Subjects of history and economics too taxing for tea party organizers
Posted by James McPherson on April 15, 2009
Conservatives are waging “tea parties” today to protest Barack Obama’s economic policies. Protests are scheduled around the country for those who want to complain visibly about their taxes–or at least those few people who aren’t at work during the day and who aren’t frantically spending their day trying to actually file their taxes by midnight tonight.
Though of course I’m happy to see political protests–and to see them covered by the news media–to call today’s protests a “grassroots movement” is somewhat silly. After all, Fox News has been promoting them for weeks. Like other conservative organizations, Fox uses the “movement” to suggest that their side is “catching up” with liberals in their use of technology. And always mindful of the benefits of fear-mongering paranoia, Fox also warns of a potential “liberal backlash,” leading one story with this: “What would a party be without party poopers?” The story manages to get fictional ACORN threat in by the third paragraph. There’s “fair and balanced” for you.
Other ironies surrounding the event stem from the fact that conservatives typically benefit more from taxes than do liberals, the fact that untold numbers of today’s protests (including the one in my city) will be held at facilities paid for through taxes, and the fact that many of those who complain the loudest actually pay relatively little while many of those who pay the highest rates view doing so as patriotic. And speaking of patriots, journalist/blogger Jeremy Styron (who is not opposed to tweaking Fox News, himself) is among those who has pointed out the historical ignorance of many modern conservatives who keep using Thomas Paine as a model.
Paine believed that everyone had a right to free land (“socialism”?), and tended to be anti-religious. He also believed in a large inheritance taxes (what modern conservatives have managed to denegrate as “the death tax”), because he didn’t believe in royalty or pseudo-royalty like that created by unearned, handed-down wealth. Paine also favored various kinds of so-called “welfare,” including (but not limited to) public works, maternity benefits, free public elementary education, old-age pensions, and aid to poor people.
Speaking of conservatives who happen to be ignorant, Glenn Beck has even apparently turned his understanding of Paine into a stand-up comedy act. Beck calls himself a “poor-man’s Seinfeld,” which is pretty funny in itself considering he makes $10 million per year on his radio program alone–not counting his Fox salary. I’ve actually recognized that Beck was hilarious for some time, though I didn’t realize he was in on the joke. Unfortunately, neither do most of the people in his audience.
Beck and other conservatives who insist on referencing Paine should at least consult The Age of Reason. And maybe an online dictionary, so they’ll understand why so many other people have trouble keeping a straight face when they hear conservatives repeatedly using the phrase “tea bagging.”