Which tea party?
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Which is the inspiration for the current tea party movement – the Boston Tea Party in 1774, or the Mad Tea Party in “Alice in Wonderland”? Taxes were not the main motivation for the Boston Tea Party; it was primarily a response to a government-supported monopoly over tea imports by the British East India Company. The “Taxation without Representation” battle-cry came earlier as a result of the Stamp Act imposed on the Colonies by the British Parliament in 1765. Threats of violence against the tax collectors prompted discontinuing the tax on everything except tea, and that was reduced to only a penny per pound. The current tea party movement seems to me to be more in line with the Mad Tea Party which Alice stumbles into. The March Hare, the Hatter, and the Dormouse (which is half asleep) are engaged in a conversation which makes no sense to her. Much of the current Tea Party movement makes no sense to me either.
The battle-cry “Less Government and Lower Taxes” sounds good, but it is totally unrealistic. Both the Reagan and Bush II administrations cut taxes; the result was a $6 trillion increase in the national debt. With the national debt approaching a whopping $12 trillion, it is idiotic to even think of cutting taxes. Our economic future demands that we take serious steps to start reducing our debt. Ah, the tea partiers say, all we have to do is cut government spending, and we can pay down the debt and still cut taxes. But just where can we make enough reduction in the federal budget to have any significant effect? The largest federal expenditures are for National Defense (21 percent of budget), Social Security (21 percent), Medicare (13.5 percent), Income Security (13 percent), Health Care (8.5 percent), and interest on the national debt (8 percent), for a grand total of 85 percent, leaving only 15 percent for all other government functions, including education, veterans benefits and services, science and technology, transportation, natural resources and environment, justice, and general government.
Which of these government functions and services should we give up? Those 45 and older, who make up 75 percent of the tea partiers, want to keep Social Security; those over 65, who are a heavily represented in the tea parties, want to keep their Medicare; tea partiers are strong for National Defense; and we cannot avoid paying the interest on our indebtedness. That leaves health care, and income security (which provides unemployment compensation, housing assistance, food and nutrition assistance, and federal employee retirement and disability). Very few tea partiers are unemployed – the vast majority “have it made” in secure well-paying jobs or comfortable retirement, and decry extending unemployment benefits or providing mortgage assistance, as merely encouraging people not to look for a job or giving them an unfair break on paying their mortgages. Tell that to the people who are homeless and destitute, either because they have lost a well-paying job they have had for years or even decades, or as a result of an accident or major illness far exceeding what their health insurance will pay, forcing them into default or bankruptcy. The vast majority of the unemployed are desperately looking for work, but the jobs just aren’t there. There are six times as many people looking for jobs as there are job openings, and the majority of those pay far less than the jobs people have lost.
Sadly, our society seems to have lost the empathy that people had during the very difficult times of the Great Depression, when unemployment was at 20 percent , and much higher than that in many parts of the country. Neighbors felt their neighbor’s pain, and though they had little to give, would share what they had with those less fortunate. We need more of the attitude that we are all in this thing together, and that the future of our country and our society depends on our working together for everyone’s well-being, instead of fomenting divisions between haves and have-nots within our society during this time of stress.
To be continued:
– Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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