Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - While most Americans were beginning their workweek Monday morning, representatives of 19 conservative, pro-family organizations gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol for the 2002 National Taxpayers' Rally, hosted by Americans for Tax Reform.
Grover Norquist, ATR president, noted that the filing deadline for Americans' tax returns is not the end of their tax obligations.
"At the federal level, they stick taxes on your phone bill, they stick taxes on your automobile. There're federal taxes on your gasoline," he said. "The federal income tax doesn't even include the Social Security tax, the highest federal tax that most Americans pay."
The majority of the speakers shared a call for Congress to make the tax cuts passed in the summer of 2001 permanent.
Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council says the debate is "not just about tax money, but about freedom."
"There's an inverse relationship between the size of government and the amount of freedom we enjoy. The bigger government is, the less freedom American families and individuals have," he argued, "and yet government grows directly in proportion to the amount of money available to it. That's why these tax cuts are so essential."
Kerri Houston of the American Conservative Union said that the government is taking too much money from American taxpayers.
"The most important thing for us to remember today is that there is no such thing as 'government money,'" Houston said, "and every time you here someone say 'the government will pay for it,' you need to remind them that that money comes directly out of your wallet."
The groups almost universally support permanency for the tax cuts passed before Democrats assumed control of the Senate. Many also called for extensive simplification of the tax code, with others claiming the income tax should be abolished altogether, in favor of consumption-based levies such as a national sales tax.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) held a town hall meeting later in the morning, at which he made what some consider a radical suggestion.
"If you want to get the message out, just repeal withholding," Armey said, "every month I sit down and I say bad things about the gas company, I say bad things about the electric company, I say bad things about the phone company, but I don't say anything bad about the government.
"And yet, every month I have more money out of my paycheck for income taxes than I do for food, clothing, and shelter combined," he said.
Armey agrees that the U.S. tax code must be changed.
"The government's got a tax code that punishes you when you succeed, takes away your legacy from your children, punishes you when you fail, encourages you to buy a home, and then also encourages you to live in it out of wedlock," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, what we've got is a nutty tax code."
Armey says the tax code must be overhauled and the Social Security system must be amended to allow younger workers to invest privately for their own retirement if the government is to respect the goodness and decency of the American people.
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