Tag Archives: protest

Guest Post: A Tea Party Explanation

Last week, I posted a guest blog from my friend Zach regarding the Tea Parties that happened across the country last Wednesday. Another friend, Jeff, wrote a response, and I wanted to make that available as a guest blog as well. As politics is something I consider myself an ever learning student on, I’m open to hearing, and posting, different viewpoints on this blog. So, here is Jeff’s response:

A Tea Party Explanation


I appreciate the questions you have about the tea parties and the current unrest among fiscal conservatives about the current government policies and you are certainly not alone in both your questions and your skepticism.

I attended the Madison tea party with my girlfriend; we both took a day off of work to do so.  At the steps of the Capitol, directly underneath the Governor’s windows, over 5,000 people gathered to protest not only federal policies, but the policies of the state government as well.  I can’t speak to the individual motivations of each protestor, but I can off you my observations.   The crowd was a diverse mix of yuppies and country bumpkins, Madison residents in their flip flops and northerners with their hunter orange; blacks, whites, Hispanics, etc.  I saw Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians.  I would venture to say that while Republicans were certainly represented, the majority of attendees were disillusioned with both parties. While their current anger is directed at the Obama administration, there is a healthy amount of disappointment, if not rage, at the Republicans who most feel failed us.

I showed up to protest not just the Obama administration or the Doyle administration, but the political culture in general.  Our current federal government has far exceeded its mandate and the powers which it was given under the Constitution.  Both parties have used tax and spend policies to consolidate power bases which they seek to enlist and reward every election cycle.  Political power has been removed from local constituencies where the people had the power and has been granted to untouchable politicians and special interests.   I protested the belief that thievery is justified so long as it is performed by the government and done in the interest of specific constituencies.

The questions you raise are complicated topics that we could spend several months debating, but I do want to answer some of them specifically and throw in some general facts and figures.  I appreciate the questions because it allows us all to take a closer look at what is going on and what our government is doing, and hopefully we’ll all be able to have a clearer understanding and a desire to become active in our own ways.

Are they protesting the fact that they are being taxed without representation?

Yes and no.   The Federal Reserve is an unelected body.  While the Federal Reserve does not have the power of direct taxation, they do have the power to print currency.   Yet, over the past months and presumably for many more months to come, the Fed is “injecting” money into certain companies and industries outside of TARP, stimulus, omnibus, etc which our elected officials have not voted on.   The effect of this practice is two-fold.  First it will lead to inflation which, though not a tax, will devalue any assets you currently own, which leads to the same outcome as taxation.  Secondly, interest and principle will eventually need to be paid on the bonds and securities which are issued to print this currency, and taxes will at some point be levied to do so.

As to the conduct of our legislators, one could make the argument that the current spending that is being introduced, and the levying of taxes to support such, could be considered “taxation without representation”.  At no point in the history of this nation has the Federal government carried such a deficit and burdened its progeny with such a debt as it is in the process of doing today. Our current legislators were not elected to spend in this fashion, not one campaigned on it, not one promised it, nor did one single legislator even propose such an idea until after the election.   When the current government took office, they proceeded to pass the legislation which has been mentioned without reading the bill, without giving the citizens a chance to read the bill, and without consulting their constituencies.   While they were elected democratically, I would hardly call that representation and be more inclined to call it mob rule. (I would also assert that levying a tax burden upon those whom are not yet born also equates to “taxation without representation”)

So are they protesting because our taxes are too much?

So are they protesting because taxes are being raised for those who make more than $200,000 a year?

Yes.  To say that the current “tax cut” decreased the tax burden on 95% of Americans is simply false and to assert that it is the largest in the nation’s history is a dangerous distortion.   Currently, only 40% of U.S. citizens pay Federal income tax.  I have yet to have a single proponent of the “tax cut for 95% of Americans” idea explain to me how those who do not pay taxes can receive a tax cut.  Under the current tax plan, that number jumps to 50% who do not pay Federal income taxes.   So even using the government’s number of 95% (which are false), 45% are receiving a tax cut while 50% are receiving an unearned credit.

Let’s break down some more real numbers.  At the current tax rate, the top 1% of income earners currently pay 40% of all Federal income taxes; the top 10% (average income of $92,400) pay 72.8% of all income taxes.   From 2001 through 2006, the tax burden on the top 10% increased from 67.8% to the current level.    By the real numbers, President Bush decreased the tax burden on those in the lower tax brackets significantly…so this myth that he gave tax breaks only to the rich is a myth.

This section could be filled with facts and figures that could turn this post into a book, so we’ll leave it at that and ask ourselves the question; are we taxing those who produce, those who own businesses, too much?  I don’t know how you can say that they do not, when they are already carrying the tax burden of the entire nation upon their shoulders.

So are they protesting because President Obama’s budget proposal is a record 3.6 trillion dollars over the next 10 years?

Are they protesting because Obama’s spending is pushing our National debt higher and higher?

Yes and yes.  The discontent over Federal spending during the Bush years is one of the primary reasons that the Democrats are currently in control of government.  As I have stated above, many protestors are as disillusioned with the Republicans as they are angry at the current government. That being said, the increase in not only government spending, but government control has increased at such blinding speed to create a stark difference between the spending habits of this administration and the previous.

Remember that the current budget does not include monies spent by TARP, the stimulus bill, the omnibus bill, etc.  What the budget does include is “down payments” on such programs as Universal Health Care, high speed rail programs, green energy etc.  To take Health Care as an example; the current budget appropriates $634 billion to simply start the program.  That cost is expected to rise to well over $1.6 trillion dollars within the next decade.   He is budgeting only $5 billion for a Federal high speed rail system.  A small rail system in Madison is currently estimated to cost $1 billion and extending that type of cost to a Federal system is almost too difficult to comprehend.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these types of cost are unsustainable.  Any citizen with common sense can reason that in order to simply pay the down payment on these types of programs will require revenues much higher than what the Federal government is currently receiving, and thus new taxes will need to be levied (and the amount of citizens carrying that tax burden is quickly narrowing).  Remember, this is just the cost of the programs and we are not yet even talking about the ability for the programs to be successful.

I don’t have the exact figures of what the deficit-debt to GDP ratio is estimated to be, but the ratio over the next 15 years will increase to a point that will dwarf anything the civilized world has ever seen.   Our current ratio sits at around 22% of GDP…already an unsustainable amount.

Are they protesting because they believe Obama is walking all over the constitution?

I’m not sure when President Bush suspended the writ of habeas corpus, but it is fallacious to assert that those currently protesting the government supported carte blanche the Bush administration and the ways in which it prosecuted the War on Terror.

The current Federal government (and past governments, but they are no longer in power) is absolutely acting outside of the powers which are enumerated in the Constitution.   The Constitution restricts the Federal government to certain defined roles and restricts its authority in matters which are not specifically granted.  The Constitution does not give the Federal government the authority to nationalize private industries, to “bail out” organizations or individuals, to distribute monies to individuals or states, to fund research or art projects, to levy taxes to support insurance programs, to regulate or fund educational institutions, etc.  This list can be extended to fill another book.   While the Federal government is granted the ability to levy taxes, it is unconstitutional to levy taxes that fund activities which the Federal government is restricted from participating in.  And to your examples of funding for the War on Terror, the Federal government is responsible for providing the national defense of this nation.

Why Protest?

Here’s my short reply to Why Protest? (from my comment on Christy’s blog)
We protest for two reasons: to stay true to our convictions by speaking them and to allow others to notice those values/convictions and possibly be compelled by them.

1. Think of it like getting baptized, and outward expression of an inward commitment. Sometimes we need to protest not to change the world, but to keep the world from changing us. You can’t be neutral on a moving train, unless you are actively voicing your conscience, you are often passively agreeing with the majority.

2. Regardless of how unlikely it seems, people do hear/see/notice you and other protesters. They’re response might not always be what you would like for it to be, but they do take note.
Politicians take note of what the people think, polls, phone calls, letters, protest, etc. They might listen more to lobbyist, but they keep a careful eye on what the people think. I think it’s a credit to the many individual protesters who went out into the streets in the early years of the Iraq war that the general public was open to the idea of questioning the administration and war tactics. Protesting is simply taking a strong stance on something you believe strongly in and hope to compel others to believe in also.

The truth is we protest all the time, it just takes different forms. We rant on our blogs, we critique in conversation, we choose not to shop certain places, we complain to customer service (apple maybe?), we march, call, write letters, lobby, we protest. It is not unusual, though in many ways it has become rather unoriginal.

Welcome to the Police State of America

What I am about to speak about is not a conspiracy, it is not an exaggeration, and you might say the incidents are isolated anomalies, but there are a growing number of incidents that make me wonder if this isn’t more the reality than we are willing to believe.

Until you push, until you speak out against the current system, the image you see of our government’s use of physical force to carry out the laws seems appropriate. If you come from a middle or upper class neighborhood, your impression of the police is likely a positive one. They help enforce laws and keep people safe, and minus the occasional speeding ticket that you get, your happy to have their protection. Most feel the same way about the military of our country. Whether we agree or disagree with the war, we generally feel that the military feels it is doing it’s best to protect and care for the citizens of this free land. It’s a wonderful outlook and most of what we have experienced supports that reality.

It wasn’t until I began to question some of the decisions of our government and our current system, that I saw the ugly side of the system. My experience was primarily involved with preparation and involvement in protest during the G-8 in Brunswick Georgia in 2001. The G-8 is a gathering of 8 global world leaders who come together to discuss global issues. I could write pages on my experience there, but I’ll highlight some of the main points, and you’ll have to trust my experience.
First, in preparation for the protest we were involved with a number of other people from across the country and many in Brunswick to plan the gathering and the events. I heard first hand of the intimidation and oppression that some of the lead organizers were experiencing. This is not a conspiracy, this is literally things that happened: people’s phones were tapped, a SWAT Team entered the home of the mother of one of the organizers and took it over (this is shocking, but it is a ‘legal’ right under marshal law for the police to basically take over what ever they need to) and then set up a surveillance center to watch the organizers in the house across the street. I’m really not making these things up. Ordinance after ordinance was disallowed, permits for basic gatherings in parks and marches down streets were denied. This might not seem like a big deal, but what was happening was that basic rights as citizens were being denied and our opportunity to express our first amendment rights were taken before we could even express them.
Let me give you an idea of the magnitude of this. As the days led up to the G8 summit we read article after article about the 20,000 police and military were being trained to handle the protesters. That is were your tax dollars were going 20,000 officers specifically trained in riot training, and this was under the ‘Miami Model‘ (I’ll get to it later). These police were trained to use clubs, mace, rubber bullets, handcuffs and intimidation to confront the ‘violent protest’ they were planning on meeting. Let me address this briefly.
In my experience, what I have seen on video and with my own eyes, and every person I have talked to who have attended protests, I have never met a single person who had any intention of being violent (against a person). There are a few that enjoy provoking the police. There are a couple that desire to do harm to ‘the system’ by breaking windows and hindering consumerism, but this is a very small number of any protest. So, cops are trained to violently stop protests and in my experience they make little effort to distinguish between those peacefully protesting and those doing anything that might disturb the peace, break laws or be even close to considering anything a ‘riot.’
The Black BlocFinally, the G8 protest in Brunswick GA was attended by about 200 protesters at most. That’s nearly 100 riot cops and military for each of us protesters (a little absurd I know). Our experience was a positive one, and I’m happy to say I was not struck by a baton, rubber bullet or tear gas and the police were generally respectable. Starring at a line of riot cops standing in front of you with their giant shields, not flinching and not moving, and apparently there for nothing more then to intimidate the snot out of anyone was a disturbing experience. The reason there was only 200 protesters at this event is because of the gross injustice and violence that was experienced less then a year earlier at the Miami FTA Meetings. I found a video that is about 1.5 hours long that I think captures a lot of the violence that scared and intimidated people from coming to another event. Riot cops shot rubber bullets into crowds, sprayed mace at masses of people, and beat people with clubs when it was completely unnecessary.

What does this have to do with the discussion of democracy? You do not have to agree with those who protest, you don’t have to like them, in fact you might even think they are learning a lesson by being shot with rubber bullets. For me though, my experience and what I have seen has made me feel that I live in a police state and not in a democracy.

I would really strongly encourage you to watch this video in full.

It’s an hour and a half long but I really think every citizen needs to see this. But for those who won’t watch the whole thing here is a series of links to clips through out that you might want to see.

After looking I could only find one news article about the injustice of the protest and it was from the AFL-CIO:
Stopping the “Miami Model” in its Tracks: Defending Civil Liberties, Demanding Justice

The ACLU also wrote up a press release on some of the lawsuits that were filed:
Police Trampled Civil Rights During 2003 Free Trade Protests in Florida, ACLU Charges

and Znet writes:
Infamous ‘Miami Model’ of Protest Clampdown, Coming to a Town Near You

That Naughty School might finally be shut down!

If you haven’t heard of that naughty school called The School of The Americas at Fort Benning, GA, you should. SOA has trained and graduated some of the finest Military Dictators and Human Rights abusers this hemisphere has ever seen.
There is plenty information available to learn more at the links provided, but after you learn about the atrocities that SOA is responsible for it’s time for you and I to do something. That opportunity is provided below.

From School of the Americas Watch:

NEXT WEEK, the week of June 5, Congress will vote on an amendment to close
the SOA/ WHINSEC. Rep. McGovern (MA) will introduce an amendment to the
Foreign Operations appropriations bill to cut funding for the SOA/ WHINSEC!

WE EXPECT A CLOSE VOTE and need as many people as possible flooding the
offices of the House of Representatives with calls in support of a YES vote
on the amendment. THIS IS IT! And it’s the people power of our movement that
will get this amendment passed! Visit the Legislative Action Index for more
information: http://www.soaw.org/legislative.

–> NATIONAL CALL-IN DAYS TO CLOSE THE SOA/WHINSEC <-- TUESDAY, June 6 and WEDNESDAY, June 7: Call Congress at 202-224-3121 or toll free at 888-355-3588. ============================================================ Please take the time to call the DC office of your Representative through the Capitol Hill Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or toll free at 1-888-355-3588. Ask to speak with the foreign affairs legislative assistant. Here is a suggested message for you to convey: "I am calling Congressman/woman ________ to urge him/her to vote YES on the McGovern amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. This amendment is a cut in funding for the School of the Americas/ WHINSEC. New information indicates that WHINSEC has allowed known human rights abusers to instruct and receive training at the school. Argentina and Uruguay are two more countries that have made public announcements they will no longer send students to the school, citing the negative image and history of this institution. Voting YES on this amendment sends a positive human rights message to Latin America and will help to improve the U.S. image abroad. As an elected official in Washington D.C., I hope you will represent me and vote YES on any amendment in the House that would cut funding for the school." SEND AN EMAIL AND FAX TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE: http://www.soaw.org/legislative. (Be sure to click the „Send a Fax‰ box to have the fax sent). ARE YOU IN or NEAR WASHINGTON, DC? On Tuesday, June 6 and Wednesday, June 7, we will be delivering material to Members of Congress and knocking on their doors, asking them to join our movement and vote to close the SOA. Please join us! If you can be with us for some or all of the day on Tuesday or Wednesday, please email Eric at elecompte@soaw.org. FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit the SOA Watch website at http://www.soaw.org and the Legislative Action Index at http://www.soaw.org/legislative