Stop the Tax! Newsletter


Lessons of the September Tax Referendum


Hugh McInnish

The storm of the late election on Amendment 1, the proposal to place a large new tax burden on the citizens of Alabama, was itself a great burden, requiring many of us to forego our accustomed activities in order to work to defeat the measure. But it also cleared the air and made certain things distinctly visible. Some of these had previously been only dimly seen, others were totally shrouded in fog. If we look closely at what is now in plain sight, especially since there has now been time for reflection, we can seize upon an opportunity to learn some good lessons. Below I offer my thoughts, to which I hope readers might add some of their own.

Lesson 1: When we set ourselves to the task, the ordinary folks in this state can go over the heads of the "establishment" and see to it that the right thing gets done.

Just think about the forces that were arrayed against us:

  1. Bob Riley, Governor of Alabama, who used the full power of his office to try to persuade the voters to vote for his tax plan.
  2. Virtually every other office holder, Republican or Democrat.
  3. Numerous Republicans with recognized names who had formerly been thought to be conservatives.
  4. The media. Every major daily endorsed the tax hike, and relentlessly pumped out pro-tax propaganda, much of it distorted or untrue.
  5. The monolithic Education Cabal, headed by Paul Hubbert, the Czar of the Alabama Education Association, the largest labor union in the state.
  6. The Alabama Attorney General, Bill Pryor, who issued a notorious opinion endorsing the right of government workers to campaign for the tax on government time and to use government materials.
  7. The liberal wing of the clergy, who attempted to use guilt to manipulate their flocks by assuring them it was their Christian duty to empower Caesar to take more of their property.
  8. Chambers of Commerce throughout the state.
  9. Big business, including such as the Alabama Power Company and most of the large banks, as well as the Business Council of Alabama.

This is the largest political coalition that I can imagine. It included every power center in the state, except one. It did not include the people. And it was the people that won the battle. On our side we had one leading banker, an insurance company, and a forestry organization. We also had a dedicated and effective organization in the Tax Accountability Coalition.

But in the end it was the individual citizens of this state that counted. Against the formidable forces of the entrenched and the powerful we beat them two-to-one. Two of the stones we used against this Goliath were the ever-growing internet and talk radio. Small stones, well aimed, can be a powerful deterrence.

The people are always potentially powerful. I say "potentially" because we don't always get ourselves energized. But when we do, we can carry the day. It's important to remember this in the battles that are sure to come.

Lesson 2: The Alabama Republican Party is not the force for conservatism it ought to be.

It used to be that in this state "Republican" meant "conservative." It is no longer so. I offer the following points in support of this assertion:

  1. Our Republican governor, Bob Riley, no sooner took office than he launched a campaign worthy of a radical left wing Democrat. He proposed the largest tax increase in the State's history, and it required a concerted and draining effort to counter it. The tax plan itself was the brainchild of AEA Czar Paul Hubbert, the most powerful Democrat in the State.
  2. Republican legislators, with only a few exceptions, danced to Hubbert's tune. Having been co-opted by the copious payola he gave them, they voted to put the Hubbert/Riley tax plan on the ballot. Anyone who voted for this, the largest tax increase in the history of the State, has lost any claim he may have had to being a conservative.
  3. Most Republican elected officials, and many other big name members of the Party, signed on to the Riley Plan and campaigned for it.

The names of these pseudo Republicans (I use the kindest term that comes to mind) have been archived in hundreds of computers, and we should carefully preserve them for dusting off in the next election.

Lesson 3: The media in Alabama (as elsewhere) are untrustworthy.

Far from being startled at this statement, most readers will likely just yawn, and wonder why it is necessary to mention anything so well know as this. I mention it because I believe that, woeful as has been the performance of the press in the past, the tax campaign set a fresh low mark for journalistic responsibility, and it is appropriate to assess this picture again.

The media, who whine continually for "diversity," are the most non-diverse entity in Alabama (as in the country generally). During the tax campaign every major daily uncritically accepted the Governor's tax increase proposal-- no addressing of the monumental questions presented, no analyses, no pause for thoughtful reflection, just blind acceptance of the Hubbert/Riley propagandistic press releases, repeated ad infinitum. Listen to one and you have heard them all.

It is one thing to be an advocate, to state an honestly-held point of view and to support it with facts and logic. This is not what the media did. In their campaign the media shamelessly ignored the facts, used scare tactics, exaggerations, and outright falsehoods to make their case. Especially objectionable was their ploy of needlessly denigrating our state with the false accusation that we were "always last in everything." They either knew better and recklessly disregarded the truth, or they were woefully uninformed. Their deeds far exceeded all reasonable bounds for ethical journalistic behavior.

It is important for us always to consider the source. While some things in the media are true, their record of bias and distortion makes it imperative that we forever maintain a healthy skeptical attitude toward what they say. And it is important also to counter their errors at every opportunity.

Lesson 4: The Education Juggernaut headed by AEA Czar Paul Hubbert must be curbed:

We have allowed an unhealthy idea to take root and grow. We have been hoodwinked into believing that any project with the word "children" or "education" affixed to it is sacrosanct, and only in fear and trembling does anyone question it. It is unhealthy because it allows demagogues and political opportunists, who care more for their own welfare than for that of the children, to manipulate the public and seduce them into handing over more of their money in taxes.

The liberals among us seemingly believe that they invented children, that they, and only they, are concerned with their welfare. Of course this is not true. All normal people place children, their own and those of others, in the highest of regard. It's a natural instinct that even the lower animals follow. We should never allow ourselves to be cowed by the liberal hypocrites who claim exclusive ownership of concern for children's welfare.

Moreover not every program proposed "for the children" springs from a sincere desire to help children, or is indeed helpful to them. The late failed tax proposal is an excellent case in point. While billed as something to help education, it contained a very large largess that would have been available to the politicians to dispense at their whim.

The thing for us to remember is to evaluate all propositions on their true merit, not on their emotional content. Here is a case in point: During his administration, Siegelman proposed something called "The Department of Children's. Affairs." Well, who would ever question such a thing, especially since it was to consist of only a person or two with a budget of less than $100 thousand. Practically everyone in the Legislature voted for it.

You can anticipate the sequel. Today it's a thriving bureaucracy with a budget of millions. What does it do? Well, it is said to "coordinate" children's affairs. If any reader can point to anything that this department has done to improve things for anybody, children or others, please let me know.

Lesson 5: It is of paramount importance that the Alabama Republican Party immediately sever its connection to Paul Hubbert and the AEA:

Some say that the power of Paul Hubbert even exceeds that of the governor. However that may be, he is certainly the preeminent liberal in the state, and a large measure of the blame for the trauma of the tax referendum should be apportioned to him. But the blame does not end there. Sadly, it is the most obvious of facts that some Republicans have been co-opted by Hubbert. It has come to the point where he seems to believe he can dictate to the Party.

This will not do. If the Republican Party is to be the conservative party in the state, it must cut its ties to Hubbert. No Republican should accept money from him or be influenced by him. He nor his AEA should be accepted as sponsors to Party functions. In a word, it should be made clear to this man that he is persona non grata in the council of Republicans.

I am certain that there are other lessons to be learned other than the ones I have given here. Please let us have your ideas by reply e-mail. In case you do not want your message posted, please so indicate.

30 Nov 03