Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bag It

I won't go into the inappropriate use of the Internet-spawned phrase "tea-bagging"; you can go to Wikipedia and look it up yourself.

As I wrote two days ago, I think it's safe to say that the Founding Fathers would be confounded by the system by which the Federal Government collects levies and taxes in this country, and how the money is then spent. It seems nonsensical in the extreme to tax people constantly to make up for shortfalls in the Federal budget, shortfalls caused by poor budgetary oversight and spending control. Not that the country was a model of fiscal prudence in the beginning, but back then, having fought a war for independence and requiring the aid of other nations to accomplish it, the Continentals were perhaps a bit more wary of plunging the nation into debt for no purpose.

And now, as if to hearken back to the days of the Revolution, Republican organizations around the country are holding "tea parties," designed to show their displeasure at the tax policies of the current administration, and their frustration with fiscal irrresponsibility in Washington, D.C.


The revolutionaries of the late 1700's held their tea party to send a message to the crown, that they would not continue to pay high tariffs on tea (or anything else for that matter), to a government that was, in effect, an absentee landlord. England saw fit to glean what it could from The Colonies without placing too much stock in them, forcing the inhabitants to work harder and harder, only to see more and more of their wealth transferred across the ocean, to be foolishly spent.

While the modern parallel is striking, it's harder to justify it in the same terms today, because the seat of power sits within the nation itself, and is populated by duly-elected representatives from each state. The people have control over this government, and if the government has shown imprudence in the spending of tax dollars, well, the citizenry only has itself to blame.

The current administration is in a pickle, having to undo the damage done by the previous administration (a refrain that is not new in the annals of American politics), while at the same time trying to establish new guidelines for making government work more efficiently. The cognitive dissonance that must currently be flowing through Congress and the White House is not to be envied, but many a resident of Congress was there when the mess began, and they have very little cause to be back-biting about it now, given they were part of the original problem.

So a lot of "tea" is going to spilled today, in a gross and appalling display of ignorance. The very people protesting were the genesis of the problem, by not holding their legislators to account for their wild spending, then re-electing them to continue their spendthrift ways, all the while watching the economy come to a crawl and begin to slide back down the hill it had just ascended. Unlike The Boston Tea Party, the government that is taxing them is under their control, and they have chosen not to exercise that control as judiciously as required. They continue to elect the same people, based on partisanship and vague promises left unfulfilled.

This exercise in rule by the people known as the United States of America is not a simple proposition. To allow us all to claim our share of freedom and peace, we must pay. We can complain about our taxes, as is our right, but we must understand that we hold some of the responsibility for them being as they are, because we have consistently not held the feet of our elected representatives to the fire. It is not enough to throw out a handful of the most egregious abusers of the public trust, or even to change Presidents; we must change how we view our government, and remember that we are the ultimate arbiters of what happens at the seat of power.

If we want change, real change, then we must start with ourselves. We must demand more. We must help each other more. We must take the reigns and drive our country to the prosperity that it deserves and ensure that prosperity cannot so easily be squandered. And we must be willing to say to ourselves that the things we clamor for sometimes are not as important as providing every American decent education, affordable health care, and stable food and housing. We must be willing to be a union in fact, not just in spirit. We must all be willing to work for the greater good.

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