Marilyn Writes

Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 year banking career, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, and other major industry publications. The American Bankers Association (ABA) published Barnewall’s Profitable Private Banking: the Complete Blueprint, in 1987. She taught private banking at Colorado University for the ABA and trained private bankers in Singapore.

Friday, August 06, 2010


By Marilyn M. Barnewall

May 17, 2009

There are so many people today who no longer believe that one person can make a difference. They are wrong. A story proves my point.

In 1987, a guy by the name of Douglas Bruce - an ordinary guy, a citizen and a former prosecutor from California gave up the practice of law, moved to Colorado, and embarked on what ended up being a personal quest to control government growth.

As a private citizen, he wrote and introduced the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) to Colorado voters. It took 90 days to get TABOR on the ballot in Colorado Springs where it passed in 1991. In statewide elections, Bruce got TABOR on the ballot and it lost in 1988 and 1990. It finally passed in 1992. The third time’s the charm, as the saying goes. The people spoke and TABOR amended Article X of the Colorado Constitution.

Bruce took some pretty hard hits while putting major control of taxation into the hands of the people. I used to wonder if he was going to live through it. You cannot imagine the daily verbal scourging Douglas Bruce suffered at the hands of politicians and the mainstream media.

What is TABOR? Why is this guy special? I guess he's special to me because he represents what any one of us could be or could do – if we put our minds and our backs to it.

TABOR lets citizens vote on tax increases. In Colorado - because of TABOR - voters determine the level of government service on which they want to spend tax dollars. Since tax revenues are more limited, government must spend within its means. Prior to TABOR, Colorado could increase mill levies and state taxes at their discretion. Thanks to Bruce, TABOR is "tightly written," which prevents government from counteracting its intent.

In other words, TABOR makes government more accountable, forcing discipline over budget and tax practices. It makes government more efficient and it controls growth.

Only with the approval of the people can State programs and activities be expanded. With periodic regularity, the Colorado government requests voters to give up (usually permanently) their spending limit protection and their right to vote on future excess revenue. It is called "de-Brucing" TABOR.

The people say "yes" or they say "no."

So what did TABOR accomplish? What's the Before and After story?

Changes in Colorado’s Prosperity Rankings after TABOR

Rank Among the States*

Colorado went from 13th among the 50 states to 3rd in Economic Indicators. It went from 18th to 9th in Population Growth, and from 34th to 6th in Per Capita Income. The state moved from being ranked 26th in Economic Growth to 3rd among the 50 states. According to this data provided by the Independence Institute, TABOR has had nothing but a positive influence on the Colorado economy.

The politicians were losing their perceived power base. They were terrified. They said some pretty ridiculous things - about Douglas Bruce and about TABOR.

Pope John Paul II visited Denver for World Youth Day in August 1993 (after TABOR was approved by voters in 1992). The politicians threatened that TABOR would prevent the police from providing security for him. There would not be sufficient funding for schools, they said. The Sheriffs would have to release prisoners from county lock-ups due to a lack of funds, they said. We taxpayers are used to it, these days: The fear tactic.

As Douglas Bruce has stated, "They will say anything." They did. A lot of what was said was about him – and it wasn’t good.

One man can make a difference in America's vast sea of professional bureaucrats, lobbyists, and politicians. All you have to do is care enough to ride against the whirlwind of political power.

We've all heard the threats of what will happen if we don't do as they ask... the fear they throw at us constantly. It always starts with some dire consequence to “the children…”

We've had a constant stream of dire predictions since September 2008 when then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson intimidated members of the House and Senate into passing TARP. If it wasn't passed, the economy would fail! He needed $750 billion NOW! Without it, the banks would fail. America would fail!

Today no one can trace what happened to the money (and Paulson has admitted the $750 billion was just a guess).

We must learn that sometimes people are dumb - Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, or Timothy Geithner (the New York Fed head knew what was happening on Wall Street; it's in the job description) may look dumb, but they are very shrewd. If they cannot see a tidal wave coming in the arena they are paid to oversee, why do we think they are capable of solving the resultant flood of problems caused by it?

One of the interesting things I found on the Bruce Website is an article from The Ludwig von Mises Institute in Mises Daily. It is an article by Albert Jay Nock dated 6/21/2008.

The Lord, the story goes, commissioned the prophet Isaiah to warn the people of His wrath. Isaiah was to tell the people just how worthless they were and what would happen to them unless they had a change of heart. Isaiah was to make it clear that they were down to their last chance. The Lord also told Isaiah that his efforts would do no good. "The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you and the masses will not even listen. They will keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.

"Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job – in fact, he had asked for it – but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so – if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start – was there any sense in starting it? 'Ah,' the story says the Lord told Isaiah, 'you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.’

"As the word 'masses' is commonly used, it suggests agglomerations of poor and underprivileged people, laboring people, proletarians, and it means nothing like that; it means simply the majority. The mass man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct." That is why the article tells us they are collectively called the masses.

"The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.

" ...(In) any given society the Remnant are always so largely an unknown quantity. You do not know, and will never know, more than two things about them. You can be sure of those – dead sure, as our phrase is – but you will never be able to make even a respectable guess at anything else. You do not know, and will never know, who the Remnant are, nor what they are doing or will do.

Two things you do know, and no more: First, that they exist; second, that they will find you. Except for these two certainties, working for the Remnant means working in impenetrable darkness; and this, I should say, is just the condition calculated most effectively to pique the interest of any prophet who is properly gifted with the imagination, insight and intellectual curiosity necessary to a successful pursuit of his trade."

There are prophets - like Douglas Bruce - telling us what is to come… warning us and trying to do something about it. They work in impenetrable darkness… the darkness of not being able to see how what they do will impact the world. They do what they do because it is right.

Are we listening? Who is part of the Masses rather than the Remnant? Do we complain that it is impossible to change things?

Or, do we light a candle like Douglas Bruce did?

© 2009 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved

Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career in 1956 as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 years (plus) as a banker and bank consultant, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, and other major industry publications. The American Bankers Association published Barnewall’s Profitable Private Banking, the first book written about private banks, in 1987. She taught private banking at Colorado University for the American Bankers Association and trained private bankers in Singapore in 1991. She has authored seven banking books, one dog book, and one work of fiction (about banking, of course). She has served on numerous Boards in her community.

Barnewall received her degree in Banking from the University of Colorado Graduate School of Business in 1978 and was named one of America's top 100 businesswomen. She was a founding member of the Committee of 200, the official organization of America's top businesswomen. She can be found in Who's:Who in America (2005-08), Who's Who of American Women (2006-08), Who's Who in Finance and Business (2006-08), and Who's Who in the World (2008).