I don’t know how anyone else feels but I think it is very clear that the Republican Party is caught in a timewarp. Maybe not 1980, but sometime in the early Reagan Year or even pre-Reagan years. And they are also trying to be 2009 hip. The combination is ripe for hilarlity – unfortunately for the Republicans. First there was Chairman Steeele saying he wanted to appeal to the hip hop crowd kinda like Karl Rove and his famous rap, I guess. Now there is tea-bagging. The tea baggers don’t seem to get it that we did really well with the higher tax rates – look at the Clinton years. It is the Clinton tax rates the President wants to restore.
The original Boston Tea Party in 1773 protested the tax on tea without representation in Parliament. If I recall my history, we had not yet decided to split from Mother England but just wanted to have some guys in Parliament. I don’t think it was a protest on the tea tax directly. The tax on tea touch everyone. President Obama’s tax plan only effects the very top earners since the rest of us will get a little cut. Bruce Bartlett, writing in Forbes.com, has posted some very interesting statisitics.
Next week is April 15, the day when most Americans have to file their federal income tax returns. To protest the allegedly high level of taxation in the United States, various right-wing groups are organizing tea parties around the country in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
The irony of these protests is that federal revenues as a share of the gross domestic product will be lower this year than any year since 1950. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government will take only 15.5% of GDP in taxes this year, compared to 17.7% last year, 18.8% in 2007 and 20.9% in 2000.
The truth is that the U.S. is a relatively low-tax country no matter how you slice the data. The following tables illustrate this fact by comparing the U.S. to other members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based research organization.
As Table 1 shows, total taxation (federal, state and local) amounted to 28% of the GDP in the U.S. in 2006. Only four of the 30 OECD countries had a lower tax ratio. Taxes averaged 35.9% for the OECD as a whole and 38% in Europe. Citizens of Denmark and Sweden paid very close to 50% of their total income in taxes.
Table 1: Total Taxes as a Share of GDP, 2006
Bartlett ends with an interesting observation. (I should say that he also has other charts comparing individual tax rates.)
The point is that one can’t look just at the taxes people pay here or elsewhere without looking at what they get in return. It doesn’t automatically follow that the places with the lowest taxes are the best places to live and work. This is obvious when we think about where to buy a house. We always look at the quality of local schools as a major factor and are willing to pay higher property taxes in return for good schools. The same is true at the national level as well. Higher taxes may pay for services that people value and thus are not as burdensome as they might appear at first glance.
So what are these tea parties really about? And is this the best the Republicans can do to find a voice? Once again we have to turn to Rachel Maddow. Gabriela Resto-Montero writes this intro for the Nation
The “Tea Bag” movement spawned by a rant on CNBC by Rick Santelli seeks to protest the Obama tax cuts by imitating the revolutionary fathers’ Boston Tea Party, which in fact protested taxation without representation (the opposite of a tax cut). While the logic behind the protest is confusing, the right-wing’s complete lack of awareness about the term “Tea Bagging” is even more so. Rachel Maddow and Ana Marie Cox have some fun at the expense of clueless conservatives and point out that at long last Senator David Vitter may have found a worthy cause to champion.
And I have a really stupid question: Are they throwing in the tea or the entire tea bag? If it is the entire tea bag, they are really polluting our lakes and rivers with paper made not to dissolve in water.