‘Tea party’ blasts taxes, bailouts

Ryne DiPerna

Campus protest was one of many held throughout the U.S.

Holding signs reading “T.E.A. – taxed enough already” and “Bailouts & Debt … not change I can believe in,” a small but dedicated group held its own “tax-day tea party” inside the Student Center yesterday afternoon.

“I want to have this protest to show that there is this grassroots movement against some of the policies that the Obama administration and Congress are proposing,” said Stephen Ontko, former president of the College Republicans and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. “There’s concern about the amount of debt that the government is engaging in, and for future generations of Americans, it’ll be harder to realize the dream that our forefather envisioned and provided for us.”

After being touted for weeks on TV and radio by right-wing commentators such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, hundreds of protests took place in all 50 states on tax day. Organizations such as FreedomWorks, a foundation run by former House majority leader Dick Armey, played a key role in the organization of the protests.

First dubbed “tea party” by CNBC’s Rick Santelli in a rant that has since become a staple of the blogosphere, the name is meant to invoke the image of the Boston Tea Party.

“To me, it’s a misunderstanding of the symbolism of the Boston Tea Party,” said Richard Stanislaw, assistant professor of political science. “The Boston Tea Party was this revolutionary treasonous act that affected political change from the bottom up to say something to the powerful. This ‘teabagging’ of America thing is so clearly and obviously false anger. It’s not anything coming from the bottom up.”

Some have accused the tea-party protests as being an “AstroTurf” movement, rather than a grassroots one. Drew Seachrist, president of the College Republicans, disagrees.

“Absolutely it started with the people,” he said. “Then official groups started to come in. We don’t have the DNC (Democratic National Committee) or MoveOn.org that the Democrats had during the election. Protesting against these ridiculously high taxes doesn’t have to be a partisan thing. We’re against anyone who wants to raise taxes.”

However, to some people, raising taxes may not necessarily be a bad thing.

“We shouldn’t be shy talking about raising taxes,” Stanislaw said. “The fact is that during a crisis, government expenditures have to go up, from unemployment insurance to the social welfare safety net, and that’s an entirely appropriate response for government.

“And economists across the board agree essentially that, in order to stop the spiral and get ourselves out of this, we need to stabilize the banking industry and jolt the economy. And that simply means spending some money.”

The tea party protesters, however, subscribe to the exact opposite school of thought. Instead of government spending, they believe it’s better to “ride out” the current recession.

“One of the most dangerous things about (government spending to stimulate the economy) is that if you don’t let the inefficient parts of the economy go bust and die out, you’re taking resources and putting them toward unproductive areas of the economy, which I think delays the poison,” Ontko said. “It’s better to ride it out as fast as you can than to drag out the problems and the messes that we see today.

“The more you use government to try and fix these situations, the more you shelter this bad behavior.”

Stanislaw said the right’s argument of government not being the solution to America’s problems has been going on for more than two decades now, starting with the Reagan administration.

“Where we are now, in some respects, is because of following (conservative) principles such as reducing tax rates as a solution to every problem,” he said.

Contact student life reporter Ryne DiPerna at [email protected].