Archive for the ‘boston tea party’ tag
Well, tax day is in the books for another year, and I commemorated the heralded day by covering a Tea Party rally here in town, one of many across the nation.
Here, then, are the Five Reasons I Totally Love Tax Day (and Why You Should Too):
1. Tax Day Forced Me to Get My Fiscal Shit Together … (This is self explanatory)
2. Children, It Turns Out, Are Extremely Fragile
This hadn’t occurred to me until I had two of my own. I now spend a lot of time worrying about stuff that I never used to worry about. Such as: the quality of my drinking water and food and local public schools and parks and playgrounds and roads. And thus the notion that my taxes actually pay for things required by my fragile children has managed to burrow its way through my thick American skull. Paying a small portion of my income for these collective benefits is not only a basic civic duty, in other words, but it is in my interest.
3. George W. Bush Is No Longer President
It’s hard to pay taxes, particularly federal taxes, when the administration in power is disinterested in governing. Or, more precisely, when it views government’s essential function as an enabler of corporate greed.
I’m not suggesting that I’m thrilled with Barack Obama’s leadership. He’s proved a total moral weakling, frankly. But I do applaud his basic goals: to make healthcare more affordable, to rein in the financial system, to create a green economy, to spend more on education and less on giant weapons systems.
4. Anything the Tea Partiers Are Against, I’m For
It’s become mainstream media practice to refer to the Tea Party as a “movement.” I would characterize it in slightly less heroic terms: as a series of highly publicized tantrums.
Of course, people have every right to drive (on public roads, paid for by taxes) to a meeting place (usually a public space, paid for by taxes) and to congregate to express their hatred for taxes, along with reproductive rights and gun control and anything else Barack Hussein Obama might favor. But to call these gatherings a coherent or rational response to the current administration is laughable. Obama has, after all, lowered taxes for most Americans, just not the rich ones.
The Tea Partiers represent the aggrandizement of paranoia, rage and self-pity into a political agenda. It is a “movement,” created by for-profit demagogues whose sole mission is to build audience share at the expense of honest debate about our common crises of state. Its mindless and violent hatred for Tax Day stands as one of the best reasons to love Tax Day.
5. I Believe in Playground Justice
Because I have two small children, I spend a lot of time at playgrounds these days. The rules on the playground are simple: you share. I tell my 3-year-old this all the time. “Can you share?” I say. And, “Big girls need to learn to share.” And, “I’m serious, Josie, if you don’t share we’re going home.”
This doesn’t make me a socialist. It just makes me an adult, someone who recognizes that the pursuit of happiness in the midst of limited resources requires sacrifice.
Tax Day is our annual reminder of this fact. It reminds us that one of the prices of citizenship in these United States is the levying of taxes, to provide for all the stuff I’ve mentioned above, along with, you know, a common defense.
I would be happiest, as a taxpayer, if my return came with a survey, so I could check off those items toward which I wanted my taxes devoted. But that’s not how it works. How it works is, if you want to live in America and partake of its bounty — plentiful food and water, shelter, safe streets, schools and so on — you pay your share. If folks don’t like that, they can leave.
A fellow coworker seems to never tire of saying that paying taxes is one of the most patriotic actions a person can take. If you don’t pay taxes, things don’t get done, plain and simple. No fire departments, save the volunteer ones. No police forces. No public K-12 schools. No public colleges. No Medicare or Medicaid. No Social Security. No health departments. No post offices. No federal student loans for college. No public defense. No intelligence agencies. No state or national parks. No roads or bridges. No repairs to roads or bridges. No agency to regulate the skies to ensure planes don’t crash into each other. No agency to demystify the various objects in space that, in previous generations, garnered plenty of worship from folks who didn’t know, in fact, that a large star of hydrogen gas didn’t really need or care for our many praises or sacrifices.
I could go on, but these are all entities for which we pay taxes. In my more libertarian moments, I do sympathize with the ideal of being self-sustaining both individually and as a society. But I’m afraid that “ideal” is as far as we can take it at this point in our history, at least societally, because long ago we decided as a nation to set up a system of laws and regulations and not to be free-ranging communities. It’s also just an ideal because not everyone in a society is healthy and well-educated with plenty of money. No matter how much less government intervention we seek for the nation, we will always have less fortunate folks among us. I can’t tell whether a complete rollback of history is the ultimate goal of the Tea Party crowd or if the movement simply seeks to raise awareness, but regardless, there’s plenty of irony to go around at these rallies.
For instance, one recent sign that I saw read, “Balance the Budget | Limited Govt | Strong Defense | Cut Taxes.” Now, how do you suppose we could have limited government and lower taxes and also a strong defense? Cut every domestic program other than defense funds? Beats me. This makes me wonder: If we took protesters’ advice and started trimming, and suppose some of that budget-hedging started to tap into Social Security, a government program that has many Tea Partier benefactors, where would the outcry be? A New York Times reporter posed this sort of dilemma to a rallier with stunning results. Here’s an excerpt:
When talking about the Tea Party movement, the largest number of respondents said that the movement’s goal should be reducing the size of government, more than cutting the budget deficit or lowering taxes.
And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.
But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”
Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.
Others could not explain the contradiction.
“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.”
She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”
This is like the Boston tea party for people that decided, let’s say, I don’t know, two and a half months ago, that they didn’t want to pay taxes anymore. The tea part is just a metaphor [on screen: a Fox News reporter pointing to boxes at one of the tea parties containing a million tea bags]. Let me get this straight. To protest wasteful spending, you bought a million tea bags. Are you protesting taxes or irony? — Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
A friend asked a couple days ago whether I was still writing about the Tea Party some, and I said I hadn’t in awhile, but hey I’m always happy to pop the cork now and then.
I think this pretty well sums up what is happening in conservative/libertarian/Constitutionalist circles around the country:
- 80% are white (with 8% not responding to the question)
- 60% are male
- 40% are college graduates
- Over a third make $75,000 or more
- 50% live in rural areas
- 77% label themselves conservative
- 96% are Republican-Independent
- 87% say they will vote Republican for U.S. House
What is slightly surprising, but not shockingly so, is that 40 percent of those polled were college graduates. Now, I didn’t expect them all to be illiterate yokels — I’ve debated with a number of folks over a reteaparty.com, and many aren’t dim bulbs by any stretch (They also don’t like the Tea Bagger label) — but I did think the number would be more in the 30 percent range. Still, 60 percent aren’t college graduates, so that says something.
Also not surprising is the fact that 66 percent of Tea Party supporters made more than $50,000 per year, while only 42 percent made that much across all people who were polled.
Of course, the rise of the movement itself is not surprising, as we have a progressive president who has taken drastic measures — some experts say not drastic enough — to attempt to right the economic ship. It has risen despite the fact that Obama has stated nearly until he’s blue in the face, that any tax increases would not affect people making less than $250,000. It has risen on the tailwinds of ridiculous charges of Nazism, socialism, fascism or Communism, terms often used interchangeably for some reason, to describe the same person or his policies by folks like Mark Levin, Michael Savage and others who often squelch any potentially meaningful political discourse into name-calling and arguments that break no new ground and just echo the tired arguments of all the others.
All of this to make the ultimate case, as I understand it, that America should get back to the Constitution and the grand ideals of the Founders. While that’s a sexy notion and helps sell books, one problem exists with that. Readers of the Constitution or “Paradise Lost” or “War and Peace” can’t drop their authors into the 21st-century and make assumptions about what they might think on topics of the day. The Founders lived in a different America, and it’s an America that will never exist again. It was a more brutal time, a much larger country, and we were under the heel of the British. The Founders really didn’t have representation in Parliament; we have representation, whether we agree with those representing or not. The Founders were not making any claims against big government; they were fighting for the right of self-government itself.
Proponents of larger government intervention versus less did exist then as now, most notably from the Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans, and some of them would be shocked at how big our government has become, but even the most conservative among them understood that the country would change with the times, and thus they had enough foresight to know the Constitution would need amending. The claim that all the Founders, or even most of them, were ultra conservative or libertarian has no basis. They did pen the bits about separation of church and state, free speech, freedom of the press, and religion, after all.
The only argument of the Tea Party that is even halfway analogous would be arguments against upped taxes. But obviously, while taxes was one grievance against Britain in the colonies, they it wasn’t the only issue.
So, the crux of what is happening, as I see it, is that people are angry (about something, the country’s debt, bailing out corporations, etc.) and don’t know what to do, so they wail on the government, and folks like Levin, Savage, Beck and the gang are pawning their wares and playing off those frustrations like door-to-door salesmen. So, one question may be: Why don’t I share in their frustrations? Because while I am as angry that Wall Street and the corporations were bailed out as anyone else, I don’t see our government’s reaction to it as a permanent mark of things to come. We aren’t anywhere near crisis mode regarding our government. Obama will be elected, or he won’t. The talking heads will continue railing against Obama or a Republican will get elected and the vitriol will shift toward whichever progressive in Washington is trying to bring us ever out of the stone age.
But that’s enough ranting for now. Here’s something to strum your satirical lyre:
In Michigan and elsewhere, I’m sure Tea Party demonstrations are filled with folks such as the one in this video hollering “Go home!” over and over, even as the speaker, in this case, Barrett, is trying to kiss up to them as much as humanly possible. But in South Carolina, where, who knows, we may declare our indepedence once again!, the commentary from the audience is particularly vitriolic. He uses the term “liberal Democrats in Washington, D.C.” to win their side. He says,
I will fight for you, and I will never turn my back on you, I can promise you that.
He tells the crowd, which doesn’t stop booing the entire five minutes of the “plea,” says,
The Obama administration, they don’t believe in you guys,
attempting to speak to them as if he’s beer buddies with the lot of them. He petitions them that “we” must fight them on the deficit, spending, taxes, and
above all taxation without hesitation (Notice, he didn’t say “representation” because even he knows the analogy is a bogus claim, even as, two days before, folks showed up in cities all over the country in Revolutionary era garb to protest against … something. It’s hard to say just what.) must be examined, exposed and extinguished.
So, what we have hear is a Tea Party demonstration, where a Republican representative, not even a Democrat, is virtually shouted off the stage, as he fishes for something to say, anything anti-Obama, anti-spending or anti-tax, to get them to agree on any point. How much more excitable would they have been if Ben Bernanke or Barney Frank or Obama himself were before them? Who knows? But I do know that telling a state representative to go home contributes nothing to the debate, nor do the scores of “boos” leveled at the man, the latter of which says to me that the angst, the emotional, excitable, reason-bending, rabble-rousing type of angst, was coming from, not a single person or two, but from the majority. Which, in turn says to me that either the Tea Party has lost control of its own message (if it ever had one) or if we get Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and the gang to begin talking about protests against the government on air, and all types of angry people to come out of the wood works, folks who are angry about all sorts of things from taxes to the Democratically-controlled Congress to big spending to the sun’s peculiar tendency to continue rising despite thousands and thousands and thousands of years of prophecy to the contrary.
But then again, South Carolina was the first state to secede the Union. It doesn’t take much for some folks over there to be rabble-roused.
This is sort of a continuation of this post about the apparent phenomenon known as “tea bagging,” which is an action of protest against what some feel has become a government system of overtaxation vis-à-vis the Boston Tea Party, in light of the recent large stimulus package and corporate bailouts.
Reteaparty.com says this about the organization:
PEAC is a political action committee that campaigns on behalf of issues, candidates, and potential candidates that promote honesty and Constitutional leadership. Currently, PEAC has launched campaigns to draft three unconventionally honest candidates: Rand Paul, Andrew “The Judge” Napolitano, and Peter Schiff. Additionally, PEAC has launched ReTeaParty.com, to organize a national Tea Party and fundraiser for the Goodwill on July 4, 2009, to promote the cause of honest and Constitutional government, voluntarism, and to organize an historic display of protest against our lack of representation. At ReTeaParty.com, thousands of people sent their representatives a Tea Bag in the mail on April 1, 2009, as a sign of our unrest over D.C.’s foolish solutions and overspending. — reteaparty.com
And during a recent broadcast by FOX News, the organization’s founder, Chad Peace (PEAC?), had this to say:
It’s not a reaction to any one person in particular it’s not a reaction against Obama or Pelosi or against Dodd or Barney Frank — any of these guys in particular. It’s against the whole idea of Washington that they can take our money and solve our problems for us.
And here we come to the hang of it all: the very reason why the Republican ideals of personal liberty and small government married to notions of moral uprightness do not work. Many on the right attempt to coerce folks in leadership or pray for them or lobby them or whatever on social issues like abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research, hoping federal or state governments would, indeed, solve our problems. They believe federal and state governments can and should solve what they perceive to be our social ills. Government should preserve the institution of marriage. It should uphold certain moral codes that would prohibit heinous dabblings in abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Government should get drugs off the streets and prosecute drug dealers to the fullest extent of the law. State laws should keep the sabbath holy by disallowing the purchase of alcohol on Sunday (and in some states, disallowing even retail purchases before 1 p.m.!) Government should more fully represent our moral values, they say.
And in the same breath, what do we see? The same folks turn an about-face, and speak out against gun control, against big business regulations and against taxes. Thus, they favor big government in some areas and those of moral or social concerns, but not others like taxes or gun control. But they can’t have it both ways, and the logic just does not add up. Small government taken to its fullest end would mean this: the legalization of controlled substances, the continued or even a relaxing of gun control laws, allowing states to decide gay rights, relaxing regulations on abortion and stem cell research and some states disbanning their ridiculous blue laws. True, big government would mean the opposite. But both Dems and Reps want to pick and choose which causes they will champion.
Now, I come to the issue of the tea baggers. Obviously, it’s ludicrous to fain any comparison to folks today protesting taxes to those of the Revolutionary War era protesting taxation without representation by the British government. We have taxation with representation, and taxes are quite necessary to get things done. If there were no taxes, the country as we know it would crumble. If the tea baggers are protesting the stimulus plan and the bailouts, fine, but I fear this movement is another incarnation of those who throw the word “freedom” around like it’s a Hacky Sack. Witness this video:
Richard Behney, tea party organizer in Indianapolis, who clearly is trying to equate himself and piggy back on the fame of Joe the Plumber (By now, if phlegm is not forming in your gut and ready to spew upward, something is wrong), said,
To hear that a segment of our society and our politicians want to come in and take everything away and spread it around, umm, that’s when I said enough.”
Later, he said, “This is a freedom-loving, American thing,” when talking about the movement, noting that “they’re (politicians in Washington) all part of the problem and it’s time to stand up for freedom.”
What incoherency is this? What the hell does freedom have to do with anything? Throughout this whole debacle, has our freedom ever, ever, ever been in question? Or is this slick-haired baffoon just throwing out those four or five right wing buzz words that might give him instant cred with ignorants, including words like freedom, America, God, independence and country? I posit the latter.
As an addendum, this particular rally on April 15th is supposed to feature a guy playing Thomas Paine, who was, I must note, a deist, and whose arguments would fly in the face of Glenn Beck’s and (probably) Richard Behney’s belief that the Bible is true, for Paine believed nothing of the sort, and that’s quite evident from reading “The Age of Reason.” (Side note: Deism isn’t valid either, for it says that, while God exists, he is out there somewhere, did not author the Bible and is sort of an impersonal watcher on the world and personal events. He watches “from a distance” as the song goes. Thus, if he isn’t personally engaged in this world, it seems to follow that he is irrelevant and of no consequence for us.) Further, it’s a bit of an insult to the legacy and great work of Paine to have these types of folks parading his name around as if he would agree with them on every point. He would probably agree with them on very few points. But that’s where the idiocy of this generation has gotten us.