Because I’m a reasonable, responsible, and realistic human being and American citizen, April 15th is pretty much like every other day on the calendar. Yes, it’s the annual deadline for filing your taxes, but again, reasonable, responsible, and realistic people recognize that this is an unpleasant necessity.
If think the taxes should be removed from the adage about death and taxes being inevitable, you should direct your attention to when this country was still in its infancy. The original governing document for the United States of America, the Articles of Confederation, did not grant the federal government to mandate the levying of taxes. A few years later when the federal government was staring down the inevitability of going broke, the US Constitution was drafted and ratified and it did give the federal government the power to levy taxes. Think about it this way; if a government operates on voluntary donations only, it will indeed get a few donations, no doubt, but the probability that it will receive voluntarily the funds needed to remain operable and capable of providing the services expected are as close to nil as can be. And this was back in the late 1700′s, long before the United States had established itself as the one remaining super power in a nearly fully globalized socio-economic system. Without investigating too terribly much into the issue, I imagine if we went into voluntary donations only for the federal government, the United States would rapidly descend into a fast food eating, country and pop music listening version of the pre World War I Balkans. Admittedly, this is just a stab in the dark.
But this is all beside the point. I recognize taxes are not painless, but they are necessary. On the other hand, right now there are hordes of middle aged white people marching on Washington DC at least ostensibly to protest taxation. They march under the Don’t Tread On Me banner, and they call themselves Tea Partiers. To some, Tea is actually, T.E.A. and stands for Taxed Enough Already, but the true composition of the Tea Partiers is far more amorphous and in many cases ugly than an anti-tax uprising.
The ironic thing about the Tea Party protests is that part of this populist ire is directed at Wall Street, and yet at the same time the very term was started by Rick Santelli, a CNBC “journalist,” making a defense of Wall Street bankers and investors. There’s something amazingly surreal when you hear Tea Partiers deliver these Main Street vs. Wall Street rants when in truth their entire movement was started symbolically by a Pro Wall Street hack’s vitriolic error riddled rant.
But the irony only deepens from there, including the Tea Party iconography itself. For this we have to go even further back in the nation’s history, past the infancy and going into the womb. The colonies under Britain were getting a little miffed because the Crown was levying taxes on them, particularly through certain shipped goods that the colonies were only allowed to purchase from England. It wasn’t the taxation that was getting the colonists down, well, I’m sure they liked taxes as much as anyone, but the true principle behind the matter was that the taxes were being imposed without the colonists having elected representation in the English government. The people were angry not simply because they had to pay taxes, but instead because they had no voice in the government that could influence how much taxes were paid nor what those taxes funded. Had each of the colonies been allowed to send representatives to Parliament, then perhaps things might have turned out differently.
But the colonies were never granted this one concession, and so when Britain attempted to force taxed tea onto the colonies, three shipments were sent back to England unpurchased. Then a shipment was sent to Massachusetts. The Royal governor of Massachussetts, Thomas Hutchinson, refused to let the shipment be sent back to England without the tea being purchased and the taxes paid, and the colonials refused to buy the tea. As a result, the colonials stormed on board the ship and destroyed the tea by dumping it all into the Boston Harbor.
And that was the original Boston Tea Party. While I’m sure partisan political differences back then meant that the movement meant different things to different people, the driving principle was that of “no taxation without representation.” And as we have mentioned earlier, these colonists did not have elected representation in Parliament.
For today’s tea party, on the surface it would seem that these people are completely and totally against taxation, but interestingly enough, I’ve heard enough of them decry that they aren’t faithfully being represented either. Which is clearly and demonstrably untrue. You see, unlike the colonists who comprised the original Boston Tea Party, every American citizen of legal voting age has the right to cast a vote for, along with state government officials, one President of the United States, one representative to serve in the House of Representatives, and two senators to serve in the Senate. That is, nearly every single member of the tea party has the option to vote and elect four government officials to represent them in the federal government. The colonists who threw tea away in the Boston Harbor? Zero.
Four to zero. That would suggest that the Tea Partiers are being represented legally and justifiably in accordance with the Constitution of the United States. In fact, if there was any single population that has the right to march under the Tea Party iconography and remain true to the historical context, it would be residents of the District of Colombia who are taxed but are not granted the right to vote on any voting members of the house nor the senate. They are being taxed without representation.
But for the rest of these people, they are. They just don’t necessarily like how they are being represented (again, ostensibly, one can dissect the tea partiers many ways, and in many cases I’m sure you will find that these people are not out there marching because of either taxes or representation). And this is a natural and necessary part of a representative democracy. Sometimes you win, and the ideas and ideals that you believe should navigate the destiny of your country prevail. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you win and your ideas and ideals govern the country into disaster and in those cases you’ll usually lose at the next few elections and the responsible thing to do is allow other ideas, new ideas, perhaps ideologically opposed ideas correct the problems that your ideas created.
And that’s largely what should be happening right now, and in many ways it IS what is happening. At the end of the Bush administration the economy was taking a nose dive, and America’s reputation around the world was badly wounded. Just recently we’ve learned that March was the first time in three years jobs were added to the payrolls, acting as the slowest but most important indicator that the economy is still recovering. Meanwhile America’s reputation must be significantly mended considering that the President just signed a nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, and convened a massive nuclear non proliferation summit with nearly fifty of the world’s national leaders, resulting in some of the most ambitious programs and goals to be shared across the globe in our life time.
This is the nature of democracy. You win some, you lose some, sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong, and when you’re wrong sometimes it’s the people you disagree the most with that have to come in and fix your problems because they were the ones that were right. That’s kind of part of the spirit that would eventually form the foundation of the country in which we live. It’s just a pity that the people marching on Washington with self delusions of unimpeachable patriotism don’t seem to understand that. Nor do they grasp the inherent irony.