I am amused by absurdity in society, and this week I received from the conservative movement a gift abounding in absurdity: Wednesday’s Tax Day Tea Party.
The 1733 Boston Tea Party, which Tea Partiers Newt Gingrich and Sean Hannity used as a model for Wednesday’s protest, was an important foundational event for America. Colonists, shouting “No taxation without representation,” threw shipments of unused tea into the Boston Harbor in response to the British government’s three pence tax on tea.
According to the British constitution, no British subject could be taxed without their elected parliamentary officials’ consent. Since American colonists could not elect parliamentary representation, it was unconstitutional for parliament to tax colonists. It would have been lawful only for the elected colonial officials to tax the colonists. The Boston Tea Party was a result of the British government’s unlawful actions, and the event began a revolution of government and thought in America.
The Tax Day Tea Party Web site does not provide a clear mission statement behind their protest Wednesday, but it does feature a link to an article by Peter Roff which declares that “President Obama and his economic team’s proposals can be summarized simply as more borrowing to pay for more spending offset by more taxes.” The significance of holding the tea parties on the day that taxes are due can’t go unnoticed.
Bruce Bartlett of Forbes wrote of the tax protest, “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 percent of GDP in taxes this year, compared to 17.7 percent last year, 18.8 percent in 2007 and 20.9 percent in 2000.”
Karlyn Bowman, also of Forbes, wrote of the public’s view of taxes, “Today, since about 40 percent of Americans either pay no federal income taxes or have no tax liability, tax dissatisfaction isn’t especially high.” She explains that 60 percent of Americans think the amount of federal income tax they pay is fair.
Facts paint a much different picture of public opinion on taxes than Hannity and Gingrich would have us believe.
The majority of Americans believe that the amount of federal income tax they pay is fair, not that taxes are too high and burdensome. Since 40 percent of Americans do not send their hard-earned money to the federal government, we must assume that a substantial percentage of the people who showed up to protest (though perhaps not 40 percent) also do not pay taxes. Why would someone protest against something that does not even affect them?
The important difference between Wednesday’s protest and the Boston Tea Party is that the colonists were protesting an issue of importance. What can Tea Partiers hope to achieve by protesting taxes?
The absurdity of the Tax Day Tea Party is that protesting taxes can accomplish nothing. If no one paid taxes, the government would be rendered obsolete, and so would the Defense Department and all branches of the military. How would America support the troops? How would America take care of its veterans?
I’m writing this column on Tea Party Eve, and all through the channels, not a conservative is stirring, not even The Louse (Rush Limbaugh), to predict how many people will show up to the protests on Wednesday. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if millions of people showed up to the protests.
This was an event designed to help the Republican Party reinvent itself — and despite the turnout (whether large or small), the fundamental flaws behind the conservative ideology of low taxes and small government remain. A few fringe conservatives exercising their free speech rights does not constitute an event in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party.
Stephanie England is an English junior and a Mustang Daily political columnist.