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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The taxing truth about the tea party tantrums

    Fighting against “”taxation without representation,”” our Founding Fathers denounced the oppressive actions of a distant tyrant. The heroic actions of the rebellious colonists sparked the American Revolution and led to the birth of our country.

    More than 200 years later, thousands of discontented citizens took to the streets on Tax Day to denounce irresponsible government spending, most notably the recent financial stimulus enacted by both the former and current administration.

    Presumably, all these protestors pay taxes and are of voting age (except the toddlers exploited by their parents). They’re not protesting “”taxation without representation.”” They are protesting “”taxation with representation,”” since the protestors, as voting citizens, elected the legislators in charge. Far from a Tea Party revival, the protestors are merely citizens who are up-in-arms about our country’s fiscal policy. This “”movement”” represents passionate political activity that is essential to democracy, but labeling these protests as special or anything above political discourse is absurd.

    The “”Tea Party Movement”” invokes a sense of patriotism and political activism any American would proudly exude. Not a true historic counterpart, the term Tea Party stands as a passionate marketing advantage. Thanks to the sacrifice of true heroes, all Americans can now display their patriotism on their coffee mugs, sweatpants, bumper stickers and all sorts of opportunistic junk that have recorded “”hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales.”” The unabashed packaging and profiteering would cheapen the movement, if the legitimacy bar wasn’t already knee-high.

    A reasonable claim from protestors is that the stimulus rewards bad behavior. Through lack of oversight and transparency, initial disbursements of stimulus money overcompensated banks without freeing up credit markets. That being said, the bulk of these funds were from the Bush administration’s financial bailout. Without debating the financial merits and efficacy of the stimulus, the legislation was reactionary to a financial meltdown caused by decades of deregulation and decreasing oversight and transparency. The stimulus, though flawed, is the result, not the problem. While the protestors can scream about cash-bleeding bailouts, there is little to be heard about the cause of the disaster in the first place.

    Tea-baggers cry out against the suffocating effects that irresponsible federal and state tax rates have on individual wealth. However, the most irresponsible government action came in the form of opening up for business-decreed investment regulations. The 2004 Securities and Exchange Commission voted to change the net capital rule, relying on investment companies’ own computer models to determine potential risk. This change effectively allowed investment banks to take on debt to capital ratios of more than 30:1.

    Dependent upon self-regulation, Wall Street became a “”white-collar Las Vegas,”” where investors were allowed to roll the dice with the hopes of future generations. Bull market experts like Jim Cramer will retort that those market freedoms returned record profits for investors and the economy as a whole. A growing bubble always looks great until it pops, and market fundamentalists have failed to connect the dots between deregulation and crisis.

    It would be easy, yet unconstructive, to hurl accusations of bigotry. One only needs to read “”Obama’s Plan: White Slavery”” or “”American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s Ovens,”” to realize that many of the protestors are one rock star short of a Bret Michaels concert. Extending the asininity of a few to the many would be a disservice to political discourse.

    If the prevalence of fringe theorists and motley crew of tea-baggers accomplished one thing, it was the dilution of any coordinated direction. The organizers of various parties may have been spurred into action by stimulus and budget, but they were unable to maintain this scope on a grand scale. Subsequently, the Tea Party Movement has become a venue for airing any and all government grievances, ranging from abortion to social services.

    Spawned from a Rick Santelli rant on CNBC, the Tea Party Movement is a patchwork-in-the-making. FreedomWorks is sponsoring a National Taxpayer Protest at the Capitol on Sept. 12, 2009, to display the solidarity of discontented citizens. With months to prepare, one can only hope that the “”movement”” shapes up. If not representative of colonial protestors, organizers of the current tea party movement owe it to their forefathers to at least appear organized and united in a legitimate call for changes in tax policy.

    – Daniel Sotelo is a political science junior. He can be reached at

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