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Anti-Obama Taxpayer Tea Parties steeped in insanity

What, exactly, are the protesters protesting? The marginal tax rate rising 3% for millionaires?

April 15, 2009|Marc Cooper | Marc Cooper is director of Annenberg Digital News at the Annenberg School for Communication at USC

The Web is buzzing with information about how to throw an anti-Obama Taxpayer Tea Party, something organizers hope will be held today from Santa Monica to South Carolina. But no need to burn up your bandwidth reading complicated instructions. Here's a simpler recipe:

Go to a hobby store. Buy a scale model of a U.N. One-World-Government Black Helicopter and a tube of glue. Toss the model kit. Sniff the entire tube of glue. You're all set for the party.

I can recall only a few outbreaks of such collective insanity as these tea parties in recent years. There was that time in the mid-1990s when a $19.95 video proving Bill Clinton was some sort of serial killer went viral. And then, a few years back, there was that chilling, televised midnight seance from the floor of the U.S. Congress aimed at reviving the long-brain-dead Terri Schiavo.

And now this. Whip out your Lipton and don your tinfoil hat and join the protest against ... against ... against what exactly?

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, April 16, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 27 Editorial pages Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
"Tea Parties": An Op-Ed article Wednesday about planned protests against President Obama's economic programs referred to a Bruce Bartlett article in Fortune magazine. The article was in Forbes.

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."

The Tea Party movement, more than anything else, is a rather garish display of a Republican right that seems to have lost not only the national elections but also any semblance of political bearings. Staying on this course, the GOP risks -- in the words of one pundit -- becoming "the Talk Radio Republican Party."

Better put that kettle on, Marge. It's going to be a long and bizarre four years.

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