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Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

Why does the Tea Party attract such vitriolic opposition, whether from Obama’s IRS or big-government Republicans like Karl Rove?

The answer is simple. People in Washington don’t like the Tea Party because this citizen uprising is making it difficult to engage in business-as-usual shenanigans.

I shared a couple of columns (here and here) back before the 2010 elections about the potential impact of the Tea Party, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that I put together some hard numbers showing that this small-government movement has made a difference.

Simply stated, Washington’s spending trajectory is still headed in the wrong direction, but we’re becoming Greece (or Portugal, Spain, Italy, etc) at a significantly slower pace.

That’s hardly libertarian Nirvana, to be sure, but let’s remember the golden rule, which is that fiscal policy is headed in the right direction so long as the private sector grows faster than the burden of government spending.

And that’s what’s been happening. Indeed, we’ve even experienced a couple of years with no growth in the size of the public sector! Here’s some of what Steve Moore wrote for today’s Wall Street Journal.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, annual outlays peaked at $3.598 trillion in fiscal 2011. After President Obama’s first two years in office, many in Washington expected that number to hit $4 trillion by 2014. Instead, spending fell to $3.537 trillion in fiscal 2012, and is on pace to fall below $3.45 trillion by the end of this fiscal year (Sept. 30). The $150 billion budget decline of 4% is the first time federal expenditures have fallen for two consecutive years since the end of the Korean War. This reversal from the spending binge in 2009 and 2010 began with the debt-ceiling agreement between Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in 2011.

This chart shows what’s happened to federal spending over the twenty years. We’ve gone from decent policy under Clinton to profligacy last decade and now a period of fiscal responsibility.

Obama Spending Binge Ended

As you can imagine, President Obama is not happy about this development, particularly since sequestration was a huge political and policy defeat for the White House.

So it’s understandable he’s trying to seduce GOPers into a budget deal that would replace sequestration with tax hikes. Steve explains this would be very misguided.

As long as Republicans don’t foolishly undo this amazing progress by agreeing to Mr. Obama’s demands for a “balanced approach” to the 2014 budget in exchange for calling off the sequester, additional expenditure cuts will continue automatically.

But even if Republicans don’t fall into Obama’s tax-hike trap, we shouldn’t overstate this victory.  After all, recent spending cuts are not overly impressive when you compare them to the spending orgy that took place during the Bush Administration and the early years of the Obama Administration.

Admittedly, this fiscal progress follows the gigantic budget blowout that began with the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency and the first two years of Mr. Obama’s. In fiscal 2009 alone, federal spending surged by $600 billion. That same year, outlays as a share of GDP reached a post-World War II high of 25.2%. But by the end of this fiscal year, outlays as a share of GDP could fall to as low as 21.5%. At least for now, the great Washington spending blitz of the Obama first term is over.

Moreover, some of the “spending cuts” are simply a back-door form of revenue, an issue I explained when comparing the fiscal record of all Presidents from LBJ to Obama.

Some $80 billion of the outlay savings have come from one-time partial repayments back to the government for the hundreds of billions spent on the bailouts of banks and of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

But let’s not pick too many nits. We’re making a bit of progress, which is bad news for all the interest groups feeding at the federal trough.

The sequester is squeezing the very programs liberals care most about—including the National Endowment for the Arts, green-energy subsidies, the Environmental Protection Agency and National Public Radio. Outside Washington, the sequester is forcing a fiscal retrenchment for such liberal special-interest groups as Planned Parenthood and the National Council of La Raza, which have grown dependent on government largess.

That being said, Steve notes that the short-term progress will quickly fade away if nothing is done to deal with entitlements.

…the fiscal story isn’t all rosy. The major entitlements remain on autopilot and are roaring toward insolvency. Thanks in large part to Mr. Obama’s aversion to practical fixes, the Congressional Budget Office calculates that through July of this year Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending are up $73 billion from just last year. This doesn’t include ObamaCare, which is scheduled to add $1 trillion of new costs over the next decade.

Remember, though, that there’s a huge difference between genuine entitlement reform and gimmicks such as price controls and means-testing that merely translate into a year or two of illusory savings.

Let’s close on an upbeat point. As Steve explains in his conclusion, the left must be glum that Obama’s reelection wasn’t the trigger for a new expansion of the welfare state.

Liberals had hoped that re-electing Mr. Obama, the most pro-spending president since LBJ, would unleash another four years of Great Society government expansion. Instead, spending caps and the sequester are squashing these progressive dreams. Welcome to the new fiscal reality in Washington.

I’ll go even farther than Steve. It’s not just that Obama’s victory didn’t translate into bigger government. I think the 2012 election was a closing chapter in an unfortunate era of big-government Republicanism.

And as illustrated by this poll showing a hypothetical contest between Reagan and Obama, the American people would welcome the chance to support a candidate who favored small government and free markets.

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Did President Obama and his team of Chicago cronies deliberately target the Tea Party in hopes of thwarting free speech and political participation?

Was this part of a campaign to win the 2012 election by suppressing Republican votes?

Perhaps, but I’ve warned that it’s never a good idea to assume top-down conspiracies when corruption, incompetence, politics, ideology, greed, and self-interest are better explanations for what happens in Washington.

Writing for the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney has a much more sober and realistic explanation of what happened at the IRS.

If you take a group of Democrats who are also unionized government employees, and put them in charge of policing political speech, it doesn’t matter how professional and well-intentioned they are. The result will be much like the debacle in the Cincinnati office of the IRS. …there’s no reason to even posit evil intent by the IRS officials who formulated, approved or executed the inappropriate guidelines for picking groups to scrutinize most closely. …The public servants figuring out which groups qualified for 501(c)4 “social welfare” non-profit status were mostly Democrats surrounded by mostly Democrats. …In the 2012 election, every donation traceable to this office went to President Obama or liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown. This is an environment where even those trying to be fair could develop a disproportionate distrust of the Tea Party. One IRS worker — a member of NTEU and contributor to its PAC, which gives 96 percent of its money to Democratic candidates — explained it this way: “The reason NTEU mostly supports Democratic candidates for office is because Democratic candidates are mostly more supportive of civil servants/government employees.”

Tim concludes with a wise observation.

As long as we have a civil service workforce that leans Left, and as long as we have an income tax system that requires the IRS to police political speech, conservative groups can always expect special IRS scrutiny.

And my colleague Doug Bandow, in an article for the American Spectator, adds his sage analysis.

The real issue is the expansive, expensive bureaucratic state and its inherent threat to any system of limited government, rule of law, and individual liberty. …the broader the government’s authority, the greater its need for revenue, the wider its enforcement power, the more expansive the bureaucracy’s discretion, the increasingly important the battle for political control, and the more bitter the partisan fight, the more likely government officials will abuse their positions, violate rules, laws, and Constitution, and sacrifice people’s liberties. The blame falls squarely on Congress, not the IRS.

I actually think he is letting the IRS off the hook too easily.

But Doug’s overall point obviously is true.

…the denizens of Capitol Hill also have created a tax code marked by outrageous complexity, special interest electioneering, and systematic social engineering. Legislators have intentionally created avenues for tax avoidance to win votes, and then complained about widespread tax avoidance to win votes.

So what’s the answer?

The most obvious response to the scandal — beyond punishing anyone who violated the law — is tax reform. Implement a flat tax and you’d still have an IRS, but the income tax would be less complex, there would be fewer “preferences” for the agency to police, and rates would be lower, leaving taxpayers with less incentive for aggressive tax avoidance. …Failing to address the broader underlying factors also would merely set the stage for a repeat performance in some form a few years hence. …More fundamentally, government, and especially the national government, should do less. Efficient social engineering may be slightly better than inefficient social engineering, but no social engineering would be far better.

Amen. Let’s rip out the internal revenue code and replace it with a simple and fair flat tax.

But here’s the challenge. We know the solution, but it will be almost impossible to implement good policy unless we figure out some way to restrain the spending side of the fiscal ledger.

At the risk of over-simplifying, we will never get tax reform unless we figure out how to implement entitlement reform.

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With so many scandals percolating, there are lots of good cartoons being produced.

But I think this Chip Bok gem deserves special praise.

It manages to weave together both the costly Obamacare boondoggle with the reprehensible politicization of the IRS.

So BOHICA, my friends.

IRS Obamacare

If you want other Chip Bok cartoons, click here, here, here, here, here, here (my favorite), here and here.

And for cartoons that mix the IRS and Obamacare, click here, here, and here.

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I’m happy to bash the IRS, but I usually try to explain that our anger should be focused on the politicians who created the corrupt, 74,000-page tax code.

But sometimes the IRS deserves some negative attention. The tax collection bureaucracy has thieving employees, incompetent employees, thuggish employees, brainless employees, and victimizing employees.

The senior folks at the IRS also deserve scorn for bone-headed decisions such as squandering millions of dollars on a P.R. campaign and a scheme to regulate and control private tax preparers.

Now it seems we have another reason to condemn the tax-collection bureaucracy. The IRS is engaging in Nixon-type political harassment.

Here’s some of what the Associated Press just reported.

The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday. Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.

Heaven forbid somebody self-identify as being patriotic. Obviously a cause for investigation by the IRS.

And it’s rather ironic that the IRS felt compelled to apologize just a few days after President Obama just told us we shouldn’t listen to “voices” telling us that bad things happen in Washington.

But it’s not just that the IRS targeted groups opposing big government. The bureaucrats also violated the rules designed to protect taxpayers from IRS abuse.

…groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said. “That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association. “The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.

But you can put your mind at ease because senior IRS officials assure us that the targeting of Tea Party groups had nothing to do with political bias.

Lerner said the practice was…not motivated by political bias. …IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress in March 2012 that the IRS was not targeting groups based on their political views. “There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman told a House Ways and Means subcommittee.

Just like we’re supposed to believe that political bias had nothing to do with all the IRS harassment of conservative groups during the Clinton years. The message from the elites in Washington is “Nothing to see here, move along.”

But as the Wall Street Journal warned at the time, it seems there is a remarkable lack of curiosity about patterns of IRS abuse.

…once we agree that a politicized IRS is a dangerous thing, it is hard to understand the see-no-evil approach taken by the Congress, the press and the judiciary about serious, current allegations of exactly this. …organizations have been using the Freedom of Information Act to find out if there is anything to the extraordinary run of audits that happened to hit a number of tax-exempt organizations that might reasonably be described as Clinton enemies. …we have lots of Clinton enemies who have suffered actual audits, and very little interest in finding out whether this was simply a massive coincidence or the result of something more sinister.

And now we’re going through the same process again.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a lesson to be learned about the dangers of giving power to politicians and bureaucrats.

Yet another argument for the flat tax. If there’s no charitable deduction, there’s no opening for a politically biased IRS bureaucracy to investigate and harass non-profit groups because of their philosophical beliefs.

P.S. On a lighter note, here’s the IRS version of the quadratic formula, and a cartoon showing how GPS would work if operated by the IRS.

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In recent months, people have asked me why I’m acting all giddy and optimistic. Am I hooked on cocaine? Have I fallen in love? Did I inherit several million dollars?

These questions started after I said the fiscal cliff was a smaller loss than I expected. Then people wondered what was going on when I wrote that we should celebrate the sequester victory. The questions got more intense when I opined that the Tea Party had made a positive difference. And people were even more nonplussed when I wrote that we should enjoy a win over the IMF.

But I’m not the only person thinking that things may be heading in the right direction.

Conn Carroll explains his optimism in the Washington Examiner. He starts by noting how bad Congress was back in 2009 and 2010.

…its liberal predecessor passed a trillion-dollar stimulus, enacted a government takeover of health care and institutionalized the power of Wall Street’s Too Big To Fail banks by passing the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law.

Then he explains that the new Tea Party Congress has changed the fiscal outlook.

…if you look at the hard numbers — if you look at the tax-and-spending trajectory that the United States was on before the 112th Congress was sworn into office, and then look at the path the U.S. is on now — you’d see that Republicans in Congress have made tremendous progress in shrinking the size and scope of the federal government.

But is there any proof?

Conn points out that the CBO “baselines” from early 2011 showed government growing very rapidly.

…the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its annual Budget and Economic Outlook for fiscal years 2011 through 2021. That document showed the federal government was on track to spend…a total of almost $50 trillion ($49.8 trillion to be exact) through 2021. At the same time, tax revenues were set to rise from just 14.8 percent of GDP in 2011 to 20.8 percent in 2021.

The same estimates from early this year, by contrast, show government growing at a slower pace.

The CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook for fiscal years 2013 through 2023 shows just how much House Republicans have actually accomplished. The federal government is now on track to spend just $46.2 trillion through 2021. That is a $3.6 trillion spending cut. And instead of taxes eating up 21 percent of the U.S. economy in 2021, now the government is set to take in just 18.9 percent.

Here are the respective baselines from those CBO publications. Let’s start by looking at how spending is projected to grow at a slower pace for the rest of the decade.

2011-2013 Spending Projections

That’s $3.5 trillion of savings. Not genuine spending cuts, of course, but it’s real progress if government doesn’t grow as fast.

Here are the revenue numbers.

2011-2013 Revenue Projections

This data basically shows that the tax burden will be much smaller than projected because about 98 percent of the Bush tax cuts were made permanent as part of the fiscal cliff deal.

And if you believe in the Starve-the-Beast theory (and you should), this will make it harder for politicians to increase the burden of government spending in the future.

Conn also notes that the unemployment rate has fallen.

Despite all of this supposedly economy-killing “austerity,” unemployment has steadily fallen, too. When Republicans took control of the House in 2011, the nation’s unemployment rate was 9 percent. Today, it has fallen to 7.7 percent.

If this seems like a familiar point, it’s because I share his assessment. I wrote back in February of last year that gridlock was a positive thing for the economy since it reduced the likelihood of new bad policies.

What’s remarkable about these developments, as Conn notes, is that folks were expecting Obama to have momentum as his second term began.

Just three months ago, many in Washington were predicting Obama would steamroll Republicans into accepting higher taxes for millions of earners, undoing the sequester and maybe even passing new stimulus spending. Instead, Republicans have stayed unified, outfoxed Obama, preserved and made permanent most of last decade’s tax cuts (including permanent indexing of the Alternative Minimum Tax) and let the sequester cuts occur on schedule. As a result, Obama’s approval ratings have tumbled, and his entire second-term agenda is in jeopardy.

The final sentence in that excerpt explains why I’m feeling semi-optimistic. Obama’s agenda of more taxes and more spending is being thwarted.

To be sure, that doesn’t mean we’re seeing good policies of tax reform and fiscal restraint. And we still face a very dour fiscal future unless entitlements are reformed.

But we’re going in the wrong direction at a slower pace, and that beats the alternative.

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Even though it changed the terms of the political debate, thus giving them a majority in the 2010 elections, many in the Republican establishment deeply resent the Tea Party. They don’t like being monitored by taxpayer-friendly groups that will expose them when they side with special interests (as they have in recent months on Export-Import Bank subsides and housing handouts).

And they really hate the idea of being held accountable at the polls when they side with the corrupt big-spenders in Washington. Just ask Senator Bennett and Congressman Inglis.

Pork...or principles?

Pork…or principles?

Now the Washington establishment is fighting back. Karl Rove, best known for helping to steer the Bush Administration in favor of statist policies that led to the disastrous elections of 2006 and 2008, even has created a PAC to oppose the Tea Party.

But this seems like a very childish and self-destructive approach. According to some scholarly research, the Tea Party has made a big difference, both in terms of generating more votes for the GOP and in terms of pressuring Republicans to side more with taxpayers rather than the inside-the-beltway interest groups.

Here are some intriguing details from the new academic study.

We use data from a large number of sources to measure the influence of the Tax Day protests on the Tea Party. …We show that these political protests and the movements they built affected policymaking and voting behavior as well. Incumbent representatives vote more conservatively following large protests in their district… Larger protests increase turnout in the 2010 elections, primarily favoring Republican candidates. We find evidence of sizable effects. In particular, our baseline estimate shows that every Tea Party protester corresponds to a 14 vote increase in the number of Republican votes. Our most conservative estimate lowers that number to 7. The Tea Party protests therefore seem to cause a shift to the right in terms of policymaking, both directly and through the selection of politicians in elections.

Seems like a GOP political consultant should be very pleased with this research (assuming, of course, that they’re motivated by Republican and conservative victories rather than their own influence and contracts).

Want some more evidence that the Tea Party has made a difference? Well, check out these excerpts from a story in The Atlantic complaining about the lack of action in the Senate and ask yourself whether the addition of Senators like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, and Pat Toomey might be one of the reasons why Obama’s agenda has been stalemated.

Here’s an impressive fact about life in today’s Washington: The last time a major new piece of policy legislation passed the U.S. Senate was July 15, 2010. That’s when the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill came through the Senate. And it was 951 days ago. If you’re wondering whether President Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda has a chance to make it through Congress, this little fact might be worth keeping in mind. …the Senate…hasn’t done anything the president could add to his list of policy accomplishments. For that — the kind of thing a president might talk about in his campaign speeches — it’s been more than two and a half years.

It’s now been more than 951 days, and let’s be thankful with every passing second. A “do-nothing” Congress is a very good thing if the only other option is to pass monstrosities such as Obamacare and Keynesian spending schemes.

Keep in mind, by the way, that there are now more Tea Party-oriented Senators such as Tim Scott, Ted Cruz, and Jeff Flake.

To conclude, I’m not under any illusion that the Tea Party automatically means better politicians and/or better election results. But every advocate of tax reform and smaller government should be very happy that there are people in the country who are pressuring politicians to adhere to libertarian-ish principles rather than playing the corrupt Washington game.

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Chuck Asay has produced some great political cartoons, including personal favorites such as the Geithner-Obama tractor, the big-bad-wolf economic climate, and (his all-time best, in my humble opinion) the nothing-left-to-steal warning for statists.

Here’s one that’s quite appropriate for today since the politicians are busy negotiating over how to raise taxes while failing to address the real problem of a federal government that is too big and spending too much.

What makes this cartoon so perceptive is that it shows how many – if not most – Republicans are just as willing and happy as Democrats to exacerbate our fiscal problems.

Asay Kick the Can Cartoon

The only bad news is that the cartoon implies the Tea Party has the ability to stop Obama and the other big spenders from kicking the can down the road.

If only. We’re going to get a tax increase in January and there’s nothing the Tea Party can do to stop that from happening. They can’t force Obama, the Senate, or even the GOP leadership in the House to implement pro-growth spending reforms such as a Swiss-style spending cap.

But at least there are some lawmakers who are fighting to do what’s right. I don’t know if they’ll ever succeed, but at least some folks in Washington understand that something needs to happen to restrain the burden of government spending.

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While I have strongly praised the GOP for embracing entitlement reform and supporting the Ryan budget, I’m not under any illusions that the average Republican politician is fully committed to free markets and limited government.

Even after the Tea Party election of 2010, there have been some very disappointing moments.

This doesn’t mean that GOPers are hopeless, but it does confirm my point that almost all politicians are a combination of good and bad impulses. It’s sort of like they have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other shoulder.

So who is winning, the angel or the devil? The Wall Street Journal opines in favor of the angel.

Four years in the wilderness seem to have had the salutary effect of returning the Party of Lincoln to a focus on government reform and economic revival. …The surprise is how quickly the GOP has rebounded from the routs of 2006 and 2008, starting in the states. …The reform momentum has since gained speed as a reaction to the Obama Presidency. First in 2009 with Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Virginia, Governors from the East across the Midwest and through the Southwest have won on reform agendas that they have been able to implement to varying degrees. …The common theme is ‘s ability to finance them. The contrast of these GOP states couldn’t be greater with the union-dominated Democratic governments of Illinois, California and Connecticut, which resist reform and simply default to ever-higher taxes. …The reform impulse has carried over to Washington, thanks to the Congressional victories of 2010. …Much of the credit here goes to the Tea Party, which has used GOP primaries to elevate reformers and motivate incumbents to change or face defeat.

I agree with much of the column, particularly the credit to the Tea Party and the indirect reference (“restraining governments that were growing far more rapidly than the private economy”) to Mitchell’s Golden Rule.

But I’m more pessimistic about whether the GOP has truly learned the right lessons from the failures of Bush-Rove era. Take this quiz and see if you share my qualms.

  1. If Mitt Romney wins and proposes to burden the U.S. economy with a value-added tax, would a majority of Republicans rise up in revolt and oppose that dangerous idea?
  2. If Mitt Romney wins and decides to only make cosmetic changes to Obamacare, would most Republicans rebel and push to fully repeal the costly legislation?
  3. If Mitt Romney wins and endorses a new version of TARP, would the Republican caucus stand firm in opposition?

To be blunt, I don’t think a majority of Republicans would do the right thing if these tests took place. The GOP leaders on the Hill, after all, are the same crowd that gladly supported all the reckless spending and foolish intervention of the Bush years.

Yes, there are some fresh faces and Tea Party types who would stand with taxpayers, but I don’t think they’re anywhere close to being a majority of the GOP caucus.

And don’t forget that the Republican establishment in Washington is heavily influenced by corrupt lobbyists – many of them former GOP politicians!

So what’s it all mean? Well, as the cartoon indicates, Republicans are now more likely to say the right thing. But rhetoric is easy. I’m much more interested in their actions.

The only great president of my lifetime famously said “trust, but verify.” But I don’t even trust the GOP, so I definitely want to see results first.

P.S. If you like the cartoon, you’ll like this poster featuring Ron Paul and this English-to-Republicanese dictionary.

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I try not to spend too much time complaining about media bias, mostly because it doesn’t do any good.

But I have had a couple of posts about the topic, usually when there’s a hopelessly outrageous example on an issue I care about.

I’ve also had a few posts where I hit the media for mistakes that probably don’t represent overt bias, but instead reflect no knowledge of economics and/or a cloistered worldview.

Now we can add another example to the list. But it definitely belongs in the first group, because this is clear, blatant, and deliberate bias. I’m talking, of course, about ABC News and its reprehensible decision to smear a member of the Tea Party simply because he had the same name as the Colorado killer.

The obvious question to ask is why the reporter who did the smear, Brian Ross, hasn’t been fired. But not just Brian Ross. The axe should fall on anyone involved in the ideologically biased and legally reckless decision to speculate that a 52-year old Hispanic Tea Party member was responsible for the Colorado shooting

Here’s a good cartoon from the Hope-n-Change website, which has an amusing collection of anti-Obama cartoons. This does capture the mentality of the establishment media.

P.S. Here’s another cartoon about media bias that is definitely worth sharing.

P.P.S. I get irked whenever anybody refers to the big networks and newspapers as the “mainstream press.” That’s a horribly misguided term, considering how far left they are. The Tea Party is much closer to the mainstream than those clowns. That’s why they should be called the “establishment press.”

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The fiscal turmoil in Greece is not about fiscal balance. It’s a fight between looters and moochers such as Olga Stefou, who think taxpayers should endlessly subsidize everything, and the shrinking group of productive people who are pulling the wagon and keeping Greece’s economy from total collapse.

Not surprisingly, the Greek government has tried to prop up its uncompetitive welfare state by pillaging that group of productive people. But it appears that the kleptocrats may have gone too far and triggered a Tea Party-type revolt.

Here are some excerpts from a remarkable story about a Greek tax revolt from Der Spiegel in Germany.

Belitsakos is…the physical and spiritual leader of a movement of businesspeople in Greece that is recruiting new members with growing speed. While Greece’s government is desperately trying to combat its ballooning budget deficit by raising taxes and imposing new fees, people like Belitsakos are putting their faith in passive resistance. The group’s slogan is as simple as it is stoic: “We Won’t Pay.” This business owners’ absolute refusal to pay any taxes resembles an uprising of the ownership class, rather than the working class, a rebellion of the self-employed business owners who have long been the backbone of Greek society. These are not the people who weaseled their way into Greece’s oversized civil service; these are people who put their money in the private sector, working 12-hour days, seven days a week. …”The state will kill us,” he says. “We’re acting in self-defense.”

In other words, these are the good guys. And look what they have to deal with.

Then he starts to do the math. Over the last two years, his sales have massively shrunk as 60 of the tavernas and restaurants he used to make deliveries to have terminated their contracts with him. At the same time, the government has raised the value-added tax (VAT) twice while imposing a never-ending series of new fees. He mentions the €300 ($406) one-time fee for the self-employed, a two-percentage-point boost in the VAT, a €180 solidarity levy for the unemployed and a property tax that is “easily a few hundred euros every year.” …Belitsakos calls them “charatzi,” a word from Ottoman times that can perhaps best be translated as “loot” or “compulsory levy.” The term is meant to indicate taxes levied arbitrarily and without justification, such as the tithe once paid to feudal lords.

This doesn’t mean that anyone who refuses to pay tax is automatically a hero. Some of the moochers and looters that have destroyed Greece think they should rape and pillage others and not pay taxes themselves.

These days, even communists, unionists and leftists are raising a public outcry against the new taxes. This week, Aleka Papariga, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Greece, said that the only way to stop the complete bankrupting of the people was for them to not pay the “charatzi.”

The UK-based Financial Times, in a story on the likelihood of a Greek default, also finds anger among the nation’s productive class.

The frustration is evident even among those who have jobs. George, a 49-year-old real estate agent, said despite a pledge to cut 30,000 public service jobs, the austerity policies of the government still appeared intent on protecting the interests of civil servants and state employees in general at the expense of the private sector. “Everything from water to electricity and telephony charges has gone up because of the increase in VAT [value added tax],” he said. And a new special property tax meant he would be hit yet again. In an increasing sign more and more people are getting upset with the political system and taxes, Andreas P, a 54-year-old clerk at a big Greek supermarket chain, is vowing to refuse to pay the new special property tax in protest at what he sees as an explosion of public service workers. “My father had a [café] in our village near Lamia [central Greece] back in 1980 and knew that just four out of the 400 inhabitants were state employees,” he says. “When I visited my village in August, I tried to count by curiosity how many were employed in some form in the public sector. I found out that more than 200 were working there. Is it ever possible for a country to prosper with so many state employees who do not produce? Can you give me a good reason to pay the extra taxes?”

These two stories underscore the message that I’ve been repeating for years. Greece’s problem is not deficits and debt. Red ink and imminent default are bad, but they are symptoms of the real problem of a bloated public sector and the dependency culture created by too much government.

This video explains why the burden of government spending is the critical fiscal policy variable.

And it goes without saying that America faces the same challenge. The only difference is that we have a few years to solve the problem before we have our own Greek-style fiscal crisis.

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The Tea Party doesn’t mince words. In a bold editorial posted at Foxnews.com, the leaders of the Tea Party Patriots, along with Andy Quinlan of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity and a private investor named Steve Baer, make the case for cutting up the government’s credit card.

Reading this column makes me feel wimpy. I’ve been assuming that Congress eventually will raise the debt limit, and my focus has been on getting Obama and the Senate to give up something in exchange – perhaps some sort of reform of the budget process to restrain spending as a trade for more borrowing authority. I’d like to see, for instance, a rejuvenated version of Gramm-Rudman that imposes limits on spending growth.

And I’ve already blogged about Senator Toomey’s legislation, which would prevent the Treasury Secretary from deliberately defaulting on the debt as part of a cynical ploy to force Congress to give Obama a blank check.

But maybe I’ve been aiming too low. Here are some key excerpts from the Tea Party oped.

Nearly all of the 87 freshmen who made Boehner Speaker campaigned against raising the limit on the USA’s public debt, capped for now at a staggering $14.3 trillion. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner calculates that our national credit card will max-out near June. Yet Boehner has already muffed his lines, blurting intent to boost the borrowing limit on Obama’s Mastercard. …We are eyewitnesses to the troubling fact that Geithner has beguiled some leaders with the patently false notion that House resolve against further borrowing equals default to U.S. bondholders. This, in turn, argues to Boehner that it would be reckless not to raise the ceiling ahead of max-out. Yet, as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) contend via clarifying legislation, non-borrowed tax revenues are more than ample to cover debt service – just not enough to pay for every nice, silly or evil thing to which Washington has become accustomed. …the epic, blockbuster feature presentation in the nation’s political theater should be all about House GOP shutdown of the president’s credit card – the outlaw means by which official Washington has confessed to robbing unborn generations of Americans: In 2006, an audacious newcomer told his Senate colleagues that “raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure…. Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.” Playing the centrist, of course, he became president in 2008. …Strategic inaction on the debt ceiling, plus bold messaging…, represents a GOP WMD (weapon of mass discipline) that can incinerate every obstacle to the bipartisan reforms so desperately needed in our dysfunctional U.S. government. Wielding this awesome weapon without cooperation from the Senate or the president, House Republicans can rescue the American Republic from Washington’s outlaws.

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There’s a lot of attention being paid to yesterday’s landslide vote in the House to prevent a big tax increase next year. If you’re a glass-half-full optimist, you will be celebrating the good news for taxpayers. If you’re a glass-half empty pessimist, you will be angry because the bill also contains provisions to increase the burden of government spending as well as some utterly corrupt tax loopholes added to the legislation so politicians could get campaign cash from special interest groups.

If you want some unambiguously good news, however, ignore the tax deal and celebrate the fact that Senator Harry Reid had to give up his attempt to enact a pork-filled, $1 trillion-plus spending bill. This “omnibus appropriation” not only had an enormous price tag, it also contained about 6,500 earmarks. As I explained in the New York Post yesterday, earmarks are “…special provisions inserted on behalf of lobbyists to benefit special interests. The lobbyists get big fees, the interest groups get handouts and the politicians get rewarded with contributions from both. It’s a win-win-win for everyone — except the taxpayers who finance this carousel of corruption.”

This sleazy process traditionally has enjoyed bipartisan support, and many Republican Senators initially were planning to support the legislation notwithstanding the voter revolt last month. But the insiders in Washington underestimated voter anger at bloated and wasteful government. Thanks to talk radio, the Internet (including sites like this one), and a handful of honest lawmakers, Reid’s corrupt legislation suddenly became toxic.

The resulting protests convinced GOPers, even the big spenders from the Appropriations Committee, that they could no longer play the old game of swapping earmarks for campaign cash. This is a remarkable development and a huge victory for the Tea Party movement. Here’s part of the Washington Post report on this cheerful development.

Senate Democrats on Thursday abandoned their efforts to approve a comprehensive funding bill for the federal government after Republicans rebelled against its $1.2 trillion cost and the inclusion of nearly 7,000 line-item projects for individual lawmakers. …Instead, a slimmed-down resolution that would fund the government mostly at current levels will come before the Senate, and Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it will pass by Saturday. …The majority leader’s surrender on the spending bill marked a final rebuke for this Congress to the old-school system of funding the government, in which the barons of the Appropriations Committee decided which states would receive tens of millions of dollars each year. …Almost every Senate Republican had some favor in the bill, but as voter angst about runaway deficits grew before the midterm elections, Republicans turned against the earmark practice.

This is a very positive development heading into next year, but it is not a permanent victory. Some Republicans are true believers in the cause of limited government, but there are still plenty of corrupt big spenders as well as some Bush-style “compassionate conservatives” who think buying votes with other people’s money somehow makes one a caring person.

In other words, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and Tea Partiers have won an important battle, but this is just one skirmish in a long war. If we want to save America from becoming another Greece, we better make sure that we redouble our efforts next year. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

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Peggy Noonan makes a compelling case in the Wall Street Journal that the Tea Party has rescued the GOP by allowing Republicans to escape the statist legacy of George W. Bush and forcing them to re-focus on the need to restrain big government. I’m not sure that she’s right. After all, the establishment wing of the GOP will try to co-opt and corrupt the new Representatives and Senators elected November 2. But there’s no doubt that the GOP is enjoying a revival (reprieve?) thanks to this spontaneous and organic grassroots movement.

…the tea party is not a “threat” to the Republican Party, the tea party saved the Republican Party. In a broad sense, the tea party rescued it from being the fat, unhappy, querulous creature it had become, a party that didn’t remember anymore why it existed, or what its historical purpose was. The tea party, with its energy and earnestness, restored the GOP to itself. …The tea party did something the Republican establishment was incapable of doing: It got the party out from under George W. Bush. The tea party rejected his administration’s spending, overreach and immigration proposals, among other items, and has become only too willing to say so. In doing this, the tea party allowed the Republican establishment itself to get out from under Mr. Bush… the tea party stiffened the GOP’s spine by forcing it to recognize what it had not actually noticed, that we are a nation in crisis. The tea party famously has no party chiefs and no conventions but it does have a theme—stop the spending, stop the sloth, incompetence and unneeded regulation—and has lent it to the GOP.

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Conservatives and libertarians supposedly agree with each other on economic issues, but disagree to some extent on social issues and foreign policy.

This is generally accurate. Principled conservatives (as opposed to the Bush/Rove variety) believe in limited government and free enterprise, so there is agreement on the economic side.

And there is disagreement on social issues, at least in terms of victimless crimes such as drugs, gambling and prostitution (though I actually think the disagreement could be bridged if libertarians went out of their way to explain that legalizing the aforementioned activities is not the same as personally approving of their abuse and if conservatives went out of their way to do a cost-benefit analysis to see whether criminalization makes matters worse rather than better).

But there may be a more fundamental difference between conservatives and libertarians (notice I said difference, which is not the same as disagreement). A column in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal looks at the Tea Party movement and uses survey data to conclude that the protests against big government are driven by moral concerns.

…the passion of the tea-party movement is, in fact, a moral passion. It can be summarized in one word: not liberty, but karma. The notion of karma comes with lots of new-age baggage, but it is an old and very conservative idea. It is the Sanskrit word for “deed” or “action,” and the law of karma says that for every action, there is an equal and morally commensurate reaction. Kindness, honesty and hard work will (eventually) bring good fortune; cruelty, deceit and laziness will (eventually) bring suffering. No divine intervention is required; it’s just a law of the universe, like gravity.

So what does this have to do with libertarians and conservatives? Well, according to this research, there are some big differences between the two groups.

Last year my colleagues and I placed a nearly identical statement on our research site, YourMorals.org: “Everyone should be free to do as they choose, so long as they don’t infringe upon the equal freedom of others.” Responses from 3,600 Americans showed that self-described libertarians agreed with the statement most strongly, but liberals were right behind them. Social conservatives, who, according to national polls, make up the bulk of the tea party, were more tepid in their endorsement. …In our survey for YourMorals.org, we asked Americans how much they agreed with a variety of statements about fairness and liberty, including this one: “Ideally, everyone in society would end up with roughly the same amount of money.” Liberals were evenly divided on it, but conservatives and libertarians firmly rejected it. On more karmic notions of fairness, however, conservatives and libertarians begin to split apart. Here’s a statement about the positive side of karma: “Employees who work the hardest should be paid the most.” Everyone agrees, but conservatives agree more enthusiastically than liberals and libertarians, whose responses were identical. And here’s a statement about the negative side of karma: “Whenever possible, a criminal should be made to suffer in the same way that his victim suffered.” Liberals reject this harsh notion, and libertarians mildly reject it. But conservatives are slightly positive about it. …Libertarians are closer to conservatives on two of the five main psychological “foundations” of morality that we study—concerns about care and fairness (as described above). But on the other three psychological foundations—group loyalty, respect for authority and spiritual sanctity—libertarians are indistinguishable from liberals and far apart from conservatives. …When you think about morality as a way of binding individuals together, it’s no wonder that libertarians (who prize individual liberty above all else) part company with conservatives. …The tea-party movement is a blend of libertarians and conservatives, but it is far from an equal blend, and it’s not clear how long it can stay blended. …The rank-and-file tea partiers think that liberals turned America upside down in the 1960s and 1970s, and they want to reverse many of those changes. …they want to live in a country in which hard work and personal responsibility pay off and laziness, cheating and irresponsibility bring people to ruin. Give them liberty, sure, but more than that: Give them karma.

This is all quite interesting, but I think it overstates the potential for disagreement between libertarians and conservatives. Unless I’m missing something, varying opinions on group loyalty, respect for authority, and spiritual sanctity shouldn’t be a hindrance to a coalition against subsidies, handouts, and bailouts.

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Warren Buffett once said that it wasn’t right for his secretary to have a higher tax rate than he faced, leading me to point out that he didn’t understand tax policy. The 15 percent tax rates on dividends and capital gains to which he presumably was referring represents double taxation, and when added to the tax that already was paid on the income he invested (and the tax that one imagines will be imposed on that same income when he dies), it is quite obvious that his effective marginal tax rates is much higher than anything his secretary pays. Though he is right that his secretary’s tax rate is much too high. 
 
Well, it turns out that Warren Buffett also doesn’t understand much about other areas of fiscal policy. Like a lot of ultra-rich liberals who have lost touch with the lives of regular people, he thinks taxpayer anger is misguided. Not only does he scold people for being upset, but he regurgitates the most simplistic Keynesian talking points to justify Obama’s spending spree. Here’s an excerpt from his hometown paper.
Taxpayer anger against President Barack Obama and Congress is counterproductive because policy makers took measures including deficit spending to stimulate the economy, billionaire investor Warren Buffett told CNBC. …“I hope we get over it pretty soon, because it’s not productive,’’ Buffett said. “We will come back regardless of how people feel about Washington, but it is not helpful to have people as unhappy as they are about what’s going on in Washington.” …“The truth is we’re running a federal deficit that’s 9 percent of gross domestic product,” Buffett said. “That’s stimulative as all get out. It’s more stimulative than any policy we’ve followed since World War II.”
About the only positive thing one can say about Buffett’s fiscal policy track record is that he is nowhere close to being the most inaccurate person in the United States, a title that Mark Zandi surely will own for the indefinite future.

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That’s the tile of an insightful column at Thehill.com, which points out that Tea Party activism has succeeded in shifting the debate from making government bigger to making government smaller. The columnist also is correct in explaining how the Tea Party, by dethroning some entrenched incumbents, is forcing the GOP to at least pretend to be on the side of taxpayers.

The Tea Party insurgency will not only cost Democrats dozens of seats in Congress, and likely their majority — it will define the coming GOP presidential nominating process, determine the direction of the GOP for years to come and threaten any remaining plans Obama has for sweeping reforms of education, energy policy or our immigration system. Last March, Republicans joined Democrats in calling on Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) to end his filibuster against the extension of unemployment benefits paid for by deficit spending, embarrassed he was blocking aid to the jobless. But it took just three months for the grassroots pressure to reach the Capitol — Bunning was a Tea Party hero. By the time the $30 billion expired on June 2, Senate Republicans had united behind a nearly two-month filibuster of the next round of $34 billion in “emergency spending” for unemployment insurance. They were joined by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and some House Democrats warned their own leaders at the time that the days of votes on “emergency spending” would soon have to come to an end. …The Tea Party candidates themselves — like O’Donnell, whom Karl Rove called “nutty,” — matter little. Only a few will actually get elected this fall. Yet the Tea Party has won without them. There are no tea leaves left to read. Democrats have been spooked and Republicans threatened, cajoled or cleansed. The results are already in.

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Steve Chapman points out that the Tea Party movement (like any other large group of people) has a few odd characters, but he is delighted that there is a growing mass of citizens who think it’s important to restrain government and not impose burdens of future generations.

Here’s my first impression of the tea party movement: It’s a rabidly right-wing phenomenon with a shaky grasp of history, a strain of intolerance and xenophobia, a paranoia about Barack Obama, and an unhealthy reverence for Fox News. Any movement that doesn’t firmly exclude Birchers, birthers, and Islamaphobes is not a movement for me. Here’s my second impression of the tea party movement: We are lucky to have it. That’s because the tea partiers, who may not all agree on gay marriage or birthright citizenship, are united behind a couple of sound goals: curtailing the cost of government and refusing to live at the expense of future generations. Those are goals that, for eight years, had many rhetorical supporters in Washington, but few authentic champions. Blame that on George W. Bush, who arrived billing himself as a compassionate conservative, a description that was accurate except for the adjective and the noun. Whatever his ideology, his policy was to expand federal spending at a rate unseen since President Lyndon Johnson, the architect of the Great Society. He didn’t do it alone, though. Had Bush been a Democrat, Republicans would have fought his budget plans at every turn. But since he was one of theirs, they joined in the spree with gusto, even as they cut taxes and piled up deficits. The prevailing attitude was: Live it up now, and let someone else worry about paying for it later. Budget hawks were left wondering what happened to Republican tightwads, who thought every dollar spent by the government was a dollar that had to be justified as a vital necessity. The tea partiers were dismayed to see these penny-pinchers replaced by poll-driven insiders with an appetite for earmarks. That’s one big reason hard-right candidates have scored so many upsets in recent GOP Senate primaries—including Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. They didn’t get nominated because they look and sound like the popular image of a savvy, experienced, well-informed, practical-minded U.S. senator. They got nominated because they don’t.

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I thought it was shocking when Senator Bennett of Utah was denied renomination, but I’m even more stunned that Senator Murkowski of Alaska is trailing her opponent in preliminary results from Tuesday’s primary. As the Wall Street Journal explained in an editorial this morning, this is a big sign that voters are not merely interested in electing big-government Republicans instead of big-government Democrats. They actually want leaders who will fight to limit government and expand freedom. After nearly 10 years of Bush-Obama statism, I’m very happy to see the American people still value liberty.
GOP Members of Congress who think they can return to business as usual if they regain the majority should pay attention. The biggest shock came in Alaska, with incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski trailing unheralded challenger Joe Miller by roughly 1,700 votes with as many as 16,000 absentee ballots still to be counted. …Though heavily outspent, Mr. Miller was helped by former Governor Sarah Palin’s endorsement and especially by Ms. Murkowski’s failure to understand the anti-Washington mood. When he asked Senator Murkowski in a debate which part of the Constitution permitted Roe v. Wade and bank bailouts, she responded that the nation might suffer if the government only funded things explicitly authorized by the Constitution. Bad answer. Ms. Murkowski opposed ObamaCare but Alaskans punished her for her 2009 refusal to rule out a government-run health-care plan. She is learning the lesson that ousted Utah Senator Bob Bennett did: GOP voters don’t want their representatives to negotiate with President Obama. They’re looking for people who can defeat his agenda.

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Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks have a column in today’s Wall Street Journal that explains the spontaneous, grassroots phenomenon of tea parties. They have plenty of interesting political and social analysis, but the most important part of their column is when they point out that the tea party movement is not a GOP-support organization. Instead, the tea party is engaging in a hostile takeover, forcing out the establishment Republican politicians that have become philosophically corrupted by the back-scratching network in Washington.
The tea party movement has blossomed into a powerful social phenomenon because it is leaderless—not directed by any one mind, political party or parochial agenda. The criteria for membership are straightforward: Stay true to principle even when it proves inconvenient, be assertive but respectful, add value and don’t taking credit for other people’s work. Our community is built on the Trader Principle: We associate by mutual consent, to further shared goals of restoring fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government. These were the principles that enabled the Sept. 12, 2009 taxpayer march on Washington to be one of the largest political protests in the history of our nation’s capital. …While the tea party is not a formal political party, local networks across the nation have moved beyond protests and turned to more practical matters of political accountability. Already, particularly in Republican primaries, fed-up Americans are turning out at the polls to vote out the big spenders. They are supporting candidates who have signed the Contract From America, a statement of policy principles generated online by hundreds of thousands of grass-roots activists. Published in April, the Contract amounts to a tea party “seal of approval.” It demands fiscal policies that limit government, restrain spending, promote market reforms in health care—and oppose ObamaCare, tax hikes and cap-and-trade restrictions that will kill job creation and stunt economic growth. Candidates who have signed the Contract—including Marco Rubio in Florida, Mike Lee in Utah and Tim Scott in South Carolina—have defeated Republican big spenders in primary elections all across the nation. These young legislative entrepreneurs will shift the balance in the next Congress, bringing with them a more serious, adult commitment to responsible, restrained government. But let us be clear about one thing: The tea party movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party, but a hostile takeover of it.

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Deroy Murdock unloads on the NAACP’s decision to condemn supposed Tea Party racism. I’m sure there are a handful of cranks and racists at Tea Party events, just as there are similar people at Kiwanis clubs, union halls, insurance conventions, and NAACP meetings. But as Deroy explains, there is nothing racist in the actions or agenda of the Tea Party movement. My two cents, for what it is worth, is that the NAACP is acting like an interest group of the Democratic Party rather than an organization genuinely focused on promoting the interest of black Americans (if they actually did care about the African-American community, school choice would be their top issue). 

The NAACP is like a talking G.I. Joe doll with a cord coiled in his back. Pull it, and G.I. Joe says something manly and combative. Pull the NAACP’s string. “Racism!” squawks the shopworn voice. Pull it again. “Bigotry!” it squeals, as it has so many times before. The NAACP was totally justified when it decried the racism and bigotry that the Jim Crow South’s Democrat-led governments mandated by law. In 2010, however, screaming “racism” sounds increasingly delusional, given that America is governed by a black man whom voters comfortably elected in November 2008 and wished well, largely across the political spectrum, on Inauguration Day 2009. …If the tea-party movement really is fueled by bias, why did they invite a black man like me to address one of the first tea parties in Washington, D.C., on February 26, 2009? Why would these alleged racists invite me to rally an even bigger tea party in Manhattan on July 1, 2009? Did prejudice inspire them to let David Webb, a black man, organize that Times Square event, and also run the New York Tea Party? Did racial insensitivity lead the tea party to showcase Congress of Racial Equality national spokesman Niger Innis, Project 21′s Deneen Borelli, and other black conservatives and free-marketeers? …Some have accused the tea-party movement of being racist just because its huge crowds are mainly white. By that measure, the NAACP should organize a boycott of the New York Philharmonic. I attended its delightful concert in Central Park on Tuesday evening. Gershwin’s beautiful “Rhapsody in Blue” might as well have been a rhapsody in white. Scanning the thousands of faces on the Great Lawn, I spotted only a handful of black ones. What a racist orchestra! Yes, the tea party’s events feature few black faces. This is true at most center-right gatherings. The unfortunate fact is that black Americans tend to be liberal Democrats. President Obama won some 95 percent of the black vote. It should shock no one that those who reject most of Obama’s agenda would attract few of his most ardent supporters. Thus, the tea-party movement is no more racist than an Easter dinner is anti-Semitic because so few Jews show up to eat ham and venerate Jesus of Nazareth.

Considering the NAACP’s shameful behavior, here’s a card that should be distributed to everyone who voted to condemn the Tea Party movement. It was sent to me, by the way, by a black friend (not Deroy).

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There were closely-watched primaries yesterday in South Carolina and Utah. Most of the attention was on the Palmetto State, where an Indian-American woman won the GOP nomination for governor and an African-American won the nomination for the first district congressional seat. Both are positive developments since the respective candidates appear to be solid, limited-government conservatives. But the most important race, in my humble opinion, was the battle to unseat incumbent GOP Congressman Bob Inglis, who was a TARP-supporting, pro-tax Republican. As this Politico story indicates, he got completely stomped as voters wisely recognized that he had become a fan of big government.
Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C) became the third House member and the fifth member of Congress to be defeated this year, losing by an overwhelming margin Tuesday in a GOP primary that served as a referendum on Inglis’s conservative credentials. …After finishing a distant second in the June 8 primary, Inglis’s loss did not come as a surprise. Still, the margin of defeat was stunning: Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy, who had slammed Inglis for his positions on everything from the Iraq war troop surge to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in an effort to paint the congressman as insufficiently conservative, won 71 percent to Inglis’s 29 percent. …Before the ballots had been cast Tuesday, many Republican operatives in Washington and South Carolina had written off the prospect of an Inglis victory, chalking up his seemingly inevitable loss to a combination of an anti-incumbent tide and local frustration with his departures from conservative orthodoxy. …As town halls raged last summer, Inglis came under glaring criticism from conservative activists after he told a room of angry town hall attendees to “turn off” Glenn Beck.

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Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute explains in the Wall Street Journal that Americans protest to restrain government while European riot to expand the burden of the state. But this American spirit of self reliance may not last if government seduces more and more people into dependency - and I think fighting against this grim possibility is the chief motivating force of the tea party movement.

Many Europeans also expect others to work so they can live. The International Social Survey Programme asked Americans and Europeans whether they believe “It is the responsibility of the government to reduce the differences in income between people with high incomes and those with low incomes.” In virtually all of Western Europe more than 50% agree, and in many countries it is much higher—77% in Spain, whose redistributive economy is in shambles. Meanwhile, only 33% of Americans agree with income redistribution.  Simply put, Europeans have a much stronger taste for other people’s money than we do. This is vividly illustrated by the recent protests in the U.S. and Greece. Why are citizens rioting and striking in Greece? Despite the worst economic crisis in decades, labor unions and state functionaries demand that others pay for the early retirements, lifetime benefits and state pensions to which they feel entitled. In America, however, the tea partiers demonstrate not to get more from others, but rather against government growth, public debt, bailouts and a budget-busting government overhaul of the health-care industry. In other words, the tea partiers are protesting against exactly what the Greeks are demanding. It is an example of American exceptionalism if there ever was one.

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Congratulations to FreedomWorks and other organizers of this past Saturday’s protest in Washington. The establishment media did its best to ignore the huge crowd, but it is a remarkable achievement when so many Americans come together to defend their nation. The U.K.’s Daily Mail almost certainly overstated the numbers, but they had a very good summary:

As many as one million people flooded into Washington for a massive rally organised by conservatives claiming that President Obama is driving America towards socialism. The size of the crowd – by far the biggest protest since the president took office in January – shocked the White House. …protester Richard Brigle, 57, a Vietnam veteran, said: ‘It’s going to cost too much money we don’t have.’ Another marcher shouted: ‘You want socialism? Go to Russia!’ Terri Hall, 45, of Florida, said she felt compelled to become political for the first time this year because she was upset by government spending.

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