This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Let’s take a look at yesterday’s tea parties. I am hearing from people who attended tea parties around the country that the people who showed up were by and large good, honest Americans who are upset about the bailouts, deficits and general direction that things have been going for some time. I say good for them for getting involved, speaking up and showing up. We need more of that in this country, after so many decades of apathy.
There is a problem with the tea party events as presented, however, in that the sentiments and concerns of these regular people were largely hijacked by professional manipulators, who wanted to make it appear that the the people at the rallies support an anti-democracy, anti-government, pro-corporate and right wing agenda. These were the FOX News and Rush Limbaugh audience, and the people from militias with racist signs, and paranoid people convinced that President Obama is a "fascist," etc. and who claim that the economic distress we are experiencing is somehow the fault of Obama’s and the Democrats’ policies even though he only took office less than three months ago
There are distressing photos of these event-hijackers, and there was troubling and violent rhetoric at many of the rallies. The Governor of Texas actually talked about his state seceding from the union — the very definition of hating America and the kind of talk once that led to a savage civil war. (FOX News called such talk "patriotic." One has to ask, "patriotic to what country?")
An obviously focus-group-tested phrase was repeated at the rallies: "Obama is going to raise taxes on our kids by borrowing for unnecessary government spending now." But what did the people at these rallies think us "liberals" have been saying all this time about the effect of all the Republican borrowing to pay for these huge tax cuts they gave to the rich and corporations, and to pay for the Iraq war and other military spending increases? This is the reason we have these huge deficits!
And, of course, no one ever says which spending is "unnecessary." Do they mean unemployment checks? Bush made those necessary. How about money to rebuild roads and bridges and schools? Bush made that necessary. How about money to reduce our oil use? Bush and Cheney, both former oil company executives, made that necessary. How about money to continue funding the Iraq war? Bush made that necessary. The bailout money? To the extent that it was necessary (I don’t agree that it was) it certainly was not Obama who wrecked the economy.
Which spending in the stimulus plan, specifically, is "unnecessary," and which was made necessary by the Republicans who messed things up so badly?
Some contradictions from the rallies:
- The people at the rallies were presented as protesting tax increases, yet in the current Obama budget only tax cuts have been proposed. (There are hints that there will be a request for a small tax increase on the very wealthy after a few years.)
- Many at the rallies were protesting against "government spending," but did not seem to understand where the government actually spends a huge portion of our budget, such as on military and huge subsidies for big oil, agriculture and other corporations (like Wall Street bailouts) — but instead were protesting against imagined spending like "welfare" and foreign aid, which add up to only a tiny fraction of the budget.
- Reagan’s and Bush’s tax cuts for the rich have created so much debt that we currently pay out over $500 billion to interest each year — paid to people who can afford to loan us trillions. Now that is some serious government spending.
- Many rallies were rebranded by their corporate-funded organizers as "Fair Tax" rallies. But the so-called "Fair Tax" is really about cutting taxes on the rich and making up for it by raising taxes on everyone else. This is an example of corporate astroturf convincing people to support raising their own taxes or cutting their own benefits so that taxes on the wealthy and big corporations can be further reduced. (You can’t cut taxes for that group without making up for it somewhere.)
This all brings to mind something that I have said about marketing: with good enough marketing you can convince people to kill themselves. Think about cigarettes and the comet-suicide cult and you’ll understand what I mean.
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