Tens of thousands of Americans had a great big tea party on Wednesday. Only instead of sipping cups of Earl Grey and Oolong, these Americans were sending tea bags to their elected representatives and chanting to protest what they see as an out-of-touch government digging a multi-trillion dollar national debt hole that only higher taxes on future generations will be able to fill.
The New American Tea Party movement, a grass-roots effort that garnered media support in recent months from conservative talk radio and Fox News, held hundreds of rallies in cities across the country on tax day. But not everyone was celebrating. Liberals especially derided tea party revelers as "selfish" and "anti-government," and noted that President Obama’s stimulus bill has led to tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans.
Are the tea parties a sign of a budding new tax revolt? Or are the protesters just sore that the Democrats did so well in the 2008 elections? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, weigh in.
Well over 1,600 upbeat, patriotic, middle-class Americans of just about every age and hue lined a busy intersection in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. on Wednesday evening. They waved flags and clever signs, and, judging by the non-stop honking from the after-work traffic, seemed to have the support of passersby.
These are the "right-wing extremists" you may have read about recently.
Smug bloggers and pompous pundits spent the days leading up to April 15 mocking the tea party protesters. CNN commentator Paul Begala, a man who made a small fortune concocting elaborate fictions for politicians, described these working people as "goofballs," "phonies," "whiners" and — get this — "plutocrats." Plutocrats! I saw small business owners, Teamsters, stay-at-home moms, retirees, and even a few government workers who worry that their kids and grandkids will be saddled with a ruinous debt fueled by government spending gone mad. But I didn’t see a fat cat among them. It was a big crowd, though.
And, by the way, the tea partiers don’t just blame Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress for the coming debt tsunami — $35,000 and counting for every man, woman and child in America, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis. They blame Republicans, too, for years of fiscal irresponsibility when they held the purse strings.
The original tea party protestors objected to "taxation without representation." The new tea party movement is disgusted with the way their representatives are squandering the taxpayers’ money. Revolutions have started over much less.
Sad to say, but the tea parties were one of the biggest displays of sore loserdom seen in recent U.S. history.
Ostensibly the parties protested the massive expansion of government, the accompanying growth of the federal budget and, not least, the use of taxpayer money to bail out private individuals and businesses in danger of financial collapse. These events may well be worthy of protest — and vigorous dissent is a vital, necessary part of the American tradition — but they were happening five months ago. Conservatives were not massing in the streets then, however.
What changed? Easy. George W. Bush left office. And Barack Obama became president. Thus the whiff of sour grapes over the whole affair.
No doubt the demonstrations included many people legitimately concerned about the growth of government, regardless of which party is in power. But the glee of Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and the rest of the Fox News gang in promoting the tea parties suggests those sincere folks were co-opted by Republican operatives less concerned about free market capitalism and more interested in undermining a Democratic president.
This would be merely exasperating if it weren’t for the alarming rhetoric on display. Some demonstrators compared President Obama to Mao Zedong, as though raising marginal tax rates was equivalent to mass murder. Others warned of revolt — Texas Gov. Rick Perry even suggested his state could leave the union — and many carried signs warning of "taxation without representation." Which is ridiculous: Whether you love or hate the new policies in Washington D.C., they are being crafted and carried out by duly elected representatives of the people.
Lovers of small government probably should protest President Obama. They should’ve done it under President Bush, too. That they waited tells you what the protests were really about.
(Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis blog daily at http://www.infinitemonkeysblog.com and http://politics.pwblogs.com/.)