All across the country—from Boston to Atlanta to San Antonio—thousands of Americans, inspired by Fox News and radio conservative talk show hosts, took to the streets to protest.
They protested a fascist government that has restricted their freedom of speech and freedom of religion, protected by the First Amendment. They protested thousands of instances where the government infringed upon their rights of privacy, protected by the Fourth Amendment. They called out the government for violations of the rights of due process, protected by the fifth and sixth amendments. They protested the use of about $1 trillion to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq. They protested the apparently unregulated policies of the banks, money lenders, and Wall Street financiers who brought this nation into the current recession that has led to an 8.5 percent unemployment rate and several hundred thousand to lose their homes to foreclosure actions. They protested the fact that about 46 million Americans don’t have health insurance, that as many as five million Americans are homeless, about a fourth of them veterans. They protested the use of torture, of the destruction of the environment, of the awarding of no-bid sweetheart deals worth hundreds of million dollars to companies that do business with the President and Vice-President.
Actually, they didn’t do any of that. Not now and certainly not during the Bush–Cheney years.
What they protested was taxes. For these protestors, April 15, the deadline for paying taxes, was Tea Day.
They cried out against taxation without representation, conveniently forgetting that the United States, because of its revolt against the monarchy more than two centuries ago, has one of the most representative democracies in history. Without understanding either history or government, the protestors wore tea bags on their baseball caps, wore revolutionary era costumes, threw tea bags onto the ground and into the rivers, and even littered the grounds outside the White House with tea bags. Since every protest has to have signs, these protestors also carried signs—”Give me liberty, not debt,” “No more spending,” and “Taxation is Piracy.” Ironically, it was tax-provided rescue equipment that volunteers used to rescue one protestor after she fell into the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.
Their “official” website attacked the government for “spending trillions of borrowed dollars, leaving a debt our great-grandchildren will be paying,” conveniently forgetting that it was the Bush–Cheney Administration that left the nation with the largest deficit in history. Underlying the protest was their hatred of the policies of Barack Obama, whom they called a fascist, a socialist, and a Communist, unable to understand or differentiate among terms they loosely threw out. President Obama, although in office less than three months, is riding high with a 67 percent popularity rating. But these souls, very few of whom voted for him in November, have now not only protested policies that are bringing the nation out of a financial abyss, but are often calling for his impeachment, something they never called for during the previous eight years.
So, they complained about fascist—or socialist—or communistic—policies, and failed to understand that it’s only the wealthiest 5 percent whose taxes go back to the rate it was when George Bush took office and lowered taxes for the wealthy.
But, these protesting masses aren’t the rich, and they aren’t being forced to give up more of their income. In fact, the Obama tax cuts benefit about 95 percent of all Americans.
The idea of a Tea Party was probably that of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, who ranted against any government assistance for persons who lost their homes through foreclosure. Pushing the tea bagging of America were Fox mouths Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and dozens of other conservative talking mouths who are among the top 5 percent, and whose seven-figure incomes would be reduced under the Obama plan to restore fiscal sanity to America.
Well, I guess it’s true. Americans really are revolting.
[Walter M. Brasch is a university professor of journalism, social issues columnist, and the author of 17 books. His current book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available from amazon.com, bn.com, and other stores. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]