The country witnessed a level of political engagement last week that we haven’t seen in decades. Thousands of Americans turned out in cities across the country to demonstrate their frustration and dissatisfaction with the current tax and spend policies of both political parties.
The estimated 2000 tea parties that blanketed the nation on Tax Day were more than a protest of the $180 billion economic stimulus package passed last spring. They were more than a response to the $345 billion housing bailout passed last summer. And they were more than a reaction to the reckless $787 billion “Recovery and Reinvestment Plan” Congress rushed through and President Obama signed this past winter.
This surge of public disapproval and, yes, anger, was a response to the fiscal incompetence at all levels of government, from local to state to federal. In the face of serious and debilitating budget shortfalls, states like California are raising taxes by the billions.
One of the largest protests took place in Sacramento, CA, where taxpayers came out to condemn the $13 billion tax hike the state legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger passed in February and to march against Proposition 1A, which Californians will vote on in May and would extend these tax increases for two years.
And it should be no surprise that New Yorkers also took to the streets. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal editorial noted, “Like the old competition to have the world's tallest building, New York can't resist having the nation's highest taxes.” Albany’s push to be number one will mean that those in the top tax bracket in New York City will pay more than 12.6 percent – two points higher than even California.
Other states are joining the trend: Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin have all proposed tax increases.
Certainly the fear of an increasing tax burden was motivation enough for many protesters. But it’s not simply the ballooning budgets and obscene tax hikes that drove thousands in every state – both red and blue – to demonstrate against their government.
Americans were responding to the way an ever-expanding government threatens the country’s most basic values of virtue and liberty.
The original 1773 Boston Tea Party was held by colonists who had grown wary of the increasing centralization of British power that threatened their self-government and freedom.