Paul Jacob

For decades Democrats squandered our tax dollars like a bunch of drunken sailors. Now that Republicans control government nationally as well as in many states, they too have become intoxicated with spending other people's hard-earned cash. Politicians will be politicians.

What can a poor taxpayer do?

Well, plenty. In states and localities across the country — from Maine to Oregon — voters are taking matters into their own hands. They are placing initiatives on the ballot to control the seemingly irrepressible growth of government. These initiatives, called Stop Over-Spending, are improved adaptations of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights that has worked in Colorado to restrain spending growth and spur the state's economy.

The measures cap only the rate of spending growth; they don't cut current spending by even a penny.

The Stop Over-Spending idea is to allow government spending, year to year, to grow by the combined rate of inflation and population growth. Yet, if governments wish to spend over the cap, they only need ask voters to approve the higher level of spending. And — here's the rub, of course — they might then have to actually make a case for their programs.

Heavens! Warn politicians and special interests everywhere! Common sense is rearing its sensible head.

With politicians regularly proposing that government should do everything for everyone at all times without the slightest hint of priority-setting, government spending grows when times are good and when times are not. In good times, when tax dollars roll in the door beyond all expectations, legislators spend every extra dollar on new programs to please new constituencies as well as the usual special interests. Then, when the economy cools down, and the higher level of spending proves unsustainable, these same politicians scream and moan about cuts. And demand a tax increase, threatening to cut police and fire protection, and to slash benefits going to those most in need.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.