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.