limits on government spending--based on population growth and inflation.
With all these great-sounding Capitol leaders, one wonders how we ever got into this fiscal crisis. The answer: Moderate Republicans.
There is no point in being a moderate, cult-of-compromise, take-the-middle-of-every-road Republican. They are the reason we have never seen a real reduction in government spending since the 1930s.
Democrats have succeeded in enacting every major policy proposal they have conjured in their heads. Given enough time, the centrist Republicans will always cede the terms of the debate and government will expand into yet another sphere of human life.
Our challenge now is to question the basic aims of government, as the Goldwater Institute has been doing. When we find activities, and budget entries, that exceed what we want our government to do, let's waste no time in exorcising them.
We need to hack away at the monster, even if it bleeds.