Friday, May 07, 2010

More NY Times Sniping at the Tea Party Falls Flat




Hat tip to James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" column, for the following tidbit from Ms. Collins, at the NY Times. Taranto makes it part of a larger point, but I'd like to take another look at this excerpt. If I accept that 47% of American households pay no income tax, how does that relate to 45% of Tea Party supporters making less than $50,000? If she assumes that all the people paying no income tax "make less" than 50K, she knows nothing about the tax code. Plenty of people who make more than 50K pay no tax, if they have enough "deductions." As someone who makes less than 50K, but still pays income tax, I have to question her assumptions, when my own experience refutes them, as well. (link)


According to one much, much-quoted study by the Tax Policy Center, 47 percent of American households didn't have to pay one cent of income tax for 2009. . . .


According to the Gallup polls, 45 percent of Tea Party supporters have incomes under $50,000. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, Tea Party activists are virtually the only segment of the population in which a majority feels its tax burden is unfair. Clearly, these are not the kind of folks who would cancel their anti-tax rallies just on account of not being taxed.


My questions about her assumptions were multiplied by the next paragraphs:


"We're here to take our country back," said a former Missouri House speaker at a Tea Party rally at the State Capitol, where nobody appeared to be grateful for the good news about the bottom 47 percent at all.


Let us stop for a minute and consider this "take our country back" mantra. Some people believe it is the cry of angry white men who don't like seeing a lot of blacks, women and gay people in positions of power. I prefer a less depressing explanation, which is that all this yearning for the golden days of yore has less to do with Washington than with the fact that so many of the Tea Partyists appear to be in late middle age. I think they just want to go back to the country that existed when they were 28 and looked really good in tight-fitting jeans. Which is no longer the case.


Ms. Collins sets up the "'take our country back' mantra" as something that "some people" believe is bigoted, but not her. She thinks the "tea party" people want to recapture the world of their youth, though 28 is a rather specific age to mention. Maybe I'm in "early middle age," so I'd like the world to be as it was when I was 18, or even 13. Again, this is so far off-base, it is absurd. "Taking back our country" is a political phrase, which is often, if not always used by the party in the minority. I'm surprised she didn't use the common liberal refrain of "turning back the clock," but she clearly characterized her opinion in those terms. My guess is that she's saving that "tidbit" for after election day.


"Taking back our country" means something, and it's actually bipartisan, though "politics" are deeply involved. Both parties are complicit in the excesses, but there are other influences at work. Any source of "political power" becomes a money tree, whether from individual, corporate, or politial sources. The "Tea Party" movement is political chaos, at the moment, and that's a good thing. It gives individuals exposure to many other people who share similar concerns, and any differences they may have. The issues that have consensus among the various groups will be on the national political map, beyond a doubt. The party that embraces that consensus will be a political winner. I see that consensus as this: "It is beyond a doubt that limiting government power and spending will benefit the country. We want our representatives to not only say this, but do it."


There's something else about the "when they were 28 and looked really good in tight-fitting jeans" comment. What if I said that about some aging "baby boomer" liberal? Or if I said "in baggie hippie jeans?" Again, it doesn't matter which style of dress she's referring to, it's the condescending assumption that these people want to "relive" some kind of past glory. I can assure her that everyone there remembers those days as politically and culturally tumultuous. What was different then was that the tax code was simpler, and the government less intrusive in our lives, though some people complained about that, even back then.


Competing political groups create more political "customers," or people who pay attention to politics, and policy. I'm not worried about too much free speech, or political advertising, so if some of these "tea party" organizations are "owned" by GOP, Democrat, union, corporate or "non-profit" interests, it makes no difference to me. It's the people who actually vote, and they are more attuned to political BS than they have been in a long time. They want to know what a candidate will stand for, as well as stand against, and they will expect them to stand for it, regardless of the politics. Kind of the opposite of what Rep. Stupak did, on health care.


People like Ms. Collins may try to interject race, gender, and sexual orientation into the "tea party" movement's "raison d'etre," or maybe she just hated "the country that existed when they (tea party people) were 28." Either way, she does more to expose her own prejudice against Americans who disagree with her politics than convince anyone that the "Tea Party" movement is racist.

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