By Jamie Ward
DULUTH - The Beatles once sang about a taxman. On Thursday at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce's luncheon at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, the guest speaker was the county's very own version of the taxman except for one minor detail - Congressman John Linder is the FairTax-man, representing Georgia's seventh district.
Prior to his introduction, the mere utterance of the word "FairTax" brought applause from a noticeable few of the hundreds gathered. According to Linder, the idea of a national fair tax is beginning to turn a few heads in Washington too, most notably both presumptive presidential candidates he said.
"It's coming," Linder said of the legislation he's sponsored. "It just takes awhile. You just have to keep moving the country."
Speaking to the audience on the FairTax Act - a proposal to replace federal and payroll taxes among others with a national retail sales tax - Linder said the United States needs to change the way it collects money. Using Social Security as an example of the broken tax system, he said the program is on the path to failure because the number of retirees in the next 25 years will increase by 100 percent and the number of workers paying into the system will only increase by 15 percent.
"We're going to be a heavy burden to people," he said. "Under the FairTax you'd go from 115 million workers paying for retirees to 300 million citizens and 50 million tourists."
Linder closed this portion of his talk saying the government needs to tax wealth when it's spent.
When the theme of his speech turned to energy, the issue he said will be of most concern to his constituents come November's election, the congressman said that on a recent trip to the Middle East every country he visited said the same thing to him regarding America's reluctance to drill for more oil domestically.
"You're fools," he said with conviction. "You've got oil all over the place. Drill for it."
Linder then told the crowd that wasn't possible because Congress had placed 97 percent of the nation's oil supply off limits to drilling, citing shale and Alaska as specific examples. When asked why the gridlock in Washington, D.C., had persisted concerning this issue, he said the reason was a simple one-word answer.
"Power," he said. "The democratic leadership cannot afford to hold a vote because they'll lose."
Linder told the audience the United States should be drilling "everywhere, all the time" until the nation is self-sufficient in providing its own energy.
"We are a fossil driven society for the time being and we've got plenty of fossil fuels to do it," he said.
He also said reaching this goal of energy independence for the nation should include alternatives to oil as well, from coal and nuclear power to the sun, wind and more conservation. He also said with a growing population, the United States needs to start getting more serious about the storage of fresh water.
"We can live without oil," he said. "We can't live without water."