Wednesday, April 15

Bagging On Taxes: American Taxpayers

April 15, which is the date Americans file their tax returns with the IRS, used to be a day filled with fear for most. Now, it seems to be shaping up as a day of reckoning, as citizens in more than 2,000 locations across the United States are holding "tea parties" to protest higher taxes and out-of-control government spending.

Using the same tool — the Internet — to organize as President Obama did to win the presidential election, ordinary citizens are expressing their apparent dissatisfaction with the "real change" as opposed to the "promised change" that the new administration has taken. By 2010, the estimated national debt, or debt held by the public, will equal approximately $81,000 per U.S. household. That is almost three times as much as it was in 2007.

As if taking a page from the fans of Jericho and others, one of the more creative ideas developed by the GOP is to help people send tea bags to their choice of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Harry Reid, or Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Each tea bag features an elephant watermark. The effort is duplicated by another organization, without an elephant watermark, here.

Regardless of how one feels about tea parties or the administration, there is an interesting side story playing out today. There seems to be discrepancies between the majority of news organizations and live reporting from everyday people. In short, the public has a clear choice between which reality they want to believe: either Americans are upset with taxes or they are not.

Either you call the original Boston Tea Party "shameful" like Charles Arlinghaus did for the UnionLeader, or you consider it one of the first steps toward independence in America like history does. (While Arlinghaus is right that the tea parties will have to grow into positive action beyond rallies, he's wrong in believing such protests don't mean anything.)

Are Tax Parties Hype Or Hope?

If you believe CBS, the concept of any public outcry is contrary to recent polls that place President Obama's approval rating as high as 67 percent, Americans largely approve of higher taxes, and 74 percent want the "rich," now defined as anyone making more than $250,000 per year, to be taxed more.

Or, you can wonder what President Obama might know about the real numbers behind the movement given he choose to speak about simplifying the tax code at the same time some cities had organized their rallies. This strategy seems to fall in line with what everyday people are reporting — that there is a real grass roots movement at work, and not just among conservatives.

One of the best examples of the extreme reporting that we noticed today comes courtesy of the Washington Post. The Post reported on a Facebook tea party group with 1,800 members. However, when we checked, it had 31,000 members.

The Post story links to a defunct blog as an example. However, CNN chose the National TEA Party, which has 18,000 Facebook members. Among the best non-news reporting seems to be found at Ta Day Tea Party. There are also several localized Facebook accounts, with as many as 500 to 1,000 members each.

One of Michelle Malkin's posts seems to suggest why there might be so much confusion. She says there are as many as four or six different hashtags to follow tea parties on Twitter. Why is that significant? It demonstrates that the varied reporting is indicative of largely independent groups rallying around a common theme, but very different campaigns. And, contrary to the CBS poll, another poll conducted by Harris Interactive suggested that the majority of Americans think taxes are too high.

The Real Facts Are Being Buried.

In order to find the truth, you have to remove some of the opinions. Polls don't reveal facts as much as much as figures.

Americans will pay more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing, and housing combined this year. In fact, according to the Tax Foundation, most Americans have to work between 82 and 120 days just to pay their taxes, depending on the state in which they live. Alaskans pay the least and the people in Connecticut pay the most.

The only reason most people feel comfortable taxing the rich more, despite the fact that the top 5 percent of all wage earners already pay 60 percent of all taxes while the bottom 50 percent pay only 3 percent of all taxes, is because, well, it's the other guy. And, the reason some people chose to protest today is not because they are dissatisfied with recent tax cuts, but rather because they know that the mounting national debt will have to be repaid sooner or later, and taxpayers will have to pay it.

Our country's current fiscal policy is best likened to a teenager on a spending spree. It seems like there is progress toward creating a better lifestyle with the recent purchase of a new flat screen television, smart phone, and club clothes. But that progress will quickly come to a halt when the bill comes due, the repo man takes the stuff back, and still charges interest.


Anonymous said...


I went because of the taxes, but also for state and county taxes. I can't keep paying taxes on top of taxes. With state and local increases, there was no tax cut.

Rich on 4/15/09, 5:49 PM said...

Hey Anon,

It seems these were really grass roots. The turn outs were as varied as the communities that hosted them.

Even Sacramento reported as many 10,000 people.

Michelle Maklin has some great pictures if you are interested.

All my best,

Anonymous said...

Great post as usual Rich. Thanks.

I had time to watch only one local report on the protests here in Vegas. The piece wasn’t merely biased, it was produced using techniques clearly intended to dissemble.

Mr Obama’s policies are sure to cause inflation. The not-so-subtle irony here is that as wages increase, to keep up with the escalating cost of goods and services, more and more individuals will become “rich” in the eyes of the tax man.

Ken O

Anonymous said...

judist63 here....taxes, taxes, taxes! I am soo friggin' sick of hearing about raising them and coming up with new ones. I think all Americans should rise up and refuse to pay taxes anymore until they start listening to "we the people" again.

zohner on 4/16/09, 8:01 PM said...

Great post Rich. I want to correct you on something though. You say that the tea parties were organized by the GOP. That is, to my understanding, incorrect. The idea stemmed from a rant that Rick Santelli of CNBC made regarding the spending of the federal government. (You can see it here: A lot of the people that attended these tea parties are just as outraged at the Republicans as they are the Democrats. Both parties have gotten us to where we are now. While some Republicans may want to take credit for the tea party idea, they are probably just as guilty for the mess we're in as the Democrats.

zohner on 4/16/09, 8:03 PM said...

Oops... I misread the part about the tea bags. I retract my correction.

Rich on 4/17/09, 2:26 PM said...

@Ken, You're right. I remember the campaign rhetoric, which continually spiraled down the definition of "rich" from $250k to a few pennies in your pocket.

Wealth is subjective, depending on where you live and who lives next door. Unfortunately, the national debt is not subjective and neither is an escalating minimum wage.

@judist, It's the new, hidden ones that bother me. As a small business owner, I pay plenty before and after my salary. I'd rather use that money to hire someone, with full benefits.

@Jeremiah, Hey, no problem. It's an important distinction to make.

Much like it's important to make a distinction about Janet Napolitano. On one hand, she says we cannot call foreign terrorists "terrorists." On the other, she has no problem calling Americans' terrorists.

She needs a refresher course on the Constitution.

All my best,


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