Tea parties and tea leaves
BY: Celia Murray
Last week saw tax day come and go for another year. This year, however, the day was also marked by a series of “tea parties” in various parts of the nation. While proponents insisted the teabagging events were the result of a non-partisan, grass-roots movement, the evidence suggests otherwise.
The main website for last Wednesday’s events, Tax Day Tea Party, is registered by Allen B. Fuller who creates websites for Republican officials and was funded by conservative groups including those founded by Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey. Tea parties were actively promoted by FOX news.
Of course, teabagging, like many things, had unintended consequences. In at least four locations, Hazmat teams were called to respond to the offices of members of Congress when lumpy white envelopes with no return addresses arrived in the mail.
The envelopes contained tea bags – but that fact was only determined after considerable expenditures of time and resources. Unfortunately, such precautions are necessary in a “post anthrax-scare” world. Regardless, the movement’s organizers say they’re steamed at increased government spending since President Barack Obama’s administration took over. One cannot help but wonder why the anti-deficit activists have just now discovered their outrage. After all, these are the same people who remained amazingly quiet over the past eight years while the Bush administration drained the government coffers and turned a $300 billion surplus into a $1.5 trillion dollar deficit. Apparently, it is only Democratic deficits that are harmful.
As President Obama explained in a lengthy and well-crafted speech delivered on April 14th, “…when this recession began, many families sat around their kitchen tables and tried to figure out where they could cut back. So (did) many businesses. That is a completely reasonable and understandable reaction. But if every family in America cuts back, then no one is spending any money, which means there are more layoffs, and the economy gets even worse. That is why the government has to step in and temporarily boost spending in order to stimulate demand.” As the President noted, “(i)t is not sustainable to have an economy where in one year, 40 percent of our corporate profits came from a financial sector that was based too much on inflated home prices, maxed out credit cards, overleveraged banks and overvalued assets; or an economy where the incomes of the top one percent have skyrocketed while the typical working household has seen their income decline by nearly $2,000.” Obama expressed his “absolute” agreement that the long-term deficit is a major problem that must be addressed, and noted that “even as too many were chasing ever-bigger bonuses and short-term profits over the last decade, we continued to neglect the long-term threats to our prosperity.” The fix to the deficit problem is not more tax cuts for the super-wealthy. A recent Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans believe that they themselves are either paying the right amount of taxes or TOO LITTLE, and the President’s plan will cut taxes for working Americans. Rather, the fix to long-term deficit issue requires addressing, in a serious and non-partisan way, the obligations the government has to its citizens in the forms of Social Security, Medicare and the Medicare drug benefits. While the President is anxious to address these issues (his health care reform proposals are a good-faith start), members of Congress appear more concerned with pacifying their constituents in the short-term. Apparently, they believe this is the way to assure their re-election. I believe that they need to read the tea leaves and begin addressing the hard issues so as to avoid the real crisis that looms just over the horizon.
Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Party.
PRINTED IN THE APRIL 23, 2009 EDITION