Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Great 2009 Tea Parties

I am going to fight every urge in my body and refrain from turning the subject of today's Tax Day Tea Parties into a verb. I'm not going to do it as it would be crude and puerile. I will, however, point out the ridiculousness and offensiveness of it all.

As of 3:00 pm MDT, KSL wins the award for most mind-numbing coverage in Utah. The story starts off on the right foot by stating, correctly, that as part of the stimulus the vast majority of Americans, 95%, got a tax cut. Then the proverbial train comes off the proverbial tracks:
Not everyone will be seeing those tax cuts though. People making more than
a quarter of a million dollars will be seeing a tax increase, and that is
leading to a number of protests across the country, including several here in

Now, either KSL has completely lost its sanity, or the tea protesters have. People would really go out of their way to organize little tea parties all over the country to decry the tax increase for people making a quarter of a million dollars or more? I would be astonished if not every single one of those protesters got a tax cut. So the jist is: get a tax cut, protest against the one who gave you the tax cut. Brilliant. This simply is too good to be true for Democrats.
One such protest is happening in Salt Lake. It's just like the Boston Tea
Party more than 235 years ago. They're protesting taxes, but these people are
upset with the Obama administration.

It is so not like the Boston Tea Party 235 years ago. It is, in fact, diametrically opposed to the Boston Tea Party 235 years ago. The Boston Tea Party was a protest mainly against taxation without representation. The colonists believed it was their right to be taxed only by elected representatives, not the British Parliament which did not allow representation from America. Today tea partiers have no such qualms.

They just don't like President Obama. Which is fine, I didn't like Pres. Bush. They have every right to protest, that is the American way. In fact, we should encourage more peaceful protests to raise public awareness on certain important issues. But please don't insult us by equating today's highly organized, weak turn-out* protests with one of the most iconic patriotic acts in American history.

*I'm fully aware that the pathetic turn-out in Utah is at least partly due to the horrendous weather. I like to think it was a higher power crying over the lameness of the event, but it could just be dumb luck. But turn-out was weak all over the country, so maybe it was just a contrived idea that failed to meet impossibly high standards.


The Teacher said...

Not to be uncharitable, but these tea party people are idiots. I think the founding fathers would consider them to be whiny, spoiled babies who were equating their desire to pocket more cash with the oppression that American colonists faced. Thank heavens this stupid little stunt seems to have sort of petered out.

Josh said...

Thank you, nameless teacher. You are obviously a member of the oh, so holy NEA, that won't be happy until we get over that great 50% taxation level. Amazing that the people that are supposed to be teaching my children about American history don't understand it at all. I also find it a bit odd that if my child calls someone an idiot, or stupid, he could be suspended from school, but the teachers obviously have no problem with such actions.

I would have been at a TEA party, myself, if I wasn't stuck in snowy, cold, miserable Wyoming at work.

Jake, in the minds of a lot of folks this is the same thing that the colonists faced. Many people - obviously not you, or many of your aquaintances - feel that we are being taxed unfairly, and that the taxes we are being forced to pay are not being used for our benefit. We have debated the moronic "stimulus" before, but I stick to my guns. There is nothing in that enormous package of monopoly money that helps the average Joe Blow, but he is the poor slob that will pay for it.

Nameless teacher, I actually shake with rage when I hear teachers talk about taxes. It is rare that a teacher wants to see taxes lowered. Why is that? Because that is how they are given raises, how schools are funded, etc. I understand that. However, I believe that teachers have the power to change things. They have the numbers and a VERY powerful "union." Why don't they, then, put their energy to doing away with unnecessary spending? No matter what the tax rate is hiked up to, teachers will never be paid what they deserve, in the current system. You lefties love the word "change," well, let's see it!!!

Iliana said...

I agree Josh. The tea parties were largely about how our tax money is being used improperly , how the government keeps putting us further and further in debt, how as Josh put it, the Average Joe, is being aided little. They were protesting their dissaproval and their desires for change. Not Obama change, but change that reinforces their values of working hard for what you get and and their desire for capitalism to outweigh socialist ideals.

There were hundreds of demonstations all around america. Thousands and thousands of people wanted to be heard. And the liberal media and Jake, and The Teacher and poeple like you dismiss it for stupidity and insignificance. If it had been demonstrations about issues such as abortion or gay marraige you wouldn't be calling them idiots.

Jake, you seem to claim that conseratives are the ones who constantly rag on liberals with no logic and pure ignorance. I think it the other way around. Because you don't agree, you call us dumb. I really am starting to find it offensive. Its getting nausiating.

This country is made of people who have taken nothing and made something. I hate that someone who has become financially successful is in essence punished for their bravado in order to aid a governement who is executing ideals that are not their own. I am glad we still have a country where we can be heard, even if not in the majority. I think it sick however that the voice of those dissenting are dimissed. Your right in that those protesting were probably not those earning a quarter of a million a year. They would have been attacked and called ungracious and selfish. And they are not.

This post sealed the deal for me. No thanks to the liberal blog.

Jacob S. said...

I just don't understand it. These protesters are paying lower taxes than they did during the Bush administration, but they never protested their taxes then. The Iraq War costs about the same as the stimulus and helps the average American even less, but no one was complaining about those waste of tax dollars. And yet when Obama lowers their taxes and spends stimulus money on American companies there are protests.

I honestly don't think they are stupid or ignorant, I've never said that and I don't know why you constantly accuse me of that. I made it very clear that I support their right to protest, but to equate it to the Boston Tea Party is offensive. Lets call it what it is: an anti-Obama protest, not a tax protest.

But, come on, the thought of all those people with little tea bags and signs calling Obama a fascist and anti-American (plenty of pictures of those signs)? A little funny.

Iliana said...

The voice that carries through in mnay of your posts to me seems haughty and like conservatives are ingorant. I guess you feel unjustly accused, and I'm sorry. I do feel that way however but will not voice it further.

It is about core ideals and beliefs. PErhaps conservatives were less likely to protest Bush taxes and the war because they felt their uses were more in line with their thinking. Perhaps they mind paying less taxes now because the philosophies the money is being used to further, like wealth distribution, etc. goes against their core beliefs. It does mine. You've talked about moral certaintly before, and though I think you meant to slight it, I think it plays here. I COMPLETELY morally, logically, in every way disagree with the type of progressive tax Obama desires. I don't believe in a financial system that is being manipulated by the government. Take our money, we need you to, but then you must follow our rules about income, management, etc. It is sickening. The govt acts as if they are doing the most comendable service to banks, yet in reality, the govnt wouldnt be doing it if they didn't HAVE TO HAVE the banks working in order to survive. But they've made it clear the banks are immoral entities that should be punished. Please.

Welfare is essential, but it needs change. Not, here take more at the expense of others' change. Things shouldn't come for free. Welfare should be worked for, repaid in some way.

Those are some of my greivences, and perhaps similar to those at tea parties. Maybe they should have been renamed. Maybe they shouldn't have. The govenernments ability to act in anyway hinges upon the taxes of its people, and thus is the core of everything. So I think it fitting that they protest the tax system, it signifies everything else that they find unfit.

I don't understand why it supprises you so much that people are protesting despite the small tax break that they may or may not have had. Money isn't everything to everyone. To many people, belief in a capitalist democracy and values of significance far outweigh a dollar saved. To some people moral certainty reigns.

The Teacher said...

Josh: I use the name, "The Teacher" in connection with my blog, Gospel Doctrine Underground. I am a volunteer Sunday School teacher, not a teacher by profession. So no need to accuse all teachers of hypocrisy or adopt a snarky tone.

I doubt it needs pointing out that the seminal difference between the real Boston Tea Party and these 21st century political stunts is that you, Josh, elected the people that decide how much tax to levy and how to spend the money. So, simmer down, and get busy electing the people you want in the government. That's a luxury the founding fathers earned through the revolution.

The Teacher said...

OK, so I have reconsidered the use of the term "idiots." It was over the top and unkind. I withdraw it, and apologize.

I still think the allusion to the Boston Tea Party is silly, though.

Andrew said...

A few thoughts:

"The govt acts as if they are doing the most comendable service to banks, yet in reality, the govnt wouldnt be doing it if they didn't HAVE TO HAVE the banks working in order to survive."

Actually, I'd like the banks to survive so that when people put their money in they can get it out again. Thanks to the FDIC that's possible, you're even insured against losing your money if the bank goes under. That, to me, is eminently fair and a great use of government. Since a bank is generally a useful thing and my employer doesn't pay cash, I'll probably need a bank to survive. Any business of significance would probably feel the same way.

"I COMPLETELY morally, logically, in every way disagree with the type of progressive tax Obama desires."

How was George W. so much better in this respect? that kind of comment reminds me of the Republicans who held up the California budget way beyond its time just to avoid tax increases. Ultimately their ploy bought them little, aside from the ire of California voters. This in my mind is a rather hysterical reaction to Obama doing some rather modest things (and most economists agree that he may need to do more) to knock our financial system back onto its feet. He has raised taxes on the top 2% of income earners (whose share of wealth has grown by leaps and bounds over that of the bottom 98%) just a bit to Clinton-era levels, and he's chosen to spend money on America rather than on nifty defense toys (actually, that's not quite true -- he upped the defense budget and decided that most of the increase should go towards showing a bit more love for our troops).

Just as you feel very strongly that the Iraq war was justified, myself and a large majority of the rest of the country (and the world) beg to differ. And, so, now that the guy who tends to agree with us is in office it should be no surprise that he plans to end that useless conflict. I personally wish he'd do the same in Afghanistan and let Holbrooke et. al. do their thing before shedding any more American blood chasing after ghosts and fake threats.

If anything, the Tea Party protests came off to me as "Don't Spend Money On America" protests. You get what you pay for, after all.

Andrew said...

...Oh, and one more thing. Getting all morally twisted over governmental policies is part of the issue. As a believer in separation of Church and state I think "morality" is a concept that should be avoided in discussions of government. It's too murky a concept, one that's interpreted in 300 million (or thereabouts) different ways in America.

I try to take political positions that can be supported rationally (I emphasize try -- I'm sometimes overcome by the heat of an argument). Like the Iraq war -- they never attacked us and didn't threaten our interests. Our presence there, I believe, has retarded Iraqi political development and mucked up the balance of power to the point where it will take decades for the natural balance to be restored. I base that belief on what I've observed in post-colonial African history (which I studied in college), the ghosts of these conflicts cast long shadows. Hence I describe it as a "useless conflict", it doesn't server our interests or theirs. I have some "moral" feelings on the subject as well, but I wouldn't use them as a basis for arguing policy with anyone.

The benefits of doing things that way are numerous. You don't get morally offended by people who don't agree with you, because nobody's attacking your morals. You always know that you can back up what you say (I might note a shadow here of the doctrine in the Church of multiple witnesses) with something more than a belief that other people may not share. And, as your thinking evolves you're not emotionally tied to things you used to believe were good ideas. God's ways are not the ways of man, and it's no surprise that basing what you believe politically primarily on your religious beliefs will get you into trouble. The same thing happens when you try to practice human politics in God's kingdom.

peter said...

The tea parties (yes, the reference to the Boston Tea Party wasn't that accurate because there is representation) were about more than taxes (though I don't know how anyone expects the levels of spending the current government is enacting to to continue or even be paid off without future rises in taxes). It's frustration with spending policies, a tripling of the national debt in three months(liberals were howling about a doubling in eight years) and the expansion of the federal government to all parts of our lives.

Yea, people weren't doing this under President Bush but many conservatives weren't pleased with what he was doing. The problem with the Iraq war was that we got into it under what we realized later, were fishy circumstances. There was a rush to go to war (somewhat like a rush to pass a stimulus bill that no one had read...wonder what long term consequences will happen there), most democrats voted in favor of the measure and later we realized things weren't the way we thought. But to have pulled out at that point really would have left a vaccuum to be filled by who knows what. Now, I don't know as leaving a dictator (as Andrew suggests) really would have been better for the Iraqi people, but an orderly creation of government and stabilization was necessary. We finished the job and the end is near. Do I wish it had all happened differently...yes. But you take what you have at the time and make the best decisions. Pulling out of Iraq sooner could have led to its collapse. You bring up Africa, but maybe this situation could be more like South Korea, Japan or Germany.

That being said, Obama ran on a platform of reigning in government spending and being a centrist. It looks like now that was just political expediency talking. I think people are frustrated and worried because they can't do anything right now to change what is happening.

The point has been made that all of the spending has been to make life better for the American people, Obama has enacted a small, temporary tax cut for 95% of people. But he's increasing government size and spending like crazy. Where is the money supposed to come from in the end?

The stimulus is supposed to help. I hope a lot of it is doing what they hope...but the problem is all the strings attached.

For example in Idaho, my mother-in-law works for the school district. They are getting a share of the stimulus money...but they are going to have to fire several teachers because the money is only allowed to be used for special education...which is great. But there is a law currently in place that prohibits firing or changing staffing of special education staff without massive amounts of paperwork and the blood of your first born child...also good, you say. So the problem is that they can't use the stimulus money to pay their special ed teachers and keep their other teachers. The law prohibits this. So they will fire other teachers and probably hire some special education aides. The stimulus didn't do what it was supposed to do in that case.

The government bails out banks and companies and then wants to impose restrictions...makes sense, but then they won't let them give the money back if they don't want the restrictions once they find out what they are. They act outraged about clauses that were in the bailout deal they negotiated. And they want to start imposing restrictions on businesses they haven't bailed out at all. I could go on...

That's all people are protesting...the way their money is being spent.

peter said...

Oh, that was Kristy, so my husband doesn't bear any responsibility for my words.

Iliana said...

First, I didn't ever say I PERSONALLY was in favor of ever going to war in Iraq. Quite the contrary. I did say that perhaps those protesting, or in other words, some conservative republicans, felt it a good option and supported Bush. I was just making a case for those who participated yesterday. I posed my greivances as loose spending, too much governement hand in banking and welfare reform.

You are correct that the world "morality" has too many meanings to be thrown about. When responding to this post, I should have used the word PRINCIPLE. People have different ideas they adhere to that frame their beliefs (belief being a secular belief), and those principles drive people more than the dollar SHOULD drive them.

So the beef with increasing taxes on the small minority is not about the extra thousands of dollars they must pay (and that the govt says they can more than afford to pay), but the prinicple of equity. Fairness. I believe punishing the richer in any form will only lead to the stifling effects of people refusing to work harder, aim higher. Principles I believe America was founded on.

To me its like we're teaching our children to use condoms rather to abstain. We put a bandaid on stupid spending, on bailing out individuals for horrible choices instead of saying it'll be tough but self restraint in every form will pay off in the end.

And I too am grateful for FDIC insurance. Who isn't. And I see how the gov't pumping money to lenders seems to make our money more "safe". But its short term and the more the goverment has say in any business' or banks basic operating practices or salaries, the more we move from a free market society. That is against my principles. My beliefs in what government shoud do. IT seems the Obama admin is too short sighted and appealing to those who want a hand out rather than a lift up.

Just my view.

And I'm sure you'll have a good argument against it. Thats fine.

Iliana said...

I just read Kristy's and like usual she is much better spoken. I agree!

Andrew said...

"The government bails out banks and companies and then wants to impose restrictions...makes sense, but then they won't let them give the money back if they don't want the restrictions once they find out what they are. They act outraged about clauses that were in the bailout deal they negotiated. And they want to start imposing restrictions on businesses they haven't bailed out at all. I could go on..."

I'll take these in turn. First off, nobody is saying the companies can't give the money back. They're the ones who won't let go of it, now that they've decided they don't like the terms attached. Yet they need it (there's much hot air about returning the money, but they can't because... they don't have enough money yet!) so it's serving its purpose. That the administration was smart enough to use that money as a vector for reforming bad practices is a bonus.

Which leads me to the bit about "imposing restrictions" on other businesses. There are two basic things that I see are really wrong (structurally speaking) with how we've done business in the past. The first is the misuse of credit. The second is the idea that, somehow, the big "winners" in our economy are indispensable to our national health.

The credit problem is as much about supply as demand. Quite simply, the supply of credit didn't match the demand, so people manufactured credit out of whole cloth. They did this by assuming, for instance, that subprime borrowers were somehow a safe bet. Not only that, but a lot of credit was borne out of straight-up gambling; people borrowed money to make bets which, when properly examined, approached Vegas-like odds of actually paying off. Banks could have stopped doing subprime loans, but they wanted to sell more mortgage-backed securities, so they invented new ways to hide the risk (or hoped the buyers would ignore it, or the rating agencies would overlook it). Thus the whole supply of credit was rotten, shot through with scads of fake money. We should never let that sort of thing happen again. I don't begin to know how to address the problem, but that's why I voted for someone who's smarter than me. And, I believe, they're hard at work on figuring out how to address issues with a bad credit supply.

The second strikes closer to home for Conservatives, because they believe that "hard work" somehow equates to wealth (i.e. Prosperity theology). Truth is, that equation is really more like 30% hard work and 70% luck. Or, as the Madoffs and Sanfords of the world have shown, breaking the law is a good way to tilt the odds. Since much of wealth accumulation is luck, I don't see any problem with taxing that luck. We do it in Vegas without compunction, why not in other areas of our economy? And, since a good portion of it is luck, then what's so special about the people who happen to accumulate huge amounts of wealth? They work just as hard as the immigrant families in my ward and my neighborhood, some of whom may get lucky as well one day.

Andrew said...

Note to the editors: I found a great "I Have A Question" from the June 1976 Ensign (great date to do it, too). You can find it here. I think it warrants a post or maybe even a couple of posts...

Chad said...

Anyone see a problem with inacting a 10 or 15% tax that EVERYONE has to pay? If you are not making anything then, if my math is correct, you are not paying anything either. But if you are paying into the socioecconomic wellbeing of the country, then it could be presumed that you would be more interested in the policy of the elected officals rather than how much they will give you. It seems like it would help to foster a feeling of commitment (not to say there isn't) in some of the citizens that feel like it is there irrevocable right to a government handout. I am not opposed to taxes at all but is there a reason that a very large part of our country that doesn't contribute couldn't?

Chad said...

By the way, Jake. I love that you are willing to present your views and ideas. I think this blog is a great thing....even if I am pretty conservative.

peter said...

Yes, banks increased their lending on sub-prime loans. These loans became common after the Community Reinvestment Act in 2000 which required subprime mortgage loans be made to people who couldn’t afford houses. Frannie Mae and Freddy Mac, government sponsored enterprises, were among the first to take on all kinds of risky loans and not hold enough capital. Attempts to reform these entities were continually shut down by democrats like Chris Dodd and Barney Frank who were receiving money from them. Ironically, republicans were pushing for more regulation. Explains the Fannie/Freddy problem. This next link states that as short a time ago as July last year, Chris Dodd was still holding out that Fannie and Freddy were sound institutions with no need to be changed.

Now, I realize that this isn’t the only problem with the crash and burn of our economy…the housing bubble and bad mortgages only precipitated the event. Credit default swaps have also been to blame. Regulation has its place…in protecting people from practices that are unethical. If credit default swaps are an ethical problem, regulate them. But how is regulating CEO pay going to fix the practice of credit default swaps? Our current liberal government may be trying to fix this the best way they know how…I have to hope that is the case and they aren’t trying to take it down in order to implement their own political agenda as sometimes seems the case…but they are also trying to demonize the rich guys at the top and create class warfare. Why else the mock outrage at the AIG exec bonuses. They were a bad idea, but they were written into the contract!

So you are saying that the equation hard work = wealth is as valid as the prosperity theology? I agree that your prosperity is not a sign of how approved or unapproved you are by God, but to say that there is no link between prosperity and hard work is ridiculous. To compare people who have attained financial security with crooks like Madoff and Sanford is also ridiculous. Just because people have money doesn’t make them inherently criminal or unethical. There is undoubtedly some luck involved, but I’d be interested to know where your 30%/70% equation came from. Education and career choice play a larger role than luck. Jake had a post about equality of results and it was discussed that it wouldn’t work. There will always be jobs that pay more and jobs that pay less. Instead of demonizing those who are the rich (as long as their money was made ethically) and taking away their money, we should be focusing on public education as a means for giving everyone the chance to make their own money.

Hard work is important skill that should be encouraged and applauded and I would agree that most immigrant families work very hard and don’t make as much money as other people in our country. They didn’t have the same benefits of education as most of us and their career choices were limited. However, their lives are better for being here and their children’s lives will be better still.


Andrew said...

I say 70/30 because of the role larger macroeconomic forces play in employment. That's not a "real" number, in the sense that I can't give you an equation to derive it, but in my experience the people who "make it" are more lucky than anything. For instance, I recently interviewed a couple of people for a position where I work. Both of them had Master's degrees in computer science, both of them had stellar credentials. Why in the world, then, were they interviewing for jobs at an online retailer (I'm a computer programmer, and they were interviewing for programming positions)? They should be working for Intel or Cisco based on their qualifications, but market forces beyond their control (or mine) have put those sorts of positions out of reach. Again and again I've run into this situation -- I don't have a degree in computer science, but I've been lucky enough to get the right experience. Who decides that? I feel very blessed but at the same time I realize that getting a "good" job is still mostly luck.

Jacob S. said...

There is no question that many questionable mortgages were made as a result of the Community Reinvestment Act. But the vast majority of bad mortgages had nothing to do with it. These were banks that saw an ever-rising property bubble and thought they could make a quick buck by giving out mortgages on expensive homes to people who could not afford them, then quickly packaging them and selling them on the secondary market. These were people who were suddenly offered big loans from banks (again, because of the incredible/misleading real estate market) and decided to buy a home they couldn't afford for investment purposes. It all fell apart on all the greedy people and we are all paying the price now. It should have been more closely regulated so we didn't all have to pay the price.

The only reason CEO salaries are dragged into this whole mess is because the companies came grovelling to the government for a bail-out, and we don't want them earning tens or hundreds of millions from our pockets for driving the economy into the ground. No one is going to regulate salaries of companies that didn't take bail-out money, but if they did you can expect some accountability from the citizens footing the bill.

Finally, there is virtue in working hard, but it has nothing do to with how successful you become in life. If you ever get a chance, read Hugh Nibley's "Work We Must But The Lunch Is Free":

Hard work doesn't always equal financial success (see teachers, garbage men, janitors, construction workers, etc). What it does mean is that we learn godly attributes. The success comes from God, so we should never step back and say, "Wow, I worked hard and look at all this money and success I obtained because of it." The money and station in life comes from God, the valuable spiritual progression comes from hard work.

Andrew, I looked at that link and it looks interesting. Do you want to write something and we'll post it here?

Andrew said...

"Andrew, I looked at that link and it looks interesting. Do you want to write something and we'll post it here?"

I presume you're referring to the "I Have A Question" section from the June 1976 Ensign. I'd be happy to put something together over the next week or so; for post-length stuff I like to make sure I have all of my ducks in a row.

peter said...

Sure, if you take bailout money, I can understand regulation, at least until you pay it back or conditions are met. President Obama is talking about regulating all CEO pay, not just in companies that took bailout money.

Of course all we have comes from God and work teaches us godly virtues, I never suggested otherwise. I never said that hard work always equals financial success, though maybe we ought to clarify my mind it means that you can take care of your family and is not just having scads of money. But it's almost impossible to have financial success if you don't work hard. Sure some people have a silver spoon, but rarely does laziness produce financial fruit.

I just looked back to see why we are having this debate about hard work. Andrew is basically saying that since everyone works hard, we should all share the money, is that right? You worry about being labeled a socialist...but that is exactly the strategy, or at least ideal, you are suggesting.

Andrew said...

"Andrew is basically saying that since everyone works hard, we should all share the money, is that right?"

Not quite -- I think we should fund programs that help tide people over until the economy turns more favorable. I'm also highly in favor of money for educating the current workforce. The current economic climate is very tough, so even well-educated job seekers are having problems finding jobs. That being said, there's a large workforce out there that's tooled up to build houses that could benefit from expanded educational opportunities.

In my view the only really "socialist" thing I'm in favor of is some form of universal health care. If that makes me a Socialist, then so be it.

Randall said...

Your welcome to unpost my comments

I find the entire question of partial birth abortion quite disturbing, like the holocoust. But using pretty words doesn't make the reality any less horrid.

I am disseminating it independently along with your assurtion that yours, Obamas, Pelosis, the DNC, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days saints all share a unified vision of this issue.

I will give specific language from the democratic activits, the DNC, democratic politicians, and your own quotes and compare them. I still fail to see any similar language. Still looking

Its pretty easy to find in the RNC positions.

My advice to my daughter would be a little different.

And yes, when it comes to such "procedures" we conservatives are rather narrow and close minded about infanticide.

You are now a part of the main stream media editing conservative speech.