Saturday, April 25, 2009

Teabagging of America organized by Dick Armey, and friends.

Hi everyone,

My editor finally changed a headline on me.

I'd suggested: Teabagging of America organized by Dick Armey and friends

I suspect he felt this stepped over the line a bit.

Alas, what kind of an age do we live in when irony has become indistinguishable from fact?


Saturday's column as printed:


Armey, friends helped organize tea bagging of America


When I first saw that America was to be “tea bagged” as part of a “tax protest” organized by major figures from the now disenfranchised right wing of the Republican Party, I thought it must be a headline from The Onion gone viral – like the fake sports story from a few years ago claiming the U.S. Congress had threatened to leave Washington for Charlotte unless D.C. built them a new “capital dome” stadium. The official Chinese news media reported it as a real story.

“Teabagging America” sounded exactly the same. The story was given breathless, full day coverage on Fox News and ignored by every other media outlet – since the events were a staged political burlesque and only Fox specializes in theatricals.

Organized by starve-the-beast anti-tax Svengalis like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, with funding from the Coors and the Koch Foundations, teabaggers converged on state capitals across the country last week to stage “tea parties” – including Madison, where Paul Ryan apparently caffeinated the crowd with a teapot full of rhetoric about Democrats and excessive government spending. This is nearly as funny as the “Congress demands new dome” story, considering that Rep. Ryan voted for eight straight federal budgets that increased spending from $1.7 to $2.8 trillion dollars. Maybe the Democrats forced him do it.

I also discovered the wonderful term “Astroturf lobbying,” coined by former Senator Lloyd Bentsen to describe fake grassroots popularity. At the risk of mixing these metaphors, last week’s teabagging was merely Astroturf, a marketing pitch designed to fake large-scale grassroots support and stiffen anti-tax sentiment in ways the tax code no longer can.

As always with this crowd, once you check the numbers, and your wallet, teabagging turns out to be less satisfying than advertised. Let’s call it tea-goggles.

Anti-tax anger has been used successfully to arouse voters over the years, but the starch is draining out of the issue now that the bottom 95 percent of Americans are seeing some tax relief. Maybe the top 5 percent, and their poodles in the Congress, thought teabagging would harden support and make their issue prominent again.

It would take a lap dance like this to distract America from the truth. Think about it: they expect us to believe that Americans are opposed to a tax plan that reduces taxes for 95 percent of us, while correcting the artificially low rates George W. Bush had carved out for “his base,” the top 5 percent?

Yep, that’s what they expect us to believe.

Things look even funnier when you consider that the new top tax rate is still lower than it’s been for most of the last 40 years. Allowing Bush's tax cuts to expire simply means that the top bracket will pay at the rate they did in 2000, 39.6 percent, instead of the 33 percent they paid in 2009. That rate is still easier on their caviar budget than the 50 percent they paid in 1986 or the 70 percent they paid yearly back to 1965.

I don’t remember the ’80s being that rough on the wealthy – or the ’70s or the ’60s for that matter. Did they not have swimming pools and private jets back then?

Ah, but there is even more unhappy reality waiting for these silver spoon teabaggers. This month’s Gallup Poll reports that a record 61 percent of Americans, when asked if they believe their taxes are fair, said yes. That’s the highest level of approval since 1956. More recently, 1997-2001, only 47 percent-51 percent of Americans said their taxes were fair. And, finally, this year a full 43 percent of Republicans thought their tax rate was about right, up from 39 percent a few years ago.

Even more interesting is what you find when you strip away the political labels and look under the hood: 61 percent of people making under $30,000 think their tax rate is about right, as do 55 percent of those earning $30,000-$74,999, and even 48 percent of people earning over $75,000.

The original Boston tea party embodied the rallying cry of the American Revolution: No Taxation without Representation. But if 95 percent of us, along with our desire for fair taxes, are finally being represented in Washington, then who’s out there protesting?

A bunch of sandbaggers who’ve tried to teabag the rest of us, that’s who.


If I remember my long ago classes on operant conditioning correctly, the current brouhaha among the far right could easily be characterized as an "extinction behaviour."


hiho
Mp

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ok idiot. Since your sucking off the taxpayers of Wisconsin and I'm paying your salary, lets get 1 thing straight. This state wants to raise every tax and fee it can think of and you think its wrong to protest that????? Get your head out of the sand and get out of your glass bubble where you live and see how the real world works!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mpeterson said...

Seriously Anonymous, no one doesn't believe we should spend our tax dollars effectively -- I think ear marks are a terrible waste, regardless of the party submitting them -- ditto for half the weapons systems under development ginned up to pay off inside-bid contractors who made the right campaign contribution, and ditto for the pharmaceutical, insurance, and oil industries whose lobbyists have been busy writing US law.

For the record, I'm against using fees to pay for government. I'm also in favor of eliminating the property tax and replacing it with a progressive income tax that state government can reallocate to municipalities around the state based on need -- the ONLY allowable justification for taxation under Wisconsin law. Property taxes hurt those in the lower and middle income brackets. So do fees.

But I'm afraid you're simply being a dupe for the people who want our economic system (and those it benefits) to continue to run our political system as it has for the last few years. You and I simply can't afford that anymore.

Where was your outrage over diminishing wages for real workers? Or executive bonuses disconnected from performance? Or legislation that cut boards of directors off from being directly responsible to stockholders?

All I've heard from the people who attend these kind of staged protest was 8 years of ringing silence.

I imagine that so long as you got your crumbs from this gravy train, you didn't give a shit about the rest of your countrymen and women.

And how is it people believe that *because* I studied at university for a long long time, I don't know how economics or politics work? Or that somehow this experience has insulated me from a "real world"?

I worked minimum wage jobs to get through college: was a security guard, hotel desk clerk, night auditor, worked as a janitor, drove a tourist trolley, did some off the books management consulting. Maybe for you, years of jobs like this don't count as "real world" experience. I also pay taxes.

So, how is it I don't know how the real world works again?

justanotherbovine said...

I'm surprised that considering how "charged up" things are in West Bend, "teabagging" was used by the Daily News.

Other Side said...

I'm confused. Is the glass bubble underground and there is an orifice that allows insertion of head into surrounding sand, or is the sand already inside the bubble? Or, is the glass bubble above ground? Must one provide the sand or is it naturally occurring inside the bubble?

Questions, questions.

I pay your salary too, Mark. You deserve a raise.

Anonymous said...

Why does the left wing always seem to lower themselves to name calling? They remind me of playground bullies. Larr T

Mpeterson said...

Because that's the only language people on the Limbaugh-Right understand. If the left could use adult language and reason, we wouldn't be having these arguments.

Example: the first comment in this series.

PaulyW said...

You reference to US Citizens exercizing their right to protest higher taxes and fees as Sandbaggers was not unexpected. You only understand insulting people and are very mean spirited. Our higher taxes every year keep you fat on the hog, and if I had a choice, I would terminate your contract.

Mpeterson said...

Sorry Paul, I'm not mean spirited, I'm just tired of the bullshit.

But hey, if I'm getting fat on the tax payer, just how much money do you think I make every year? Typically, the only people who say that sort of thing have no idea. Would you be surprised if I told you that my wife and I together still make less than the median household income in West Bend?

How much do you think I earn? It'd be interesting to know.

PaulyW said...

If you are tired of the bullshit, why do you put up with the bullshit of creating taxing entities with no representation for the taxpayer? 95% bullshit is just talk. We are seeing increased taxation everyday in this state and all you can say is 95% 95% 95%. Thats income taxes. They are imposing sales tax increases to cover for light rail. Rental car fees. Nobody will ever bring a job to this state or do business here until we start controlling spending. You teach kids, just how many do you think will stay in this climate?

Mpeterson said...

Did you miss the whole thing where I said I oppose fees to pay for government? And doing something about the property taxes?

On the other hand, my state taxes look like they're going to be about the same... this must mean you make a lot more money than I do.

Hm. If that's true, why isn't it fair for you to pay a slightly larger percentage of your income than I do?

And you dodged my question about how much you think I earn. :)

PaulyW said...

I work for the dairy cow mafia, so I would have no idea whatyou make. Really none of my business.What does amaze me is that WI needs 6% or more, and Wyoming needs nothing. We give too much to those that don't work. I never mind paying my share of income taxes, I do mind taxation that never quits. We have the right to protest, so do you. I object to citizens being called sandbaggers.

Mpeterson said...

Well, Paul, you were the one who said I was getting fat on the taxpayer so clearly you thought I must be making a ton of dough. Compared to pretty much anyone else in the country in my job, I'm not. But then, to make this worse, money isn't as important to me as having a good life -- and I was raised to think money came second to living decently. I can't imagine that's not true for you too.

For practical purposes, you and I are paying for Wyoming not to have taxes -- they have natural resources and a small population. Our energy use picks up the tab for their residents. Why don't you move out there? Or to Alaska? Then you wouldn't have to pay any taxes at all.

But we still agree about fees in Wisconsin.

PaulyW said...

Sure, money is not what it is about....until it comes to the security for my kids futures. I worry more about how they are going to pay it all off. You have to eat etc.

This all goes back to you calling the protesters a bunch of sandbaggers. I just don't understand why you think everything is a conspiracy. Some things are spontanious, like teaparty protests. My head wanting to explode is spontanious when I see such wasteful spending. I was brought up not to waste. That's what it is all about. At some point we can't just keep taxing (fees) and spending ourselves into the poor house. Maybe if we cut off the supply of money, they would have to stop spending.

My comments re your salary were very much out of line. You have as much right to earn a living as the rest of us. I just disagree with you on most of your politics. You seem very bitter of big business, yet they are the one's paying taxes to keep you employed and to give me the opportunity to make a living.

Mpeterson said...

Hey Paul,

Oh jeez, no. I don't think anything is a conspiracy. I usually think the simplest explanations are closest to right, as a rule.

But the funding and hyping through Fox News and other conservative talk shows suggest there was something more than grass-roots organizing going on. Since none of the main stream media covered it people found out through the media channels that support, or are supported by, the interests I mentioned. Well intentioned folks went off following the bread crumbs. People said the same thing about the Obama campaign. :^)

As a Wisconsin taxpayer you are, technically, one of my bosses -- so you are more than welcome to give me crap about my salary, but you should know what it is first. [My wife and I together made less last year than the median household income for Washington County. We're comfortable, but we're not getting fat. People seem to imagine I make a lot more money than I do. I just don't carry any debt and drive 10 year old cars. :)]

And I'm not at all bitter about big businesses, but I am bitter about years of large corporations restructuring the tax codes to give themselves breaks at the expense of middle and small businesses -- and then acting as if they were all the same. My family is filled with small businesses (and some whopping big ones), and I was a landlord for a while (which is why I know about the differences in tax structure for small landlords and big ones -- made me start to wonder who was writing the tax law... if you go check, you can find out.).

I also believe that the sense of personal entitlement among the top wage earners was indecent. It was socialism for them and capitalism for the rest of us.... The economic inequality is starting to destabilize our society and that, after nearly 30 years of this little experiment in Friedmanian economics, has started to get under my skin.

But that's the source of my irritability. I think people should make as much money as they like, but I also believe (with Andrew Carnegie or Teddy Roosevelt) that they have a responsibility to carry their fair share of their society's expenses. What I hear in the tax-cutter's whining is that they don't bear any responsibilities to the country that made their wealth possible and that, I'm afraid, does offend me.