Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Got Your Tea Bags?


What are you protesting
The contributor to the Letter to the Editor page who advocates participating in a “Tea Party” in Jackson on April 15 in order to “send a message” to the government should ask himself/herself exactly what that message is. As far as I can tell, the message is that people who make the most money are unhappy paying taxes at a rate that is 10 percent lower than the tax rate established by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. If that is not the message they believe it to be, then the people participating in the Tea Party should ask themselves why they are taking off from work to attend a fake grass roots event orchestrated by an organization supported by right-wing billionaires.

The original Boston Tea Party was caffeinated by a very simple injustice: American Colonists refused to be taxed by a government that lacked any popular representation. That was remedied a few years later in a heroic struggle that stretched from Concord to Yorktown.

So, if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor, what's the beef behind today's protests? The Obama administration is cutting taxes for all except the very richest of Americans. Reduced withholding is already showing up in millions of paychecks.

Then again, this rash of tea parties is being organized not only by the pseudo-journalists at Fox News (with Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto and Sean Hannity actively stoking the flames) but also by FreedomWorks, a conservative lobbying outfit headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. I suppose it was Armey's constitutional if morally dubious privilege to have built an entire political career out of defending the wealthy.

But are common folks actually going to dump Earl Grey into Santa Monica Bay because they are outraged, simply infuriated, by the marginal tax rate rising 3% for millionaires?

Or maybe they'll do it for some other reason. The FreedomWorks site says the Tea Party movement began in reaction to President Obama's corporate bailouts and ensuing yawning budget deficits. These same conservatives, however, were mum when George W. Bush erased our budget surplus and put us deep in the red by drunken spending on a pointless war in Iraq and by, yes, granting massive tax rollbacks for the loaded country clubbers who fund the GOP (and Armey's FreedomWorks). Another bothersome detail: The bailouts were also initiated by Bush.

Nobody I know is very pleased with the billions ladled out to teetering banks and corporations. Yet a clear majority of Americans are sophisticated enough to know that these bailouts are a necessary evil and are intended -- unlike the lollipop Bush tax cuts -- not for personal profit but rather as a radical, emergency measure to help Americans keep their jobs, their homes and their retirement.

And while way too many otherwise sane Republicans are actively pandering to the tea-bag battalions, some old-fashioned conservatives are calling out the Teabaggers for their silliness. Writing in Fortune magazine, conservative policy analyst Bruce Bartlett, who has a long anti-tax history, says: "The irony of these protests is that federal revenues as a share of the gross domestic product will be lower this year than any year since 1950. ... The truth is that the U.S. is a relatively low-tax country no matter how you slice the data."

Our country's Founders had this very unique proposal which has led to the peaceful transfer of power for the past 233 years. When those stalwarts dumped tea into Boston those years ago, they were protesting a very real injustice. It was an act of rebellion against unfair taxes and tariffs in which the population had no say in the matter.

Since Obama's election, there has been a great deal of fear in this country. A lot of people were worried about their guns being taken away. This concern about 2nd Amendment rights being violated surprises me a bit. Since the 1980's to 2007, when the War on Drugs began, legislation has been passed that has violated more of our precious rights. These acts violate our 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendment rights. A lot of people aren't too concerned about those rights being taken away, after all, most are to protect those accused of committing crimes.

But see, our Founders were not merely protesting unfair taxes and tariffs. They were also protesting those colonialist who were arrested without charges being named. They were protesting those who languished in prisons and jails for days, months, and years without a trial. They were also protesting the unfair policy of the British government of taking over homes and confiscating property so that soldiers could be quartered.

If you do go to a tea party, why not go further than just than some lame protest against taxes. Why not protest for our other rights to be reestablished? The War on Drugs and other fears have truly fettered our rights. Why not protest against these real threats to our liberty?

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