April 15th, 2009

Why I’m Not Attending a Tea Party


photo credit: Captive Light

Yes, it’s true. I’m not attending one of the many tea parties being organized on this, the day of legalized American thievery. Upset citizens across the country are rallying in various locations to voice their concerns, hold up their signs, and maybe get on the news.

But I have several concerns with the movement, leading me to decline participation in what otherwise might be a great opportunity to apply some pressure and fight for real change. A few of them are as follows:

Listen up, politicians! Um, will you please come speak at our rally?

In what might otherwise be a move of solidarity by “we the people” against the government they feel does not represent them well (or at all), some tea parties have decided to court and invite the very leeches they so (allegedly) criticize. In Salt Lake City, for example, three government officials have been invited to speak: Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, US Representative Rob Bishop, and US Representative Jason Chaffetz. Other locations have likewise invited government officials to be their voice.

What’s wrong with this? Well, it seems rather ironic that a protest against government intervention into the marketplace (through taxation, bailouts, stimuli, and the rest) would be headlined by those who officially represent that government. Leaving aside any personal virtues of the individual government officials themselves, stacking the event with so many of them cannot be ignored as a symbolic gesture. If this event portends to be the people organizing to demand that the government listen to them, it’s ineffective to instead ask the government to come and speak so the people can instead be on the listening end.

To further illustrate this absurdity, consider the original Boston Tea Party. Most would agree (I hope) that the colonials’ active protest would have lost its symbolism and force had they instead chosen to invite His Majesty’s royal tax collectors to share their thoughts. Citizen protests are diluted when they give the floor primarily to those who represent the government to the people, not vice versa.

Signs, shouting, and spinning wheels

In my observation of the tea party movement, I have seen few proposals of action items. Sending tea bags in the mail and holding up signs in front of a government building may make the individual feel good about their political involvement, but pray tell, what does it really accomplish? At the end of the day, will any minds have been changed? Will real pressure have been applied to the congresscritters passing all these bailouts?

Again, let’s go back to Boston. What sparked the revolutionary fever—the catalyst produced from the protest—was not mere words. Eloquent and impassioned essays had been circulated previously, and many (colonial) minds had indeed been persuaded. But true change came to fruition as a result of physically dumping the target of Britain’s taxes into the harbor. Simple protesting on the sidelines would not have sufficed, as this would only have caused some noise while the ships were unloaded and the product distributed.

Obviously, civil disobedience need not be violent to be effective. Nobody is calling for another “shot heard ’round the world,” nor campaigning for chaos and coercion. Instead, what I’m trying to illustrate is that until our elected officials (and their appointed cohorts) are threatened with loss of power, they will not respond. From what I’ve observed thus far, I seriously doubt that any of them feel their positions are jeopardized by some angry, shouting groups of people who make clever signs and send bags of tea in the mail.

Far more effective would be galvanizing the public immediately prior to elections, or during other events where change can be made. If frustration is not channeled into action, it is nothing more than hot air. Harnessed, its steam might be made powerful; left alone, it disperses and quickly cools. As the emcee of one tea party has said:

If these events are to evolve into genuine ballot box revolt, it will be up to Tea Party attendees to catch this lightning in a bottle and keep it glowing until we can rein in this pernicious wave of panic spending by electing people of both parties who want no part of it.

Protest together, get taxed alone

While the main focus of the tea parties is our heavy tax burden and government bailouts of failing companies, there are plenty of other issues being brought to the forefront by participants. Radio shows, online forums, and blog posts offer up all sorts of ideas for inclusion in the tea party protests. Most notable is the ease with which such a protest is generalizing into an anti-Obama crusade, with upset “conservatives” angry at Democrat spending and government largess. (That such partisans ignore the fact that George Bush taxed, grew government, and bailed out with the rest of ’em is, apparently, left to the historians.)

This partisan focus is not only hypocritical, but detrimental to the fight for liberty and freedom from government intervention. If the end goal is to restore the federal throne to so-called conservatives, then it is a lost cause; Republicans and Democrats alike have been taxing and spending for decades, each trying to outpace the other. If the tea parties are to be successful, they must lose all partisan interest and accuse both parties of the same cycle of intervention, taxation, and inflation. All sides of the political spectrum must unite together to demand that their "representatives" take heed and obey the Constitution—not only when they are the “loyal opposition,” but (more importantly) when their party is in control. If this remains a largely Republican cause, it will fail.

Good luck, I’ll be watching from the sidelines

All this being said, I understand the need that some people have to do something. Frustrated both with their government and with their own apathy, many feel that getting out and shouting at a government building will be an effective use of their time. Frankly, I sincerely hope that I am proven wrong with the issues I’ve listed above (and others I have, but don’t have time to expound upon), and that these tea parties can serve as a catalyst for actual change.

And that’s what it’s about—real change. Not just the change of guard who enforces the same policy; not just the change of parties which carries out the same philosophy, differing only in speed and methodology; not reducing bailouts by a few hundred million dollars to placate the vocal minority; not lessening one tax, only to increase another. As just one example, Congressman Rob Bishop (speaking at today’s SLC tea party) was on the radio this morning discussing his participation in today’s events. During the conversation, he talked about Obama’s proposal of health care policies as a way of “fixing the economy”, suggesting that he and other Republicans have proposed an “alternative”—namely, a “market-based” approach to health care. This is not change! Real change is making our federal officials understand that they have no Constitutional authority to do anything about it in the first place!

Bailouts, excessive taxes, and the other numerous interventions into the marketplace do not need to be lessened or made market-friendly. They need to be eliminated entirely. That is what the protesters in Boston were all about when they hurled the taxed product into the cold waters of the harbor. That is what we need to be about if our protests and activism is to be effective.

40 Responses to “Why I’m Not Attending a Tea Party”

  1. alexis
    April 15, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    great post! interesting, too, because i wrote almost the exact thing, point for point on my blog, in explanation of why *i* wouldn’t be taking part in the protest. guess we see the same fatal flaws :-)

  2. Heather
    April 15, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    Very good points Connor. Thanks for sharing.

  3. kannie
    April 15, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    Most notable is the ease with which such a protest is generalizing into an anti-Obama crusade, with upset “conservatives” angry at Democrat spending and government largess. (That such partisans ignore the fact that George Bush taxed, grew government, and bailed out with the rest of ‘em is, apparently, left to the historians.)

    I believe that’s MSNBC’s talking point, but I don’t believe it’s a talking point of anyone I know who’s participating. The individuals participating, instead, are crying, “stop the spending!”

    They were upset about the first Bailout, but not empowered to protest it aside from the calls and letters of protest (which generated exactly ZERO success because the communication was absolutely not heard and obeyed).

    Please be a little more generous in your sweeping classifications. You are free to sit it out if you are uncomfortable, and of course there are instances of partisanship; but assuming that the overwhelming majority of those participating are partisan hacks who are just mad that the opposing party won the presidency is far from the truth, and it’s exactly the ABC/MSNBC/etc. media line.

    In addition, how do you propose that better candidates be identified and/or motivated to come forward? And how are they to gain support? We have a lot of good candidates where I am, but because there’s no central movement to really get behind them, or even get to know them, their votes are scattered all over the place, and they don’t even present a challenge to the establishment candidates.

    If we sit back and poo-pooh every fledgling movement because it’s not perfect, we’re never going to start ANYWHERE.

    The only thing that’s really evident to me is that continuing to do what we have been doing (yes, as bloggers), will continue to make as much of a difference as it has been making; so I’d rather not ridicule those who are trying to be heard a little louder.

  4. Connor
    April 15, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    …but I don’t believe it’s a talking point of anyone I know who’s participating.

    Take some time to scan what others are saying about it. There’s plenty of anti-Obama focus in the tea party movement.

    They were upset about the first Bailout, but not empowered to protest it aside from the calls and letters of protest (which generated exactly ZERO success because the communication was absolutely not heard and obeyed).

    And signs are more effective than personal letters? I agree, our voices were totally ignored during the first bailout, and have been since. That’s why I argue in this post that the threat to their power must be a real one. And frankly, I think a deluge of letters (logical, reasonable opinions and thoughts on the subject) will do more than a bunch of people shouting.

    …but assuming that the overwhelming majority of those participating are partisan hacks who are just mad that the opposing party won the presidency is far from the truth, and it’s exactly the ABC/MSNBC/etc. media line.

    First, I’ve never said that the percentage of people in the tea party movement angry at Obama constitute an “overwhelming majority”. Second, in conversation with others, and in observation of discussions elsewhere, I have not personally come across many who see this as a decades-long issue of constant intervention in the marketplace. Sure, big numbers (in the trillions) scare people, and so more are roused from their couches to start shaking their fist. But I applaud those who recognize this for what it is—a long history of government intervention, of which the recent bailouts play only a recent (but large) part.

    In addition, how do you propose that better candidates be identified and/or motivated to come forward? And how are they to gain support? We have a lot of good candidates where I am, but because there’s no central movement to really get behind them, or even get to know them, their votes are scattered all over the place, and they don’t even present a challenge to the establishment candidates.

    Use the internet. Start an email list. Host dinner discussion groups. Encourage others to do the same. Network. Start a website dedicated to dethroning an establishment candidate. Run for an election yourself. Write letters to the editor. Contact local delegates and brainstorm with them. Put together a contest for who can come up with the most creative billboard design about a pertinent political issue.

    What’s most important is education, and until the protesting masses understand the fundamental principles behind the issues at hand, they’re going to simply put into office another person who will do more of the same. The unfortunate thing is that education takes time, and thus does not easily lend itself to the quick fixes that people so often desire.

    If we sit back and poo-pooh every fledgling movement because it’s not perfect, we’re never going to start ANYWHERE.

    I agree. I’m not “poo-poohing” the tea party movement, but rather pointing out the reasons why I will not be participating and discussing some of the issues I see with it. I will not blindly participate in some popular movement, and so I call the shots as I see them. But as I said towards the end of the post, I still hope that something good will come from these protests, flawed though I think they may be.

  5. David
    April 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    Like Alexis I also wrote about where the tea parties fall short as a means of producing political change. I like some of the things that you have covered here that I did not address.

  6. Phil801
    April 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    I don’t get it – what is it that you WANT to see happen? I see the tea party movement as a stepping stone. Many, many people tried telling their reps not to vote for the bailouts to no avail. This is a natural next step. Will it accomplish anything? No, none of the things you’ve identified.

    But, I’ll tell you what it WILL accomplish and the potential damage the attitude of you and Alexis will do.

    America is mostly apathetic and sedentary what the Tea Party movement does provide is a call to mobilize. People are going to these because they feel overrun and helpless, they don’t know what else to do and they feel like they’re alone in that. The Tea Party idea will get people out and together where they can realize that there are others like them, where hopefully they’ll realize there are thousands – millions of Americans like them who are tired of everything and are ready to do SOMETHING. When people realize they aren’t alone in something hopefully they’ll be more motivated to stay active in it.

    So, you and those “purists” like you are actually doing damage to something that could potentially get more people moving in this country.

    I agree with you about the tendency for it to become partisan, and I agree with you that it MUST NOT BE partisan. However, the ENTIRE COUNTRY is conditioned to be partisan. It’s going to take a bit for that to end. Let’s try to be realists here.

    As for the politicians being invited to speak – I HATE it when people demonize elected officials on principle. No matter how you feel about any of it, those people were still elected by the people to represent the people. Unless you are calling for anarchy your rhetoric goes way over the line. I completely agree that it would be stupid to invite a rep that voted FOR the bailouts or stimulus. Notably, Bishop and Chaffetz not only voted AGAINST them, they have spoken out against them. Their inclusion in this event is appropriate because THEY have been in DC REPRESENTING us as they were elected to do and speaking out against the things we would speak against.

    I know you as a realist Connor, but this post is full of fantastical yearnings of changing everything overnight. You talk about how the mere existence of things are un-constitutional – and you’re correct, they are. But the fact that they are also THE WAY THINGS ARE right now means that they won’t be changed on your wish and a prayer. It took a long time to get to this point and if it DID change overnight it would create total chaos. There has to be a transition. Be a realist and help lead a transition.

    Standing against a possible movement in the direction of that transition of purist principle is ludicrous, unwise and unrealistic. How are you accomplishing ANYTHING by standing up against it? You’re not.

  7. David
    April 15, 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    Phil801,

    I think you mis-characterize Connor when you say he is standing against the tea parties. On the other hand I think you are right to defend the fact that some politicians have been invited to speak. Our representatives are different from the British tax collectors because we elected them. Some who are newly elected and others who have a strong record of working for the principles espoused by the tea party movement can lend greater force and validity to the movement.

    For an idea of the kinds of things that tea party participants should do when they realize that they are not alone go read Political Action vs Reaction.

  8. Connor
    April 15, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    But Phil, mobilization is only good when there is a concrete objective. Can you imagine mobilizing our armed forces without any concrete goals or mission objectives? (Oh wait, I just described our occupation of Iraq…)

    I agree with the emcee I quoted, when he said that these protests must translate into some actual action after the fact, otherwise they’re nothing more than social events.

    So, you and those “purists” like you are actually doing damage to something that could potentially get more people moving in this country.

    If by purism you mean having actual hope rather than the false hope that these contrived events can sometimes create, then I stand guilty as charged. I think that these things have the potential of leading people to think that they’re being politically productive. Until they are organized and focus on some achievable objective, then I don’t think that their efforts are effective for anything more than perhaps some networking or passing out literature to those who already agree with your position.

    No matter how you feel about any of it, those people were still elected by the people to represent the people. Unless you are calling for anarchy your rhetoric goes way over the line.

    This is why in my post I draw a division between “those who represent the government to the people” and vice versa. Rep. Chaffetz has done a pretty good job so far at representing his constituents to the government, but not all have this record (although his has a short life span thus far). Being elected by the people to represent the people does not mean that they actually do it well. Remember your thoughts on this?

    I completely agree that it would be stupid to invite a rep that voted FOR the bailouts or stimulus. Notably, Bishop and Chaffetz not only voted AGAINST them, they have spoken out against them.

    As I said to kannie, the issues at hand are not just the bailouts. The bailouts play a recent, notable, and important part. But we must look at how these elected officials have voted in the past regarding similar interventions to best understand their stance. As an aside, the lack of consistency in principle is shown, as it relates to Rep. Bishop, by the fact that he voted for last fall’s stimulus.

    I know you as a realist Connor, but this post is full of fantastical yearnings of changing everything overnight.

    Actually, I have no false notions of overnight change. All I’m saying is that these protests, unless action is tied to them, won’t change anything. The Boston Tea Party certainly did not change things overnight, but like the small movement of a ship’s rudder, the long course was drastically changed (for the better, in that case), thus making that event very significant. By small and simple things, right?

    How are you accomplishing ANYTHING by standing up against it?

    I don’t want movement, I want the right movement. I will not participate in something that I do not agree with and that has no concrete objective. Believe me, I’ve signed up with plenty of organizations and groups with whose agenda I believe, and who I try to support. One might have argued your point during the French Revolution (as Jefferson did), saying that the revolution itself was virtuous. But without principle, without reason, and without wise leadership, the effort crumbled. This is the destiny I fear for the tea parties. Come tomorrow, what will the protesters do? Whatever action you may think up is the one we should be discussing today.

  9. Phil801
    April 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    I’m gonna just walk across the hall and kick your $#$%#@#.

    ;)

  10. Connor
    April 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm #

    Our representatives are different from the British tax collectors because we elected them.

    Yet you’ll find that many people are espousing the “no taxation without representation” line in these tea parties. Of course, as you point out, they are represented—they simply feel misrepresented.

  11. jake Brown
    April 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    I think you are finding all of the negative points from the different rallies and critizing all of them. Some people may be anti-Obama. I would agree that it is wrong to only blame him (though he desreves some too), but not all of them are only blaming him. Some of them are inviting politicians, but the great majority of them are rejecting the idea of inviting politicians. For example the TEA party in chicago would not allow Steele to participate even though he asked. So I am sorry that SLC is inviting them, but find another one who is not inviting any elected officials. I believe those points, but I think they were overgeneralized to all the tea parties.
    The point I most disagreed with was the “signs, shouting, and spinning wheels.” Like you said look at the original Boston Tea Party. There were no ideas given at that tea party. People merely took the tea when dressed like indians and tossed it in the harbor. Yes others gave ideas and pamphlets, but they did not do it at the tea party. So it is today. Many is the article and blog about the atrocities of the bailout, but those probably won’t be given at the tea parties today, just like the original.
    Again, on the whole I agree with you. I think you are right about not inviting politicians and not making this anti-Obama. This is probably more of a Bush problem than anyone else’s, but neither of those points make ALL of the tea parties problematic, just some of them.

  12. rmwarnick
    April 15, 2009 at 1:06 pm #

    Some say Tim DeChristopher, who interfered in an illegal BLM lease auction as an act of civil disobedience, acted wrongly. So it’s good to see support for civil disobedience here.

    Also, good to see a recognition that much of the anti-Obama outrage among the right is highly selective. The budget deficit the tea baggers hate was created by the Bush administration. The expiration of the tax cuts for the rich on January 1, 2011– legislated by Republicans. Bailouts for Wall Street billionaires? Demanded by Bush and approved by Congress just before the election.

    People who are going around today calling President Obama a “fascist” and demanding the lynching of Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a “traitor” have the right to be idiots. But they would do better to rally behind something positive.

  13. Connor
    April 15, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    Jake, I’ll agree with your point, and readily concede that no tea party is created equal. Some are big, some are small, some are promoted by media establishments, some are organized independently, some have financial backing, others are totally grassroots. I applaud those who are rejecting politician participation and financial sponsorships to instead keep this “purely” (for you Phil) at the citizen level.

  14. Cameron
    April 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    Richard, all of those things are a part of today’s demonstrations. As is Obama’s continuation and exponential increase in deficit spending and bailouts.

    What was nice to see at the SLC demonstration was no laws broken and no soldiers burned in effigy. Just a group of citizens expressing frustration with the federal government.

  15. Tim Harper
    April 15, 2009 at 1:33 pm #

    Agreed that TEA parties do little (if not nothing) to persuade the other side, but what I did feel at the TEA party downtown was a spirit of unity, and that we made ourselves heard. I think this has a positive effects on the spirits of those who feel alone in their beliefs of the proper role of government.

    There were some petitions being signed down there, not that those are going to do anything, but it’s a start. There were also some people gathering names and phone numbers to help organize local study groups and action committees – I hope that is a success. Additionally, I was handed a flier of some action steps, which I thought was a good idea on the part of the person handing them out.

  16. ajax
    April 15, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    It’s kinda like the 4th of July where the masses go to parades and wave at politicians who are just as guilty of those “long train of abuses” as contained in the very document they celebrate. Hmmm….strange. There is a quote out there that says “Imagine there is war and nobody shows up”. I would like to amend this to read, “Imagine there is a tax day and nobody pays.” This would be real protest. What will they do? Arrest us all?

  17. kannie
    April 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    I grant you your point that you’ve never called it the “overwhelming majority” of participants; you use the terms “generalizing,” instead, and this tweet:

    RT @elforesto #teaparty protesters are largely a bunch of hypocrites. Where were you during Bush’s deficits? Worshiping at the Reagan altar?

    uses the term “largely.” Please forgive me for extrapolating. ;-) There was a lot of ridicule going around simultaneously from all sides; I anticipated that from statists, but not so much from those who are less trusting of government.

    I’m honestly offended on behalf of my friends who do understand true principles and are taking a very real risk to stand up for what they believe, knowing they’ll be smeared in the left’s media and scorned (many falsely) as hypocrites by so much of the right and left, in addition to being associated with numerous plants and the occasional nutjob.

    As for my admittedly anecdotal evidence, the twitter link shows me a lot more critics *saying* it’s becoming anti-Obama than people actually *being* anti-Obama. And to be fair, Obama does deserve a mention. Lots of individuals do. I hope Bush gets a lot of mention. And every president for the last century, for that matter. And every “Congresscritter” (great term, BTW) who’s made a career out of betraying his/her electors… as well as every party official who facilitates their reign.

    You point out that education is the main thing we can do; I think that’s what’s starting to happen.

    Did it take a hard-left government turn to shake people out of their productive lives into the streets? Yeah, I think it did for a lot of people, but I’d rather they woke up now than never. It takes a lot of frustration to put taking care of your daily life on hold in order to protest.

    But what else did you recommend?

    Use the internet. Start an email list. Host dinner discussion groups. Encourage others to do the same. Network. Start a website dedicated to dethroning an establishment candidate. Run for an election yourself. Write letters to the editor. Contact local delegates and brainstorm with them. Put together a contest for who can come up with the most creative billboard design about a pertinent political issue.

    I hope – and I believe – that that’s a lot of what’s going on. From radio coverage, I know it was at the Boise Tea Party. These tea parties represent the first clue that many of us had, that there were SO many who agreed with us. Blogging and even Twittering self-select for activists, IMHO; but when normally non-activist people start seeing and hearing scads of fellow citizens who are also fed-up, that counts for a lot.

    I share your hope that something good – that networking, activism, and education that you talk about – will come out of it. And I share your hope that the partisan silliness will not overshadow it. I’ll have to clean the house before any dinner meetings can be held here, LOL, but you’re right that I need to be doing even more; the more people who understand the principles, the less reticent we need be about joining ’em. :-)

  18. rmwarnick
    April 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm #

    I would like to believe that those who are now outraged at President Obama’s economic policies are not the very same people who backed Bush to the bitter end. These people now claiming to be principled conservatives were almost nowhere to be found during the past eight years.

  19. Cameron
    April 15, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    “people who backed Bush to the bitter end.”

    He had, what, sub-20% approval ratings? Don’t pretend that all conservatives loved President Bush’s economics but now are pulling an about face with a new president. It’s just not accurate.

  20. loquaciousmomma
    April 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    I find the discussions here amusing, as I have heard a certain radio talk show host specifically say that nothing would be accomplished by these tea parties except providing a forum for conservatives to “vent” their anger and frustration and meet other like-minded conservatives.

    My jaw hit the floor when he said it, because he followed it with ‘there’s nothing we can do to stop the liberal agenda since we don’t have enough votes in congress’. He said it very snidely, but in a conversation where he was actually encouraging someone to attend one as a way to feel like they were doing something.

    It just struck me that the purpose behind these parties is as varied as their locations.

    I must confess the radio personality I am referring to is Rush Limbaugh. I drive for about an hour each day as part of my job and switch between four channels with talk during that time, two being stations with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, one being BBC News, and the last being “Intentional Living”. (Talk about all ends of the spectrum! :-) )

    Anyway, one more thing that I thought was ironic about the tea parties…

    My husband looked into attending one in Iowa City, and the information given said that people were to bring water in bottles labeled ‘tea’ to dump into the Iowa river, as the DNR wouldn’t allow them to dump actual tea. It might hurt the river, I guess.

    Freedom to assemble?

    Please!

  21. Carborendum
    April 15, 2009 at 7:34 pm #

    Connor,

    Here in Denver, it did accomplish something and got the politicians to pay attention. This one was almost entirely grass-roots. The promotion may have been through the nation-wide organizations. But the advertising and organizing were completely local, by small groups of average citizens that communicated well through the internet.

    No politicians that I know of were invited to speak, with one exception. The governor. And that was what made it so unique.

    The “green” governor got out of his stretch SUV (commonly known as the governor–mobile). He was alarmed to get a real view of how many people were there. I hear there were between 5000 to 10000 people around the state capitol.

    He saw the crowd and the scowls. One guy invited the governor to speak on a portable PA system. He pointed to a car parked in his parking spot. The guy with the PA system happened to own it. He took his keys out and invited the governor to move it for him.

    Then he pulled the keys back and said,”No, on second thought, if I give you the keys, you’ll just give it to some illegals.”

    The governor got back into his car and left. No one saw him for the rest of the day.

  22. Josh Williams
    April 15, 2009 at 9:30 pm #

    You’re right, Connor.

    People have been marching and waving signs as long as there have been (marginally) representative governments.

    Unless they’re backed by at least a credible threat of civil disobedience, governments don’t pay attention. They just say “isn’t democracy great, guys! Well, let’s everybody get back to our business, shall we….”

    If you know of any large organized effort to stop filing tax returns, or to send back social security cards, or something of that Ilk. I’ll be among the first to sign up……count me in.

    I think if even 15% of the US pop. stopped paying income tax, then bragged to their friends about it……well, I’d still be worried about martial law and the whole posse comitatus thing…

  23. Adrien
    April 15, 2009 at 9:38 pm #

    To make it a real tea party, shouldn’t they have rounded up the checks from other people made out to Uncle Sam and set them to fire or something? Though this is in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party, as Connor points out, there really is no objective of this movement.

    In my opinion they should all grow a pair and make like this guy

    Refuse to pay your taxes and instead, donate it to whomever or whatever cause you like, even if it is a cause for your own well-being.

  24. Thomas Dyches
    April 15, 2009 at 10:05 pm #

    The challenge is, most people who say they’re opposed to Socialism don’t even know what it is. How many of our citizens (so-called “Conservatives”) are on some type of government social program (welfare, retirement, government education, health care, worker’s comp, etc.)??? Conservatives/Republicans cry “Freedom!” with their mouths but support Socialism with their votes & tax dollars.

    Was there really any difference between McCain and Obama on the bail-out? No! In economic matters they are quite aligned.

    Oh, let’s not forget that our beloved Utah Senators and most of the Congress people supported both the bail-out and the subsequent stimulus packages (blatant Socialism). And yet we’re supposed to be the ‘reddest of the red states.’ Give me a break people.

    I say Choose the Right, Let the Consequence Follow!

    Pay no attention to me, I’m just an extremist who truly loves freedom. ;-)

  25. Carborendum
    April 16, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    Josh & Adrien,

    The 15% can’t be just any taxpayer. It will have to be that total number (about 30million) self-employed taxpayers. The average person with a job doesn’t need to be taken to jail. He just has his wages garnished. Of all taxpayers, the number would have to be so high, that the logistics of wage garnishment would be impractical. I bet that could be as high as 100 million taxpayers.

    If there is enough dedication among the masses to refuse to pay taxes, I would love to be counted in.

    One more problem is that I know the tax code well enough that I really don’t pay much in taxes. I run my own business. I have lots of deductions. I have many kids . . . So, I’m not really motivated to take the risk currently unless I’m sure there is a reasonable chance that it will do some good.

    This is another reason why it has to be self-employed tax-payers.

    Thomas,

    I like that Pyro website. And I do not, nor do I intend to, take part in any of those government programs you mentioned. But there is one major category that you left out:

    Employment.

    This refers to both those directly employed by government entities, and those who work for companies who’s primary client is the government. I might add a third category: Those whose jobs would either be less important or completely unecessary if not for government requirements.

    I must add myself to that last one. As a structural engineer, my job probably would not exist (at least for the clients I have) if people didn’t need my stamp to satisfy a government requirement. At the very least, my services wouldn’t be as much in demand.

    But I’m thinking there are very few professions that are not in these categories any more due to government intervention into virtually everything. I am a believer in the free market. But if we really did go cold turkey into a real free market system, it would be a devastating transition period. One I would be willing to go through if I knew it was actually going to take.

  26. Carissa
    April 16, 2009 at 8:12 am #

    My hope with these Tea Party events is not so much that government will actually listen to the outrage and immediately change their ways (no doubt that would be great, just extremely unlikely) but that people can start networking with others and start (or continue) learning and being politically active. As Phil, Kannie, and Tim said:

    The Tea Party idea will get people out and together where they can realize that there are others like them

    These tea parties represent the first clue that many of us had, that there were SO many who agreed with us.

    There were also some people gathering names and phone numbers to help organize local study groups and action committees

    That is great! Networking is an extremely important step in becoming politically active. It may be the first step many will take on that journey. And who knows where they’ll go from there?

    You know, some people grow up with an innate (or learned) desire to actively engage in politics, but way too many of us don’t and it seems to take some sort of “event” to get us passionate. I was the type that, even in college, never really had opinions on political issues and would dread writing those argumentative papers because I would have to pretend to take a side. Pathetic, I know :)

    For some reason, my “event” was 911. It just got me interested and curious about a lot of things (mainly government and politics). It seemed urgent and important that I begin educating myself. Yes, I should have done that earlier. And maybe those who are just beginning to realize things are getting bad should have woken up a little sooner too. But I can’t fault them in the least. I just think it’s great that more people are starting to care.

    Some of those involved may remain strictly partisan and never open themselves up to understanding the deeper issues, but I hope that it sparks a desire for many to learn as much truth as they can. We need to join in the discussions (there will likely be many in the future) and all learn from each other.

  27. Adrien
    April 16, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    I think that you could set up a system based on a value-added tax on all businesses, not just end-users, that taxed a small percentage of the revenue of a business. No deductions, no loopholes, a flat sales tax on all sales. Just the cost of doing business with relative low geopolitical risk.

    Spread among all businesses, profitable and unprofitable, the rate would be much smaller. In theory, you could use GDP as a measure of all the sales in the country and figure out how much you need to tax.

    Then abolish all other taxes.

  28. Kellene
    April 16, 2009 at 8:55 am #

    Great points, Heather. Agreed, what would you suggest to move forward?

    While I can understand your reservations with three politicians speaking at the SLC tea party, wasn’t there another of the 12 tea parties in the valley that you could have attended to raise your voice?

    While tea parties may not bring about huge change on their own, seeing the massives numbers that rallied together is impressive. Never before has there ever been such a grass roots movement since teh 1700s.

  29. Adrien
    April 16, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    Kellene, I think that there was more of a movement to get Obama elected than there was to oppose taxes yesterday. So there has never been such a grass roots movement since 2008.

  30. Connor
    April 16, 2009 at 11:05 am #

    As further evidence of partisanship, see this article. As Devvy Kidd explains, events like this are so easily co-opted and diverted to either paint them as fringe, or dilute their real message.

  31. Carborendum
    April 16, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    Adrien,

    I think you misunderstand the meaning of the term “grass-roots.”

  32. Carissa
    April 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    Didn’t Jason Chaffetz co-sponser Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill? That’s cool.

  33. Carborendum
    April 17, 2009 at 7:42 pm #

    Now, I’m going to address the issue of how the MSM is covering this.

    First of all, there was a broad spectrum of participants. This included registered Democrats, independents, third parties, and fringe elements. A majority were registered Republicans.

    EVERY interview, picture, etc. that I heard or saw was either with one of the fringes or one that was completely misrepresented by the newscaster. Further, it was repeated over and over again that this was “astroturf roots” rather than “grass roots”.

    How do these people keep their jobs? They openly make snide remarks about participants being “tea-baggers”. If you don’t get the innuendo, you may not want to know. They said that because an interviewee wanted liberty and lower taxes, that the party was obviously “not family friendly”. Where the heck did that come from?

    Local newscasters in Denver said that the crowd kept shouting “impeach Obama!” A lot of people were lifting an eyebrow trying to figure out what they were talking about. Most people never heard anything of the kind.

    A few mentioned a group of three or four people in one corner who kept chanting that, but it never caught on. In fact, those around them hushed them up. it was NOT supposed to be about Obama. It was supposed to be about the entire government going out of control. He was a part of it. But only a part. Thus he was mentioned, but so were a lot of others.

    The local media reported that “many” wore V for Vendetta masks and paraphenalia. Some mentioned a party of 5 or 6 walking around the square looking for the cameras. And the cameras were happy to find them. I wonder what world aggrandizes 5 or 6 as “many”.

    Most of the signs had comments regarding the bailout, debt, taxes, the Fed, etc. But most of the photos you saw were cherry picked to have the most anti-Obama signs show up on the internet as possible.

    Out of an estimated 3500 people who showed up, a couple dozen fringe elements were the ones who were covered on the local media. National media, did only marginally better.

    They blame Fox and talk radio for “crossing the line from journalism to activism.” Look who’s talking!!!

    I tell you, when I think about these tea parties, a thrill goes up my leg.

    Again and again the question was asked,”Where were these people when Bush was going out of control?” 90% of the same people were shouting epithets at bush as well. These were the people responsible for giving Bush such low ratings.

    What really irks the MSM is that liberal Congress had a lower rating than Bush, and the liberal media had a lower approval rating than Congress. This should tell them something. But they are as deaf to these protests as our elected officials, if not more so.

    I was going to ask,”How do they live with themselves?” Believing that they make a living by telling lies. But then I remembered the attitudes, the looks, the words, the interviews. I realized that they don’t do this to deceive their viewers. They’ve already deceived themselves with preconceived notions about these protests.

    To them, they are not lying. They believe it. They’ve become a mindless cult. They feel it is a moral imperative to report these parties as dangerous, anti-American, anti-Obama, terrorist enclaves, regardless of what is right before their eyes.

    Nevermind the fact that these protests were carried on without outbreaks of violence or vandalism. Nevermind that most of the signage was of restoring America and the Constitution.

    But then again according to the DHS, those who want the government to be more constitutional are potential terrror suspects.

    THAT’S SCARY.

  34. Connor
    April 18, 2009 at 6:48 pm #

    Another perspective on the tea parties…

  35. vontrapp
    April 19, 2009 at 4:51 pm #

    I agree with most of the sentiments in that LRC article. It’s a lot of pent up frustration and anger at the complacent american who does nothing for liberty. But to turn that frustration against our very own? Against the very people who are starting to stand up? Starting to care? Getting out of the malls and the starbucks? Standing for two hours in heavy snow and wind in the middle of april?!? I mean c’mon really!?! “You bunch of lazy bastards! Stand up and do something! But wait, you better do it exactly right, and it better be dangerous! risky! on your first try! or you’re not worthy!” I’m really sick of this downtalking the tea parties. I thought that was the MSMs job. I guess they succeed in another job, turning us against ourselves, against eachother. Heaven forbid we should unify in a good cause, ANY good cause. Jeez. Sorry, I respect everyone here, but I just feel it’s getting way off base here.

  36. Carborendum
    April 19, 2009 at 8:17 pm #

    So, is the point of the LRC article that a protest does no good unless we:

    1) Break the law.
    2) Destroy something.
    3) Become violent.
    4) Make threats that will have people shivering.

    Look, I like Lew. But if this is his definition of a protest, it just shows why I’m only a moderate libertarian. I still believe in the rule of law. I believe in the Constitution. I believe in the Declaration. Have we gotten to the point where we have the right to abolish the current form of government? If not, we are not justified in using violence to alter it.

    I view this as a caveat. If things get much worse we may be justified in using violent and/or illegal measures to do so. So, far we are not under absolute despotism.

    But what I really fear is that if it gets much worse, we won’t have to. The system will just fall apart on its own.

  37. Connor
    April 19, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    The point I took away from the LRC article was not that violence and destruction were necessary, but that those in power need to feel threatened. This is what I argued in my post, and what I feel was lacking from the tea parties. Without the threat of loss of power, politicians are going to keep on doing what they’ve been doing.

    Granted, grassroots organizing and planning can take some time. But that duration also increases the chances of the cause fizzing out. The reason that some advocate a physical catalyst is that it galvanizes people quickly, focusing them on a specific issue much faster than otherwise would have happened. I’m not entirely sure that this is necessary. Instead, I think that something specific and actionable needs to be the focus of our efforts so that we can accomplish our task and then move on to the next, rather than spending our time signing up a few new party recruits, gathering some petition signatures, and collecting some donations.

  38. Ron
    April 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm #

    Conner – I agree that real action needs to be taken. I also agree with the sentiment that the benefits of these tea parties is that they show like minded individuals that there IS a group – a large one – that feels the same way I do. With the reign of the media today, and the apathy in many our fellow citizens, it’s sometimes difficult to believe that the majority of America still believes in the foundational principles and ideas that this wonderful country was founded on.

    I was looking in the comments for one idea which I felt was even more poignant than most being made, and the kudos goes to Ajax. I posed the same sentiment at the Provo TEA party: We, the People, only hold as much power as we choose to wield. Case in point, if we, as a country of United Citizens, were to declare an end to income tax until things were reigned in by the federal government, then very quickly the politicians would see that we are the ones in control, not them. If together we chose to stay home April 15th to actively defend our right to demand change, then we would see it soon enough. I’m sure there would be arrests, and I’m sure there would be riots. But in the end, if we united and spoke up, solutions would more than likely be found.

    I was happy to see so many “terrorists” turn out for the tea parties, but one thing I noticed was that so many of these folks were demanding change from the government. Yet we as Americans have reached an all time high for personal debt and spending. I used to think the country was a reflection of our government – I’m sure in some ways it is – but if we had our financial lives in order, would we even consider the many “big government” programs which have cankered America’s core ideals of late? Nationalized health care, bailouts, taxing the rich for the “poor’s” sake – these are all things that are in place now because people have lost the commitment to one core American philosophy: Personal responsibility.

    I don’t think the tea parties are bad. I think they serve a purpose. However, the real change will come with real sacrifice and risk. Without willingness to sacrifice, we’re nothing more than subjects.

    Just my 2¢.

  39. Connor
    October 31, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    The New York Times published an article today about the Utah Tea Party—well, more specifically, it’s “founder, more or less”, David Kirkham. A few paragraphs highlights the first point I made in this article, namely, the close marriage between the political class and the protesting citizenry. Despite the rhetoric, the latter co-opts the former and renders it useless. Witness Orrin Hatch, and the so-called leader of the tea party in Utah:

    Although Mr. Kirkham professes not to like politicians as a rule, he refers frequently to his conversations with some of the state’s leading political figures, including his new friend Orrin — as in Orrin G. Hatch, who has served in the United States Senate since Mr. Kirkham was 10. Mr. Hatch seemed to grasp the relevance of the Tea Party movement long before his doomed colleague, Mr. Bennett. After that first rally, Mr. Hatch invited Mr. Kirkham up to his Salt Lake City office for a long chat about cars and politics. The two now talk often, and Mr. Kirkham has brought Mr. Hatch to Tea Party events — including a picnic in the canyons — where he has had the chance to explain his record to hundreds of furious conservative activists. (“I’m angry, too!” Mr. Hatch told me.)

    In other words, Mr. Kirkham has become a bridge between the party establishment and its alienated constituents, a man to whom confused politicians can turn to understand and survive a turbulent moment.

    “I was a little apprehensive to meet him,” Mr. Hatch told me recently. “But I think he’s one of the finest people I’ve met, and I’m not just saying that. David Kirkham is a leader.”

  40. mormonlibertarian
    November 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    I believe the ‘tea party’ has been completely ‘co-opted’–

    sad . . .

    they did a good job of hijacking/sabotaging it–

    most tea partiers don’t even know it happened–

    :(

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.