MYRTLE BEACH — By the time we arrived at the Tea Party Convention, most of its attendees had left to either go home or head over to the debate early. I was lucky enough to catch a few lingering organizers and initiative volunteers when I cornered some of the members of FairTax by their booth.
At first they balked at the mention of my hometown, but Mickey Lattimore, Joseph Kejr and Audrey Aldridge warmed with the chance to talk about their passion — abolishing the income tax and replacing it with a national retail tax of six percent. There would be no business-to-business tax, education would be exempted and citizens below the poverty line would be prorated. All three have worked on making their FairTax initiative a federal and state reality for years. They want the government to treat every American equally, they say.
In their view, the income tax remains a “punitive tax that hurts productivity in our country,” explained Lattimore. After national efforts stalled –Lattimore cited former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the main reason – the volunteer-driven movement composed its own bill and submitted it to the South Carolina Legislature. According to them, the bill is faring well under state Representative Bill Taylor’s sponsorship and and unofficial endorsement from Tim Scott – their local congressman and South Carolina Tea Party hero.
With their help, The South Carolina Fair Tax Act (H-3993/S-274) – which would abolish the state income tax and institute a six percent sales tax – is gaining majority support in the state House, but has yet to go to Senate. The proposal is similar to the current tax law in Washington.
Kejr was pleased to see his five-year-long efforts paying off, but wanted to see FairTax enacted in its entirety on the national level. It would do the most good that way, he explained. Plus, tax reform is a bipartisan issue and Kejr believes legislators can cross the aisle for a good fiscal solution.
Aldridge echoed the growing popularity of FairTax. Though dismissed at first, more and more people are starting to see its sense, she said.
“They come up and say, ‘Where do I sign up?'” she said.
As members of a non-profit organization the FairTax volunteers aren’t allowed to endorse candidates, but the three agreed to share a few insights into the primary. Gingrich was the general preference and Romney had “no experience.” Lattimore agreed with Santorum ‘s ideals and compared him to Mike Huckabee, but doubted the strength of his support base. When I mentioned yesterday’s warm Percy and Willie’s reception, he shrugged. The evangelical crowd is his strength, he said, and “they do call it the ‘Bible belt’ for a reason.”
Lattimore was sad to see Herman Cain leave the race. His 9-9-9 plan was “a stepping stone to the Fair Tax,” and he would have gotten Lattimore’s vote in the SC primary.
Aldridge said that the sexual assault charges against Cain amounted to nothing once he suspended his candidacy. “They just died,” she said. He was shut down because the establishment viewed him as a real threat, the three concluded.
As for Jon Huntsman’s recent withdrawal? “I don’t think he was ever serious,” Aldridge said.
Ultimately though, anyone was better than the incumbent.
“If Mickey Mouse was running against Barack Obama, I would vote for Mickey Mouse,” concluded Lattimore.