Linder: FairTax can't be stopped by retirement

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE — Today, John Linder will do what he has done for more than a decade, use the April 15 income tax deadline as a platform to talk about tax reform.

It's an issue he has talked about for 35 years, including 18 as a member of Congress.

When his FairTax plan was developed, the stump speech was honed to focus on the end of the Internal Revenue Service, trading in the complicated income tax code for a more simplistic sales tax.

The movement has grown to give Linder two best-selling books, along with his co-author radio personality Neal Boortz, who will lead a crowd of thousands at the FairTax Revolt in Washington today.

But the meek dentist who turned into a powerful champion for reform will soon be retiring to life on a Mississippi farm.

Still planning to give speeches and write books, Linder hopes the momentum in Congress won't die down, and that the crowds and the outcry will continue.

"This is far bigger than me. This has moved way beyond John Linder," the Duluth Republican said. "I don't think we'll have any shortage of passionate people."

Many of his more than 60 House co-sponsors have said they will continue the cause, Linder said. For many Republicans, the upcoming July primary is about deciding who best to carry Linder's FairTax torch in his own 7th District.

In an endorsement this week, Linder said his own chief of staff Rob Woodall, who wrote the FairTax bill and shared a byline on the second edition of the book, would be the best choice among the crowded field of seven Republicans.

But University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock says the proposition was a long way away from winning approval and it could be even farther away without Linder.

"It would take an awful lot of forces coming together before you would see a major re-write of the tax law," he said. Because of the risk, "most major policy changes are done incrementally."

Even if a Republican wins the district, which includes parts of Gwinnett County, along with all of Barrow and Walton counties and parts of Newton and Forsyth, and takes up the project with the same passion, Bullock said that person would have a harder time pushing the idea in Congress as a junior member, and other leaders in Washington have less invested in the proposal.

"I think there may be some loss," he said. "Linder has been the real leader. I expect there could be less attention."

Linder, though, thinks the economic forces are settling into place to drive the revolution.

"It can't be stopped," he said.