Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bagging on the tea parties

As a pug well-versed in history, religion and current events, I am not often perplexed. But the "tea party" movement has me scratching my head. (And I had my monthly dose of Revolution today, so it is not flea-related.) Fox News, which has been cheerleading the events, calls them "anti-tax tea parties." Having just mailed my bloated 1040 and a large check to the IRS, I can understand the frustration. The U.S. tax code is far too complex, and filing a return is far too time-consuming. But "anti-tax"? Do people think that interstate highways and a strong military and countless other things that enhance our lives as citizens grow on trees? I accept that to derive the benefits of living in this country, I must foot part of the bill in the form of taxes. 

Let's remember that the original Boston Tea Party was held to protest taxation without representation. Today's protesters have the right to vote on which bums are put in office. And sour grapes over a lost election do not equate to the grievances of the founding fathers.

Perhaps Fox News is oversimplifying the matter with the "anti-tax" label. If the protest is over runaway government spending, then it begins to make more sense. But the timing is highly suspect. On Sean Hannity's radio show today, he said that under President Obama, people suddenly see trillions of dollars in debt and their children's piggy banks being raided. Seriously? This has been going on for years. Aside from a brief period of relative fiscal sanity under President Clinton, the United States has been living beyond its means for decades. And our last president, George W. Bush, racked up nearly as much debt during his eight years in office as the nation acquired in its previous 224 years combined. Yet Hannity and others of his ilk largely ignored the matter until Obama took office. Watching one of the tea parties on TV, I just spotted an "Impeach Yobama" sign. If you're going to protest profligate spending, then have the sincerity to do so regardless of which party holds power in Washington. 

I have written many times on this blog about the lunacy of Washington's out-of-control spending. But with the country potentially teetering on the brink of another Great Depression, I firmly believe that now is not the time to turn off the spigot of government money. Most economists agree that the depression of the 1930s was as bad as it was precisely because of the government's hands-off approach. It took the heavy spending of World War II and, to a lesser extent, the New Deal to get the nation's economy back on track. Trillions of dollars have been lost in the current recession; another year of deficit spending seems insignificant in comparison. 

If the economy recovers and the federal deficit remains at such levels, then it's time to protest.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the tea parties has come in the form of the raving condemnations of a Department of Homeland Security memo warning about right-wing extremist groups. The agency is doing its job in warning about a potential threat, just as it has many times in the past about threats from left-wing lunatics such as the Earth Liberation Front. Extremists at either end of the political spectrum can be dangerous; have we forgotten about the 168 people killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing? I was not yet born then, but my father vividly remembers watching TV coverage of the attack in an Oklahoma classroom. The student in the next desk over lost his sister in the bombing. But Fox News' Glen Beck and others are taking the memo as an attack on the tea party movement. Moments ago, I saw Beck trying to incite an angry, booing crowd by mischaracterizing the memo. For the record, this is how the memo explains such extremist threats:

"Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely."
If Beck and the protesters want to self-identify with that crowd, then maybe we should all be worried.


Meryl said...

Mugsy you are a wise pug indeed!

Anonymous said...

Well said. Thanks for a word of sanity in this insane environment.

Zeus said...

Your post definitely was spot on. It seems that a lack of historical information is running rampant, and ignorance is being coddled and encouraged.

People would do themselves more of a favor if they would educate themselves on issues prior to fighting them. A well educated response would be far better received than this nonsense, and who knows? It might lead to some constructive talks which then progress to a resolution.

If you're busy complaining about a problem, then you are part of the problem. Again, Mugsy, great post.

Sandy said...

I can only heartily agree!!

Harry Pugalicious said...

Great commenterrier, Mugys!

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

Thank you for the kind words, my flock.