Budget debate launches new tea party
Tax protesters gather around the country. Is it a GOP put-up job?
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The protests have happened with remarkable speed, spread by Twitter and Facebook groups and the now famous TV rant by Mr. Santelli, who yelled “It’s lunacy!” as he complained about the spending package. The White House has fueled the fire, protesters say, by taking on conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and even Mr. Santelli by name. Some rallies that took place Friday were organized in less than 48 hours and had a raw, unrehearsed edge to them.Skip to next paragraph
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“One of the challenges the Bush administration had when they decided to invade Iraq ... was they took the MoveOn.org institution from a sleepy group apologizing for Clinton’s personal behavior and turned it into a juggernaut,” says Mr. Norquist. He says a similar phenomenon is happening now with the tea party movement. “When you do things that poke the other team, they react.”
The tea party phenomenon has largely been derided by progressives who say it’s fueled by big-money Republican interests opposed to the philosophical shift in Washington that they say will benefit working class Americans.
“Something tells me ... that the Republican leadership has a lot more tea parties to throw – and a long way down the rabbit hole to fall – before they see what really concerns Americans nowadays,” writes Huffington Post blogger Jeffrey Feldman.
But Mr. Crawford, one of the protesters, says it’s not easy to get conservatives to take to the streets. The protests, he say, speak to a deepening concern about the direction of the country, especially future tax obligations.
He says the $13-a-week tax cut for individual Americans included in the stimulus bill is small change when it comes to the tax implications of the country’s growing deficit, now tagged at $1.75 trillion. In a recent study, the Rockefeller Institute estimates that states will have to raise at least an extra $100 billion in revenue to cover new obligations once the stimulus bill monies run out in 2012.
Calls to roll back the spending bill are farfetched, protesters agreed, but said the real prize is the 2010 Congressional elections.
“These protests remind people that there’s opposition to taxpayer-funded bailouts, and people in the streets means that Americans will be asking, ‘Why are they objecting? Tell me what’s happening here,’” says Norquist.
Given the dramatic circumstances of the Boston Tea Party, tax revolts are actually quite unusual in the US.
“The most interesting thing about the American people is that we are generally compliant in paying taxes, and tax revolts that seem surprising here are fairly common in a country like France where those farmers, if they get upset, they simply don’t pay,” says Mary Segers, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. “Americans are a strange people with respect to taxes, so this revolt is very interesting for that reason alone.”