Following up on Tea Parties

Here are some observations on the April 15 Tea Parties.  In all the news clips, I saw not a single person of color.  I think this is because they were basically anti-Obama demonstrations with more than a tinge of racism.  These demontrations were mostly not about taxes.  They were about how President Obama is not a citizen, was not legitimately elected, and will take away your Second Amendment rights. 

Then there is the question of attendance.  Nate Silver who has been tracking this at fivethirtyeight.com reports his final total to be more than 300,000.  He writes

 promised that I wasn’t going to put much more work into estimating crowd sizes for yesterday’s tea party events, but here is one last update. The important thing is that we now have a credible estimate for Atlanta at 15,000 persons; we were previously relying on an estimate of 7,000 that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had initially made yesterday evening but then pulled back upon.

It’s not surprising that Atlanta had the largest turnout (in fact, the largest turnout by far, according to our collection of nonpartisan estimates). Turnout was much higher in state capitals than in other cities, and seems to have been much larger in the South than in other regions of the country. Atlanta, being by far the largest Southern state capital, therefore did very well.

His list ranges from the high point in Atlanta to 12 at the Fort Point, NY tea party.  300,000 is really not a lot of people when you think about it.  Maybe the rest of us should be glad of that.  As for the larger turnouts in the South,  I believe that Southern whites just cannot believe that a black man is really President.

So what exactly do the Republicans do with this Fox New movement?

Dan Baltz wrote in today’s Washington Post

The teabag protests that marked tax day on April 15 represent an opportunity and a risk for the Republican Party. Opportunity because they offer a jolt of energy for a battered party after two dismal elections. Risk because they supply at best only a partial answer to what ails the Republicans

For now standing back and saying no to Obama may be enough. But opposition to Obama’s policies represents an incomplete message for a party seeking to regain power. Republicans still must confront larger questions of how they can appeal nationally and how they would govern were they given the opportunity again.

Will the Republican Party try to use the issues of the Tea Parties to try to revive?  I don’t think that is the road back.  I hope and believe that Americans are beginning slowly to more past issues of race and gender.  Certainly the youngsters I see on the subway in Boston are often in mixed groups and couples are often interracial.  Maybe the race issue and the anti-Obamaism is why more people turned out in the South.  Plus we have that black president with very high approval ratings.  We will probably find out how tea parties work as a strategy when we know the results of the Kay Bailey Hutchinson v. Rick Perry (king of the Texas Tea Party) race for the Republican nomination for Texas governor.

Here are two final looks are the Tea Parties.  Tom Toles from the Washington Post

The Republicans should maybe remember Jim Jones.

And last but not least a link to Jon Stewart.

Let’s Tea Party

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

Denmark

49.1

U.K.

37.1

Ireland

31.9

Sweden

49.1

Hungary

37.1

Greece

31.3

Belgium

44.5

Czech Rep.

36.9

Australia

30.6

France

44.2

N.Z.

36.7

Slovak Rep.

29.8

Norway

43.9

Spain

36.6

Switzerland

29.6

Finland

43.5

Luxembourg

35.9

U.S.

28.0

Italy

42.1

Portugal

35.7

Japan

27.9

Austria

41.7

Germany

35.6

Korea

26.8

Iceland

41.5

Poland

33.5

Turkey

24.5

Netherlands

39.3

Canada

33.3

Mexico

20.6

Source: OECD

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.