COLUMBIA — Melva Anderson, her daughter Alicia and her granddaughter Alexis left California, Mo., at 4 a.m. to arrive early at the Midwest FairTax Rally and get the good seats to hear popular consumption tax author and activist Neal Boortz speak.
Anderson drove about 70 miles, a relatively short distance compared with the distances traveled by many other participants from around the country who came out to support the "fair tax," a proposal to replace the federal income, estate and gift taxes with a national consumption tax.
Kate Burch, who had FairTax logos on her baseball hat and shirt, came from Dayton, Ohio, to attend the rally with her husband. Burch said she is worried about the way income tax is taking money away from families.
“(Income tax) has made it necessary for families to have more than one wage earner,” said Burch, a retired clinical psychologist. “And that leads to our children being raised by strangers. And it’s having a very, very sick influence on our culture.”
Dave Schumacher has supported the consumption tax initiative since 2000, and he drove 13 hours from Georgetown, Texas, to make the rally.
Mike McLean of Horse Shoe, N.C., took a 10-day ride on his “FairTax-billboard motorcycle," which he has decorated with FairTax logos, to get to the rally. McLean and his 1997 Harley Davidson will be going on an even longer FairTax ride when McLean and his wife lead a group on a four-month trip through all the continental U.S.
“We’re going to talk to people about what it’s all about for us,” McLean said. “You have to spread the word. That’s what’s going to get this thing passed.”
The crowd of people at the fairgrounds swelled throughout the day as couples, families and volunteer groups gathered in the events hall. Some brought their own folding chairs, and others held signs with slogans like “Liberty, not debt.”
As early as 9 a.m. – hours before the total of about 4,670 participants had arrived – Marilyn Rickert of FairTax Nation was able to get the crowd going.
“What do we want?” Rickert asked the crowd.
“When do we want it?”
Another speaker, Jeff Parnell, got the crowd involved by asking where they came from and why they wanted to be involved in the movement. Parnell introduced people from places such as Wichita, Kan.; Atlanta; Fulton; and Tulsa, Okla. Parnell focused on the “fairness” aspect of the tax.
“Wouldn’t it be great if every time a drug dealer bought a new set of tires they were contributing to our Social Security?”
Parnell also sang one of his own songs, "Let’s Annex Old Mexico (While They’re All Up Here),” in relation to one of the other issues he has with the current form of taxation: the lack of economic contribution he says comes from illegal immigrants while they continue “enjoying the fruits of the land.”
Linda and Gene Reutzel of Cape Girardeau discussed the ideas Parnell preached to the crowd.
“If it does nothing else, it will allow drug dealers, lawn mowers and babysitters to pay taxes,” Gene said. "If we have a consumer tax, when they buy a new gold necklace or baby food or a new mower, they pay taxes at that time.”
Linda, like her husband and Parnell, wants everyone to “do their fair share.”
“I do believe the 'fair tax' will bring the country together,” Linda Reutzel said. “I’m sick of the government pitting one group against another. If everyone just did their fair share, there would be nothing to gripe about.”
Neal Boortz also had words for the crowd.
“People need to recruit, spread the word,” said Boortz, whose name is closely tied to the movement. “They need to understand it’s not going to happen until they make it happen.”