Wednesday, April 15, 2009

tea parties

I wanted to post on the sheer stupidity and desperation of the tax protest "tea parties" around the US today, but first, I had to stop giggling at the ridiculous and seemingly oblivious moniker given to these "protests"; seriously, do they not know what "teabagging" is?

Then, my friend Scott, a brilliant ethicist in Chicago, said it so well my writing would just be redundant:
First of all, let's remember that the heart of protest in the Boston Tea Party was "no taxation without representation." But the teabaggers are represented! In some cases, owing to the unrepresentative character of the U.S. Senate, they're overrepresented, given the size and population of their states. Far from being an undemocratic and non-consensual imposition on the U.S. people by a distant and disinterested foreign government, this is the legislation that their own elected legislators passed, and that their popularly elected president signed. This is is all the opposite of taxation without representation.

Second, although these protests are demonstrations of inchoate anger toward Barack Obama, it's worth noting that the current tax code, the one that people are out protesting today, has got nothing to do with Barack Obama, but is in fact the tax code as it was enacted under largely Republican congresses and signed over the past eight years by a Republican president. So to the degree that this is directed toward Obama and the Democrats, it misses it's desired mark.

Third, and more to the point, the Democratic Congress enacted, and Barack Obama has signed, the largest middle class tax cut in America history, of which most of the protesters today will be the beneficiaries. Far from protesting today, many of these people should be thanking the U.S. government.

Fourth, the complaints about deficits are inane. Under Bill Clinton, when the economy was booming, we actually had a chance to reduce and even eliminate the deficit. Under George Bush and a Republican Congress, the deficit exploded, along with thousands of bombs in an unjust and immoral war in Iraq, which contributed to the deficit. To the degree that Barack Obama and the Democrats are adding to that deficit, it is, and it is intended to be, a short term means of stimulating the economy in order to spark businesses to produce and thus employ workers, and banks to start lending again. In fact, for this purpose, the stimulus package was actually probably small, and so we ought to be spending more.

Finally, where were all of these people when Bush was running up those deficits?They were nowhere to be seen! So to complain now in a crisis, about deficits when they were silent for eight years when their own guy was in power,
is a prima fascia demonstration of their hypocrisy.

The only thing I would add to Scott's analysis is the assertion that these teabagging (hee hee)parties are hardly the grassroots uprising the media is making them out to be. Why won't people realize they are just being used?


  1. First, No, I actually didn't know what "teabagging" was, even though I do have a Masters degree (though from what I see, the people involved gave it the name "Tea Party", and never "Teabagging"- that epithet was bestowed on them by their opposition.) And that I didn't know what teabagging was doesn't bother me because, as a Christian, I don't care if I'm not considered worldly. Second, I have to disagree that the Tea Parties were "stupid" events; desperate, maybe, since that's what I've been feeling lately after watching most of Obama's actions since he's been in office.
    The thing is, I'm an educated, thinking, nice person, and everywhere I look in the media, my thoughts as an American are being mocked and humiliated with comments like "teabaggers" and "hypocrites"just because I have a different idea from the liberal perspective. Different doesn't always mean wrong. Disparaging and insulting remarks go absolutely nowhere towards starting a dialogue. It's sad and discouraging to me to find smart people like you with such dismissive attitudes about their fellow Americans, some of whom may even be your friends, but don't want to speak up as much for fear of being ridiculed.

  2. I always assumed that "teabagging parties" was coined by their supporters, but I'm having a hard time finding evidence for that (or, to be sure, the opposite). In any case, I agree that making fun of the name of the protests isn't the best way to engage in discussion with the protesters. Of course, some of the protesters are also not engaging in useful discussion (e.g. "taxation without representation" has been bandied about, quite incorrectly), but any group of protesters will include some who are better able to express reasonable points and some who aren't (I think of signs I saw at protests some years ago, saying "Ariel Sharon=Hitler", which I thought hurt the cause of the protester.)
    So, some people are upset about some of what Obama is doing. I'm upset about some of it too; I'm upset that Guantanamo hasn't been closed yet, and that criminal investigations into torture haven't been started yet. But overall I think he's doing quite well. Some people have mistakenly confused the stimulus and bailout issues in their protests. The stimulus is largely money to states for education, health care, and unemployment insurance; it's really hard complain about the majority of the spending. The bailout is another matter. Clearly allowing the major banks to simply go bankrupt would cause major trauma to world finances. I happen to disagree with Obama's team as to the best way to resolve it; I would nationalize banks that might go bankrupt, rather than continuing to lend money to them as the Bush team started doing.
    Anyway, I wish you the best in starting dialogues about the issues that concern you.

  3. Dear anonymous,

    I am sorry that you feel ridiculed by me. This was not my intent. I was not trying to imply that people who attended these tea parties were stupid. I do think the events themselves lacked in symbolic depth and revealed a deep misunderstanding of American history. And I also feel strongly that people have been (and continue to be) misled by Fox News and those who promoted these faux grassroots events. But I do not believe that the people who attended these events are stupid; in fact, I know that my family members and friend who may disagree with my politics are anything but. And I regret that I implied otherwise.

    In your comment, the desperation you feel is very evident. And I know that feeling. I lived with it daily for eight years. And I need to remember how I felt having my intelligence, my patriotism, my morality, my faith, and my ministry questioned (by many who claimed to love me) because I felt such despair and fear during that time. I need to remember and to be sure I do not behave in the same dismissive and condescending manner. So for that, I thank you for calling me on behavior and words that do not reflect my best self.

    I also thank you for revealing to me what this blog has become, at least in this post. I established this blog to "look closely" to examine my world and to evaluate if my life is indeed indicative of the world I want to live in (the Alice Walker quote sums it up). I don't want my world to be one in which my friends (or anyone) feel ridiculed by me. I don't want my world to be one where I use sarcasm as a weapon. I don't want my world to be one where my past wounds and past hurts cause me to wound and hurt others. As I "look closely" at this post (and some others), I see my writing motivated by hurt and anger. And life lived in hurt and anger is not the "future I dream of".

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  5. Thank you for your thoughtful response. Even though we differ in our politics, I feel like you're someone I could actually talk to. I am impressed with and respect people like you who live consciously and can actually examine their lives and thoughts, which I'm sure you do in general, and not just on your blog. It's something that I sometimes struggle with, and seeing you able to do it is inspiring. I hadn't taken the time to really read the Alice Walker quote and I like it a lot. It gives me hope that there are people like you out there, because even if our minds aren't necessarily changed by talking to each other, at least we're treating each other with respect. That's really what I want to see. I know that people are different, i.e. have different beliefs, backgrounds, views of the way our world should be, etc. The world would be boring without diversity. But it has been the hostility in the dialogue that I've seen around me that has really been the upsetting part. Thank you again.