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Tea Parties | jonmower.com

Tea Parties

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Some folks are eager to frame them as a grass-roots movement; others emphasize connections to inside-the-beltway interest groups.  Who cares?  I don't know why it matters.  Regardless of who the true instigators are (probably plenty from both categories), there are obviously a multitude of regular folks turning out for these protests.  It does seem kind of funny to me though that folks who just a few days ago were deriding turning off your lights for "Earth Hour" as a silly and risible publicity stunt don't see sending a message with tea bags as the same.

So what are they protesting?  Supposedly it's not anti-Obama protests (the signs in the crowd seem to tell a different story).  It's apparently a protest against taxes.  That doesn't make too much sense to me.

As Bruce Bartlett pointed out in Forbes:

The irony of these protests is that federal revenues as a share of the gross domestic product will be lower this year than any year since 1950. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government will take only 15.5% of GDP in taxes this year, compared to 17.7% last year, 18.8% in 2007 and 20.9% in 2000.

The truth is that the U.S. is a relatively low-tax country no matter how you slice the data. The following tables illustrate this fact by comparing the U.S. to other members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based research organization.

Total Taxes as a Share of GDP, 2006















Czech Rep.








Slovak Rep.






































Source: OECD

The new guy is cutting taxes on nearly everyone and raising taxes a few percent on the richest among us to rates still comparable to the rates under Reagan.  The rich do pay more than their share, but not in the extreme.  Though it's done all the time, quoting a statistic like the top X % of earners pay Y % of taxes (Y >> X) without mentioning the % of income Z that those folks earn (Z approximately equal to Y) doesn't say much.

The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that the protest is about the future higher taxes that will be an eventual consequence of our deficit spending.  However, Obama's proposed spending isn't a radical departure from the way that all the administrations from Reagan forward (Clinton's excepted) have been ballooning the deficit.  Here's that plot I mentioned recently from zFacts.com that illustrates the debt as a percentage of GDP:


From Data360, here is a plot of debt history in absolute terms.


To me, the real difference is that Reagan ballooned the deficit to grow the military, Bush did it to pay for the war in Iraq, and Obama proposes to fund the economic stimulus, healthcare reform, and addressing climate change.

At this point, the Republicans who are suddenly so worked up about spending really can't do much about it anyway.  There's a Democratic president and large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.  A couple years ago when there was a Republican president and Republican majorities in the House and Senate (and rapidly ballooning deficits)...now that's when conservatives could have done something.  For some reason they didn't.  Now that they've lost the presidency and their congressional majorities and we're in the middle of an economic crisis for which (economic conventional wisdom tells us) deficit spending is the prescription for facilitating a faster recovery...of course now is the time to really get behind fiscal responsibility...you know, now when the Republicans don't have the power to actually do anything about it.  Uh huh.

I agree that fiscal responsibility is a good idea.  Obviously, we can't continue to pile up national debt forever.  Sooner or later, we're going to have to make some tough choices.  By the way, Americans now have a more favorable view of taxes than they've had in a long time (link).  As I've said here and elsewhere before, I don't mind paying my taxes all that much.  Evidently this is because I have a very different view of the value of government than the tax protesters do.  I think government does much good.  It also wastes plenty by the hands of both Republicans and Democrats, but I don't think that invalidates all the good.  I don't begrudge the social safety net that my taxes provide.  Sure, there are abusers, but (apparently unlike the Tea Party protesters) I think the safety net is mostly about helping good people through some of the rough spots, not funneling a bunch of money from good hardworking people to freeloading losers.  Michael Westmoreland-White puts it this way:

Taxes are the price of civilization.  With taxes, we pay our police, firefighters, teachers, and other public servants.  If we want good roads, bridges that don’t fall down, levees that don’t break, an electric grid that works, we must pay taxes.  If we want our elderly cared for, we pay taxes. (Poverty in old age used to be a chronic problem. Since the advent of Social Security taxes and Medicare, poverty in old age is relatively rare in the U.S.  Children’s poverty, however, is a huge problem in the U.S.) If we want our veterans cared for, we pay taxes.  If we want good government, we pay taxes.

It is true that taxes can be high and oppressive.  The Bible has plenty of examples of such.  But, in the U.S., we have some of the lowest tax rates–and, because of that, some of the worst public services.  When anti-tax sentiments run wild in state and local legislatures, these governments must enact “hidden taxes” to get needed revenue: higher fines and court fees (and speeding quotas); higher rates for public parking; higher driver’s license fees, etc.

The strangest thing to me out of all of this is that so many Christians apparently experience no cognitive dissonance when it comes to embracing tax protests.  On some level, tax protest seems to me to be fundamentally selfish (and, of course, I must admit that I'm selfish in many ways too).  The New Testament says plenty about money, poverty, selfishness, etc. but it's not really fairly summarized by "what's mine is mine, don't try to take it."

Remember these passages?

Matthew 22:15-22

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

21 "Caesar's," they replied.
      Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.


Matthew 6:19-24

19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.


Matthew 19:16-26

16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

18 "Which ones?" the man inquired.

   Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"

20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"

26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not just pointing fingers at the Christian tax protesters.  I'm pointing at all of us, myself included.  It's commonly accepted that most of us Americans are rich by global and historical standards.  I worry about us.  I worry about me.  Am I a rich young man like the one mentioned above?  If not, why not?  I'm not surprised that plenty of Christians are bothered about taxes.  I am surprised by the intensity of those feelings.  Prominent Christian organizations are even actively promoting the tea parties.

What it really comes down to is that if this were the kind of sign that most Christians could truthfully hold up in protest, I'd feel a lot better about the anti-tax movement.

Jesus said: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." Don't try to spread my wealth because I've already done it!

By the way, there's a nice collection of Tea Party photos here: link

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I believe some of the

I believe some of the christians at the tea parties probably believe that since we live in a democratic society, they will make the case that they can use their wages more appropriately than the government for many things, but most of all to help others. But it is very true that most of them have a fundamental lack of understanding of what they are asking for.

The deficit is larger than the entire no discretionary spending budget... so technically, we could cut all of that spending, just spend on SS, Medicare, and the Military at current levels, and we'd still be borrowing (or printing) money.

However, one thing that's getting missed in this is that I don't get that its only about taxes. I think a lot of this has to do with bailing out institutions that have failed. These folks, rightly or not, don't believe that the government should be propping up GM, or AIG, or any of the banks. Do they realize the consequences of letting them fail? Probably not. But I think they are still right, in that, if we let them fail, there will be hard times for a shorter amount of time, then the economy can get reset. The way the country is doing things right now, we're delaying the inevitable, and making it much worse when the government can't prop things up anymore. People are mad that inflation is going to eventually rob them of their purchasing power, cause the honest to God truth is, you can't just print money and print money and things stay the same. What the fed is trying to do is monetize enough debt that it props up housing prices.... funny thing is, this isn't a liquidity problem. Its a debt problem. Too many people have too much debt, and not enough income to service it, which means they can't buy things. Which means more people lose their jobs. Which means more people can't service their debt. Which means more people are foreclosed upon, more declare bankruptcy, and more banks have more problems.

People intutively know that government can't fix these problems that were mostly caused by governments actions (creating GSEs, keeping interest rates artificially low for too long, not letting deleveraging occur during past recessions, incentivising buying homes, even for those that couldn't afford them, and so on and so on). And people intuitively know that the answer to too much debt is not a transfer of that debt from the private sector to the public sector. Socializing losses is a recipe for disaster, economicly speaking.

I'm sure you know I could go on and on. The fact is, that while there were some anti obama people at these rallies... many of them refused to let republican pols jump in... they made clear it was not an anti obama thing, in fact it was an anti establishment thing, because the powers that be have not been listening to the people.

Now the thing that bothers me is the administrations DHS reports calling anyone who believes in limited government, or is anti abortion, a terrorist. Pretty sure if Bushie had come out and said that most liberals are possible terrorists, all hell would have broken loose. Whether Obama is the character painted by talk radio and fox news is yet to be seen... but these little things continue to happen that support that narrative... and people continue to be dismissed as unreasonable or worse, dumb, by the administration and the media.... and that DHS report is gonna be a self fulfilling prophecy. This country is breaking apart... the empire is over, and it has been moving in that direction for 30 years. Its time, in my opinion to think about how we live in a post american exceptionalism world.

I haven't looked at the

I haven't looked at the details of the DHS report, though it does sound a bit over the top.  However, that's the same sort of scrutiny that anti-war, environmental, animal rights, and other groups have received.  For better or worse (probably some of both), we started down this path long ago.

Obtained: Federal Agency's Memo Warning Of "Left Wing Extremists"

The ultimate reaping of what one sows: right-wing edition


Justin, A copy of the DHS


A copy of the DHS report is here: http://wnd.com/images/dhs-rightwing-extremism.pdf

I haven't read it word for word yet, but from a quick skim it seems that your summary of what it says (and that of most media reports) is very inaccurate.  It seems to be saying that right wing extremist groups exist (not in dispute, as of course do left-wing groups) and that (based on past experience) the current economic/political situation may lead to those extremist groups being more successful in recruiting from various groups than they normally would be.  That seems reasonable to me and similar to the type of attention given to left-wing extremist groups.  It doesn't appear to me to be anywhere close to "...calling anyone who believes in limited government, or is anti abortion, a terrorist."

BTW, I totally agree with at


I totally agree with at least the beginning of the salon article (gotta run to work in a second) "conservatives" (read neocons) are lying in the bed they made for themselves. There should have never been a department of homeland security. If they hadn't been so blinded by hatred and fear of all things islamofascist, they would have realized that they were giving broad, unconstitutional authority to the government. And that's always fine for people til their guys aren't in office anymore.

I wonder how many of my comments are being read by Janet Napolitano. I guess I'm gonna have to change my surveillence joke from speaking into the salt shaker at the restaurant and telling Bush that we were just joking, to telling Napolitano that we're just joking.


All these guys are the same. I'm glad that I serve the true King.

Quite an article--all I can

Quite an article--all I can add is a hearty "Hear, hear!"

Thanks Ken.

Thanks Ken.

That's right....let's make

That's right....let's make fun of people protesting excessive taxation. 

You know, it's funny...I

You know, it's funny...I remember a few years ago when Liberals were shouting and bitching about people like Rush and O'Reilly ripping on the moonbat Cindy Sheehan.  So, why is her protest ok yet others not?  

Oh, and Johnny, I see you following the Liberal daily script about "oh, it's not really a grassroots protest".  What a joke.  I understand why you stopped coming to my website.  You have nothing original and cannot really refute any argument logically. 

I'm not making fun of tax

I'm not making fun of tax protesters.  I'm not saying it isn't OK for them to protest.  I'm not saying it isn't really grassroots.  Obviously, Fox News and FreedomWorks promoted it heavily, but what I said was that there was obviously a significant grassroots component and that I don't see why the presence of any non-grassroots components is really significant anyway:

Some folks are eager to frame them as a grass-roots movement; others emphasize connections to inside-the-beltway interest groups. Who cares? I don't know why it matters. Regardless of who the true instigators are (probably plenty from both categories), there are obviously a multitude of regular folks turning out for these protests.

About my capacity for logical argument, you're certainly entitled to your opinion about that.  I do make an effort to explain my views logically and provide documentation and data to back them up.  About why I don't come by your site too often anymore, the tone and ad hominem nature of comments here is a good illustration.

But you called them

But you called them "teabaggers" a term for a sex act and then withdrew when Roland called you on it. Get real.

If I had intended to be

If I had intended to be derogatory, I would have left in "teabaggers." I did not intend to be derogatory, so I changed it when Tim brought it to my attention. A good way to get real is to not comment anonymously or with a pseudonym like "Roland."

That's the great thing about

That's the great thing about the internet - you can be anyone so what difference does it make what name you put for a comment.

Anonymity on the internet has

Anonymity on the internet has some good aspects, but I think when it comes to discussing issues, politics, etc. it mostly enables people to behave (often badly) in ways that they wouldn't in person or without anonymity. An example is the very different ways that "Roland" engages with me as Roland versus as his real identity.

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