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Taxpayers' Rights
There are four of them, put out by The Republican Study committee. David Weigel lists them on Reason's Hit & Run blog:

1. Taxpayers have a right to have a federal government that does not grow beyond their ability to pay for it.

2. Taxpayers have a right to receive back each dollar that they entrust to the government for their retirement.

3. Taxpayers have a right to expect the government to balance the budget without having their taxes raised.

4. Taxpayers have a right to a simple, fair tax code that they can understand.

I think people just assume it's futile to demand reasonableness from government. But, I think it's time we started. I've criticized Segolène Royal, the leftist French candidate, for being like some dim housewife who can't balance her checkbook for her suggestions about the minimum wage in France (the money has to come from somewhere, Madame!)

But, here, in our own country, lawmakers spend the same way and get elected again and again -- and nobody really gives it much thought. I'd love to see a hit list of lawmakers who are always buying what we can't pay for. Perhaps that would be all of them. And perhaps that's another good reason to have a strong third party -- a libertarian party -- to balance things out.

Posted by aalkon at March 14, 2007 8:03 AM

Comments

This is provocative, but I'm afraid that I don't have all the information I need to demand these "rights" (however reasonable they sound). Some great economists, Keynes included, have made a strong case for deficit spending.

Economic policy is made by people, and people are notoriously stupid about money. That's why we have mandatory retirement savings through social security paycheck deductions, right? I don't have a national economic platform. I just try to handle my money, and my growing wealth, as best as I can.

Posted by: Lena at March 14, 2007 8:42 AM

Well, I think too often there's deficit spending without justification. And I think politicians need to be forced to come up with justification for spending money -- so they spend it like it's theirs, not ours. The war in Iraq is a perfect example. I would go into deficit funding to go into Afghanistan and root out Osama. I was never for spending bazilions to oust a horrible dictator and start a civil war in Iraq -- a country in which Islam is likely to prevent the spread of democracy that was supposedly our goal.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 14, 2007 8:56 AM

Conceptually, I agree with the "rights" as listed. In practicality...

The list of lawmakers is massive. The worst is West Virginia Senator (and President pro tempore of the Senate - also the longest serving Member of the Senate) Robert Byrd.

The problem is the ones with integrity leave (e.g. J.C. Watts), while the the "corruptable" just get worse. It doesn't help when you walk into a Member's office in D.C. and quickly realize that the average age of the staffers (including legislative analysts) is somewhere between 24 and 28 years old.

Third Party? Won't happen anytime that I can see. Those with the campaign/political expertise gravitate to the Reps and Dems. Could have been a possibility if Perot had not flubbed his Presidential candidacy. Until such time as a third party can put together a platform which the average american will agree with and keep its more wackjob members from opening their mouths, a viable third party is totally a thing of the past.

Don't get me wrong, third parties serve a usefull purpose in providing alternative viewpoints, however except in cases such as Perot's run (and Jesse Ventura's upset in the Minnesota Gubernatorial election a few years back), generally third parties are completely doomed to failure as 90+% of americans will say "I have no idea what this party stands for so I am not voting for their candidate".

Consider this: The last time a third-party candidate won a Presidential race was in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln ran as a Republican.

Since then:

1. Most third party presidential candidates have received no electoral college votes whatsoever.
2. 1872 race was a bit of a mess with the shakeout from reconstruction, several third party candidates received a smattering of electoral college votes.
3. 1892 election - People's Party candidate got a measely 22 electoral college votes.
4. 1912, TR received only 88 electoral college votes under the Bull Moose/Progrssive Party.
5. 1924, Robert LaFollete (wackjob Socialist) received 13 electoral college votes.
6. 1968 George Wallace received 46 electoral college votes (AIP).

Third Parties only rise in the US to the level of spoiler for one of the two principal parties or (as in the case of the 1860 election) as a result of the implosion of another party (the Whigs).

In the interests of full disclosure, I am a Republican (T.R. variety)

Posted by: André-Tascha at March 14, 2007 9:19 AM

Third parties always seem to do things in the dumbest possible way (see: Green party, and Ralph Nader; Perot's party) by running for the Presidency without having the network in place needed to have a chance to do more than muck things up for the either Republicans or Democrats (whichever party the third party person draws most heavily from, e.g. Nader gets an assist in Gore's defeat; Perot does the same in G.H.W.B.'s defeat).

If there is ever going to be a real third party, they're going to have to do the tough work to win at local elections first. Then they'll have to do a good job and learn how to build coalitions to get things done. If they're successful, they can then move on to more prominent state offices, or the House of Representatives, because they'll have a record to point to. People hate to vote for sure losers, and I don't think that a third party will ever have a shot until they have their shit together sufficiently that they're not serving as spoilers or recipients of protest votes.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am a Republican (T.R. variety)

Good to know. We could use more of those. Must be lonely, though.

Posted by: justin case at March 14, 2007 9:59 AM

There are two ways (my estimation) that third parties can get somewhere. Either on a national or state level (e.g. Jesse Ventura), fully capitalizing (with professional infrastructure) on voter/party discontent (e.g. the implosion of the Whig Party in the 1850s). Alternatively, by doing what Justin has stated. Unfortunately, such can be effective in only specific areas (e.g. Santa Cruz, the Green party candidate - Audie Bock - who was elected to the CA State Assembly for the 16th district...1998 if I recall correctly). Frequently, the actions of these elected officials are seen as being just to the left (or right, i suppose) of nutjob, so they either lose in followup elections or their values/positions ensure that members of parties in neighboring jurisdictions will never be considered.

And yes, it can be lonely being a TR member of the GOP. Having friends who are electeds (and not having an agenda such as getting a political job/appointment), I gain no end of pleasure in tweaking the hell out of them when they attempt to justify some bloody sophomoric bill whose only purpose is candidate retention.

Posted by: André-Tascha at March 14, 2007 10:07 AM

No third party in America will ever ascend to power via the ballot box for one simple reason. Every county in this nation has a board of elections whose members and employees have either an R or a D by their name. No others need apply.

Posted by: Casca at March 14, 2007 10:17 AM

I agree with Casca. Especially in key electoral states like New York and California.

The solution I see is the need to build strong factions within established political parties.

Posted by: Joe at March 14, 2007 10:34 AM

I do not concur with Casca. Having been involved in politics and campaigns since 1991 (I have worked over 20 campaigns as a consultant), it would be a rare (and highly felonious) thing for elections boards and/or registrars to deny equal access to members of third parties. It is also rather easy to find out if shenanigans are going on.

To be blunt: the problem is that third party structures and efforts are run by bloody amateurs and/or nutjobs.

Posted by: André-Tascha at March 14, 2007 10:40 AM

No, the US system is basically a winner take all, so third parties can get nowhere, which is fine. Take a look at Germany or Israel for terrible multi-party systems. A third party would need to supplant one of the big two, which happens.

I'd like to see both the Dems and the Reps get treated as the pro-statist - big govt parties that they clearly are and they both get thrown into one pile and a new party based on rolling back govt gets formed. Then the religion of environmentalism can team up with Jesus for votes to add ever more controls. And whoever thinks they both suck can vote for less controls.

A guy can dream...

Posted by: Jon at March 14, 2007 11:49 AM

To be blunt: the problem is that third party structures and efforts are run by bloody amateurs and/or nutjobs.

Yup.

Posted by: justin case at March 14, 2007 12:16 PM

I agree that third parties are run by amateurs and wackjobs. Also, many of the listed successful third parties had candidates with strong and appealing personalities.

Posted by: Joe at March 14, 2007 2:17 PM

Ah, consultants the bane of political campaigns. André-Tascha, clearly you misunderstood my point for in the end, you make it for me. Anyone with two braincells to rub together will be part of one of the two parties where there is a chance to gain power. If they're stupid, they'll do something else, and their guy won't win. If you never gain power, then it is all an empty gesture, and a waste of time.

You're not the only one with political experience. I have seen elections stolen. I have seen union thugs murder, and I have seen the sheriff take a year to find the body laying in the open 200 yards from the vehicle.

The lower you go in any political organization, the more corruption there is. Boards of Election are the bottom rung. That's why they've so strongly resisted electronic voting. It's much harder to cheat.

Posted by: Casca at March 16, 2007 8:28 AM

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