Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tax Day Tea Parties

People gathered together in at least 800 - 1000 locations across the country last Wednesday. They raised their voices to a government that has not been listening — just as was the case with the original Boston Tea Party. Some directly referenced that event

and some more generally referenced the American Revolution.

Either way, the fact that hundreds of thousands of ordinary people (at least) made their own signs and turned out to demonstrate speaks volumes about the rising level of frustration all across the country. These were not hired demonstrators, paid by ANSWER and the like. These are mostly folks who have never taken part in a demonstration before, in demonstrations organized by volunteers. Many came out despite orders not to participate coming from government agency managers who were telling people these were "anti-government demonstrations." (And isn't that a chilling phrase to hear from government functionaries?!)

What a change! Only last year we were hearing, from many of these same people, that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism." I guess that's only true of your viewpoint is approved — by the "right people."

Individuals' specific reasons for participation varied, but there was one broad underlying reason.

Within that, the primary thing that put people over the edge was out of control spending. And that concern is made worse by frustration over what much of the money is being spent on.

There is also a lot of concern over how much of that spending is being financed by borrowing — passing the cost on to future generations. That's why the stimulus bill was called the Generational Theft Act by many. And that's why one of the best signs I heard about (but didn't see) said

It's not just the level of spending and borrowing. It's the directions both are going — and by how much.

People who were already disturbed by the record deficits in the past couple of years, are aghast at the prospect of seeing those deficits quadrupled (or more) with no prospect of ever returning down to those record high levels.

People understand implicitly these kinds of deficits cannot long continue. That means higher taxes are coming. And that leads to what may be my favorite of the signs I saw (though I couldn't find a picture of it):


SO WHY ARE WE SEEING TEA PARTIES NOW, rather than back in the Bush Administration? It’s important to note that we did see pushback on spending in the Bush years — e.g., the PorkBusters movement that Trent Lott became “damn tired” of — but this graphic may explain why people are more upset now. In terms of both trend and magnitude, things are really different now.

Some protestors, instead of focusing on any single issue, chose to show a generalized frustration

while others are beginning to get angry. Getting angry, voters in several cities (at least) are beginning to think about traditional, historical remedies.

Whether these protests end up being considered successful will depend on whether the politicians and elected officials see themselves as our public servants or as our overlords — whether they see their role as representing the people of the United States or as determining what is best for us and forcing it on us regardless of our beliefs and views. If they are representatives, they will listen. If they won't listen, they are not representatives — we do not have representation — and they need to be reminded of some very important words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

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