I believe that the average American is willing to pay taxes. We understand that the military, education, and infrastructure all cost money, and we value these services. There are some who are opposed to all taxes. This is an unrealistic and naive point of view, and I'm not going to defend it. What I do want to defend is the tremendous frustration Americans feel with the level of taxation relative to the quality of administration and use of those monies.
During the last 6 months the Federal Government has committed tremendous amounts of money with the stated purpose of improving the nation's economic situation. Much of this, as with the stimulus, was hastily organized and approved, laying bare any pretext that legislators knew what they were doing. This was further exacerbated by the belated admission of Senator Dodd that a highly unpopular provision regarding contractual bonus obligations had come from his office. Most legislation is not written by legislators but by their aides and lobbyist allies. This is not shocking or, to me, all that disturbing. It is distasteful to pretend otherwise and Dodd's failure is but one example.
Today there were significant protests all over the country. You can see pictures here and here. As Glenn Reynolds writes in today's WSJ:
These protests are not party-based. Average Americans feel betrayed by the political establishment, thus the dramatic difference between support for Barack Obama (the man) and the ruling Democratic Party. The Republicans are no better off, despite mostly ineffective attempts to serve as the loyal opposition. The National Chair of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, saw his offer to speak at a protest turned down, so disconnected is any party from this movement.
In the old days, organizing large groups of people required, well, an organization: a political party, a labor union, a church or some other sort of structure. Now people can coordinate themselves.
We saw a bit of this in the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns, with things like Howard Dean's use of Meetup, and Barack Obama's use of Facebook. But this was still social-networking in support of an existing organization or campaign. The tea-party protest movement is organizing itself, on its own behalf. Some existing organizations, like Newt Gingrich's American Solutions and FreedomWorks, have gotten involved. But they're involved as followers and facilitators, not leaders. The leaders are appearing on their own, and reaching out to others through blogs, Facebook, chat boards and alternative media.
We find the false piety of our leaders offensive. The sneaky substitution of government action for private philanthropy, proposed by those interested in strengthening the position of government, is belied by their own behavior. Vice-President Joe Biden, who extolled the patriotism implicit in the payment of taxes, was a decidedly poor contributor to charitable causes according to 6 years of tax returns. This is not the only determinant of charitable intent, but it is telling.
There is a trust gap at every level of government. It is not universal, but it is considerable and appears to be growing. We are not an odd subset of the populace. We are interested and aware, and done with the intellectual dishonesty of the political establishment.
Today may be the first of many tax protest days to come. This is a good thing.