...Continued From Part 2
Perhaps one of the biggest paradoxes of the Tea Party is that many of the rank-and-file members who work in local communities probably believe that they are working in the best interests of the country by protesting what they feel to be exorbitant taxes and unchecked government spending. However, upon closer examination of the reality of the beliefs which they are protesting against, an almost exclusively cynical view of the movement tends to become the basis of doubt.
Take for instance the inference of their movement’s/organization’s acronym, Taxed Enough Already and their protestations that they pay too much in taxes. In a world where perception is often reality, the movement has convinced many Americans that taxes are exceedingly high. But according to the latest information, only 18% of Americans say that they support the Tea Party movement, and half of them have indicated that their taxes are fair (www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20002487-503544.html). But it is only upon closer examination of the research that the picture starts to gain a new focus; only the most active within the Tea Party say that their taxes are too high, most often represented by Tea Partiers who attend public rallies and related functions such as the Tea Party Convention held last February in Nashville. Of them, 55% make no bones about their taxes being too high.
Not only do the numbers within the Party of actual adherents to its base claim misrepresent the validity of their protestations, but the validity of their claims simply does not gel with the reality of facts. According to most research, taxes are at an all-time low when measured against the historical trend, especially for those in the middle-class income brackets, which most Tea Partiers are if the statistics are accurate (According to a recent CNN poll, 32% of those identifying themselves as “Tea Party activists” reported earning between $50,000-$75,000, 18% reported earning $30,000-$50,000, and only 8% reported earning less than $30,000 (34% earn more than $75,000. As a group, those incomes are higher than nationwide averages, but not so much that their tax burden is even close to being equivalent to the highest wage earners, who have the highest tax burden. http://www.thefourthbranch.com/2010/04/taxes-at-lowest-level-in-60-years-so-why-are-tea-partiers-angry/). And this doesn’t even take into account the fact that those in the same income brackets benefited from the tax reductions that were a part of the Obama Administration’s 2009 stimulus package). Furthermore, capital gains taxes have had modest reductions in recent years. So to quote a famous line from the 1980s, “Where’s the beef?”
Click on image to enlarge shrinking income tax and capital gain burdens on various groups
Another point where such a movement loses it perception of populism is when it has professional talking heads representing the movement, who engage in spin instead of actually listing its grievances and allowing the public to judge for itself. A recent airing of Headline News’ Joy Behar Show (below) demonstrates this to the utmost degree.
What the video demonstrates is a tried and proven propaganda method for gaining credibility (and legitimacy) in American politics when it comes to individuals and organizations. The method involves either espousing populist ideas, and/or clothing oneself in patriotic beliefs; in this respect, the Tea party is unlike most other such movements in American history. Expert talking heads representing this movement (as others representing themselves in such a manner) can and do take the most straightforward of questions about their movement and twist the answers to where they come off as victims of or guardians against an imaginary threat. And while there is no doubt that many of the movement’s grassroots (i.e., community level) activists truly believe in the movement’s cause, it’s a little hard to understand why so many cannot think beyond their allegiance to their political ideologies to think independently. For example, why is spending such an issue now even after a record budget surplus built under the Clinton Administration (and a Republican-controlled Congress), and its subsequent erosion under the Bush Administration? This is what the Tea Party movement has managed to do to such a degree that many of its grassroots activists truly believe that they are working in the interests of the country as a whole.
So what the phenomenon of the Tea Party appears to be is an organization where the most active members are a minority among a minority, one that the majority of them will surely make an attempt to pass off their numbers as representative of a consensus of Americans. Do I believe that the Party has “tapped into an undercurrent of discontent” among the voting American electorate? No more so than they represent what is has always been a perpetual sense of disgust toward the sense that government is corrupt. But I am reminded of the quote by former Republican Maine Senator Bill Cohen, "Government is the enemy until…you need a friend.”
Saturday, May 8, 2010
...Continued From Part 2