Issues & Insights
Barry W. Poulson

A No Labels Candidate You Can Trust

Joe Lieberman, former senator and founding chairman of the No Labels Party, has thrown his hat in the ring in the New Hampshire primary. However, the No Labels Party has not chosen a candidate and may not do so until the other parties have chosen their candidates.

The No Labels Party has drafted a platform with 30 disparate issues, but it is impossible to know what its platform will be until it has chosen a candidate. Potential candidates, such as Lieberman and Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, have widely differing views on many of these issues. Lieberman defends this ambiguity as an insurance policy against the election of either Donald Trump or Joe Biden, but until they select a candidate, we can’t predict what impact a No Labels candidacy would have on the election.

At this point, it is not even clear that the No Labels Party will field a presidential candidate. Lieberman states that “We’re not in this to be spoilers … if the polling next year shows, after the two parties have chosen their nominees, that in fact we will help elect one or another candidate, we’re not going to get involved.” It is difficult to envision any scenario in which a third-party candidate would have no influence whatsoever on the election.

To eliminate this ambiguity, I would like to throw my hat in the ring as the No Labels candidate you can trust. My platform is based on my experience as a member of the Colorado Tax Commission. Our commission conducted a listening campaign with hearings throughout the state to gauge citizen attitudes toward government taxes and spending.

The most important achievement of the commission was a survey of citizen attitudes; a key question was how much government revenue is wasted. Most citizens responded that they had some confidence in the way that local government spent money (presumably because they could keep tabs on local politicians), but they responded that state government wastes much revenue, and that the federal government wastes most of the revenue it receives. The survey was conducted two decades ago; my expectation is that a survey conducted today would reveal even more dissatisfaction with government waste. My platform as the No Labels candidate you can trust would be very simple – eliminate wasteful federal government spending.

The most effective way to eliminate waste in government is to impose an effective cap on spending. I helped design the Taxpayer Bill of rights (TABOR) Amendment, which was incorporated in the Colorado Constitution through citizen initiative in 1992. TABOR caps the rate of growth in revenue and spending at all levels of government in Colorado. If any unit of government wants to spend revenue above the cap, increase taxes, or issue more debt, it must have citizen approval. The ballot measure must show how the revenue would be raised and spent, and how much it would cost taxpayers. Hundreds of such measures have been proposed in Colorado. Most of these measures pass at the local level, but very few have passed at the state level. TABOR allows Colorado citizens to decide how much government they want and are willing to pay for, and remains the gold standard for tax and expenditure limits in the states. Over the years, interest groups have attempted to eliminate or water down TABOR, but the majority of Colorado citizens continue to reject these efforts. 

As a candidate for the No Labels Party, I would propose a Fiscal Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, similar to the TABOR Amendment. The amendment could be proposed in Congress, or by the states under Article V of the Constitution. Given debt fatigue in Congress, the most likely path to enacting the Fiscal Responsibility Amendment is through resolutions in the states calling for an amendment convention. Our Federal Fiscal Foundation found that in 1979, two-thirds of the states had submitted resolutions proposing a Fiscal Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but Congress failed to count these resolutions or call the convention. This year, Rep. Jody Arrington, R-Texas, introduced HCR 24, which would require Congress to count these resolutions, and to call the convention because the requisite two-thirds of the states has been reached.  

Based on my experience in Colorado, a Fiscal Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the one issue that could unite citizens. I think a majority of citizens would support a Fiscal Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, just as they support the TABOR Amendment. A Fiscal Responsibility Amendment could mobilize support from all citizens fed up with government waste. Before you dismiss me as a single-issue candidate, my candidacy is just as plausible as Ralph Nader’s Green Party candidacy. 

Barry W. Poulson ( is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder, a policy adviser for The Heartland Institute, and a co-founder of the Federal Fiscal Responsibility Foundation.

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