I strongly oppose HR 2621, the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Authorities Act, also known as "fast-track." Constitutionally, treaties are the responsibility of the President to negotiate and the Senate to ratify by a two-thirds majority. During the constitutionally proscribed process, the Senate can make changes to sections it finds offensive or improper. As such, the role of the House of Representatives in the treaty process should be a relatively meager one. They try to get around this by claiming that these "agreements" are somehow different from constitutionally described treaties; but that is only so much fast-talk. In practice, a treaty and these agreements are the same thing.
Under "fast-track," the president still negotiates measures with foreign governments, then, if he has declared it necessary for trade, the agreement goes before the entire Congress, both the House and Senate. However, there are strict limits on debate -- and therefore opposition -- and there is no opportunity for Congress to make any changes. Further, this legislation forces the trade agreements to be placed as the highest priority on Congressí schedule.
Fast-track is the process by which our nation was saddled with the harmful North American Free Trade Agreement. I favor the notion of removing trade barriers, and the quickening of the process by which these barriers can be eradicated. But free trade does not require massive NAFTA-like documents which impose extensive government regulatory burdens upon citizens of signatory countries. Free trade agreements should be far less complex, bilateral, and not require formation of international bodies for their enforcement.
The second piece of legislation which is going to be making headlines this week will be HR 2292, the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act.
I think there are few issues more important than ridding our nation of the income tax and the IRS. The basic premise of the income tax is that government has first claim on everything we as individuals do, a complete contradiction to our national heritage. From that premise comes the IRS, which has been publicly unveiled as perhaps the most oppressive agency operating in our government today. The IRS can seize peopleís homes, bank accounts and property, all under mere suspicion or wrong-doing, without proof. Using the complex intricacies of the tax code, the IRS can justify penalizing anyone, for anything, for it is almost impossible for anyone to be in complete and total compliance with the endless laws and bureaucratic rules.
And so when someone comes forward with a proposal to reform and restructure the IRS, attention must be paid. Iím hopeful this legislation will be more than just symbolism, the people want real change.
Last week a high school junior from Fayetteville, located in the center of my district, was in Washington for a youth conference. He stopped by the office and we had the opportunity to visit about his plans and questions. At one point I asked him what he thought the biggest concerns were in the minds of his parents. Without hesitation, or even a moment of thought, he responded with a single word: taxes.
He went on to explain that even he, as a 16-year-old working at a summer job, had come to see taxes as one of the biggest problems Americans face. He said that while he was making about $6 an hour working in a machinist shop, he would be horrified when he got his paycheck and saw that more than a hundred dollars would be removed each week to pay for the multitude of federal taxes.
When I told him that most people work half the year just to pay taxes, he wasnít even phased. He had seen what the politicians in Washington refuse to see: government is taking too much of our money.
Until Congress addresses the problem of how much money they are taking from us -- and therefore addressing how much money the federal government is spending -- any tinkering with the structure of the IRS, or adjustments to the way taxes are collected, are just window-dressing.
Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.