Tea Parties and Taxes in the USA
It’s difficult to be anything but derisive when discussing people like Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity. Recently these guys have been on television (Fox News, unsurprisingly) to claim that not only are people right to talk about their taxes being too high, but that by organising ‘tea parties’ in major cities to protest such taxes, they are generating the sort of economic activity that will save America. A large chunk of the tea parties are taking place today, and are specifically aimed at the spending plans of the Obama administration.
Or are they? Fox News and right-wing talk radio hosts have been agitating for something like this for months now. It shouldn’t surprise us that people are willing to get out and protest about high taxes. In fact, it should encourage the Left – because we don’t have a problem with low taxes…for the working class. As far as I can see, this is not an argument being made in the US. Liberal commentators like Keith Olbermann have been very swift to denounce the protests as hypocritical, or astroturf groups or whatever.
In some cases, no doubt these allegations are true. It’s certainly hypocritical for some of these protestors to be carrying “Protest is Patriotic” banners, when I suspect they’d not have had the same sentiment about anti-war protests. That escapes the point, however. No matter how brainwashed these people are, if stripped of the veneer added by the professional right-wing commentators, their basic point is right. They are being taxed in order to rebuild the economy that then goes on to exploit their labour, when it doesn’t leave them unemployed.
Not only should they be protesting, but so should we. On one glance, it may seem to render the whole idea preposterous when you consider that Obama is raising income taxes on the richest to some ten percentage points less than they were under Reagan. However, we need to swallow our immediate urge to indignation and reach out. How much more effective would it be if there were trade union banners on these protests, where union activists could talk to the very mob called into existence by right-wing jerk offs and make the counter arguments?
Trades unions…protesting against high taxes on their members? I think Rush Limbaugh’s head would explode. More importantly, if some of the liberal media and bloggers could stow their unconcealed disdain for right-wing populism for a moment, they’d also see that for most of the people being encouraged to take to the streets, their interests don’t lie with an unfettered capitalism. Sure, tax workers less…but what about the people who created this economic mess? Well, tax them more.
American ‘liberals’ should also be enheartened that roughly 48% of the country believes that their taxes are about right. The other 46% of the country that thinks taxes are too high cannot possibly ALL be Wall Street brokers whose direct financial interests lie in sticking it to the rest of us. In fact, I’d guess that a large chunk of that figure are groups like the auto-workers, struggling against the repossession of their homes, having had their wages stiffed by the government’s ‘bail-out’.
And the interests of all of that type are with the Left. With wealth redistribution; with organising to resist forced unemployment; with a globalised labour movement that can curtail globalised capitalism. Obama is being called a socialist because of his limited measures of redistribution and the last time popular resentment of taxes built up, back in the 1970s and 1980s, you had measures like Prop 13 voted through, capping property taxes, which benefitted the wealthy more than those who were genuinely angry and relatively poor.
We cannot allow the conservatives of America to lead that resentment, and the tactics of political satire, of laughing at the poor deluded fools who clearly have no conception of political economy (for such is how people like Olbermann seem to treat them) are not going to get the job done. Our mantra must be, “Organisation, organisation, organisation!”