Budget debate launches new tea party
Tax protesters gather around the country. Is it a GOP put-up job?
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Several thousand neopatriots – some shouting “Give me liberty or give me death!” – took to the streets in over 30 US cities Friday, representing what some of them call the beginning of a new conservative counterculture in America.
“The spark has been lit,” says Ben Mihalski, a “house husband” from Cobb County, Ga., one of at least 300 protesters who gathered in a hefty downpour outside the Georgia Capitol on Friday to protest what they see as profligate spending by Washington.
Protesters with sign-slogans like “Pillage and plunder: At least the Vikings did it openly” fanned out across capitols and courthouses in cities from Nashville, Tenn., to Los Angeles, objecting to bailouts and policy changes since the inauguration of President Obama.
Critics call the protests a predictably partisan, ill-informed and unhelpful development in the midst of a deep-sink US recession.
But the largely grassroots show of force hints at a sharpening thorn for Democrats and a potential powder keg that could threaten to blow ahead of the 2010 congressional elections.
“It’s worth remembering that the rise of the New Right and the Christian Right, one after the other, were both spurred by tax issues, the whole idea of paying for things they don’t believe in,” says sociologist Eugenia Deerman at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston who studies conservative social movements.
To be sure, the federal spending package includes tax cuts for most Americans, and Obama has promised to eventually halve a US deficit the Democrats have largely blamed on the Bush administration.
But protesters like Kevin Tanner of South Dakota said deficit spending by both parties has unnerved Americans.
“The Republicans have their own problems because we elected them and they didn’t do what we wanted,” says Mr. Tanner.
Many protesters expressed a sense that basic American freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are threatened by new Washington policies seen by many as more socialistic than capitalistic. The proposed taxpayer bailout of homeowners who may have inflated their earnings in order to secure mortgages is one example, says Jeff Crawford, a protester from Dacula, Ga.