One method of attack seeks to label the entire group as racist, tin-foil-hat-wearing, conspiracy nuts. This is primarily based on some of the more outrageous signs wielded by a few of the protesters. Any mass movement is apt to attract a few (or even more than a few) characters that see this as a forum to shout about their own particular viewpoint, no matter how questionable. I seem to recall certain WTO protests at which it wasn't entirely clear if the crowd was against free trade or unbroken storefront windows (perhaps they didn't like the look of their own reflections).
The next attack revolves around the involvement of professional groups to promote and organize the tea party rallies. In the minds of those on the left, this results in the tea parties being artificial and not a real grass roots movement. This may be fun to repeat, but is entirely beside the point.
If the people that attended the rallies last week were the same ones that voted against President Obama last fall, and these events result in nothing more than preaching to the choir, then the left really has nothing to fear from them. If, on the other hand, some voters previously disposed to give Obama the benefit of the doubt start to wonder about the impact of his policies based on coverage of the tea parties, then these events do represent a political threat to the enactment of the so-called progressive agenda. If someone's mind is changed based on what they saw or heard at one of the tea parties, will it really make one bit of difference that Dick Armey parked their car?
The final, and in my mind the most disingenuous, critique states that ordinary working and middle class people shouldn't participate in the tea party protests because: 1. Obama's massive spending spree is being done for their benefit and 2. Taxes will be cut for 95% of the country and raised on only the top 5% of earners in order to pay for the spending.
First, here's Emily Mills at The Lost Albatross:
Apparently it took a New Deal style stimulus plan to do it for the teabaggers. This would be the stimulus plan aimed at pulling the country out of the abominable mess left by the last administration's hard-on for deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.Next here's Corey Liebmann at Eye on Wisconsin:
Another crazy point was that we were all being taxed to death. While that may have been an official talking point, it is clearly not based in reality. President Obama's stimulus plan actually gives significant tax cuts to working people and he only raises taxes on the very wealthy – and even then only to Clinton era levels.If you increase government spending and decrease revenues you have to start borrowing. At some point, that debt will have to be paid back. Does anyone really think we can just get the top 5% of earners in the country to all pass the hat and pay off the massive debts we incur? This problem is magnified by the demographic conditions we are up against in the very near future.
That the bill will come due is true regardless of how the money is spent today. Spending it wisely and in ways that encourage future growth may help ease the debt burden, but this will not eliminate it.
So when people, ordinary working and middle class people, stand up at rallies around the country to denounce spending they are not defending the wealthy, they are sticking up for their future selves and for their children's future.
Washington Post writer Steve Pearlstein identifies the heart of the matter here:
The old Republican fantasy was that tax cuts were the magic elixir that would solve every problem. Now that the public has finally rejected it, it's disappointing to see Democrats offering up the equally fantastic notion that Americans can have all the government they want while getting someone else to pay for it.Or if he's not good enough for you, how about a true believer, liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias has tried to point out that a higher tax bill is in our future (emphasis added):
Barack Obama has, quite rightly, an ambitious progressive agenda. But in budgetary terms you can’t really implement an ambitious progressive agenda and pair it with revenues that are only “slightly above” the average at which they rested during an era of conservative governance. This is not an issue in the short-term, since we’re dealing with a recession, but what you see at the right hand side of these charts is not sustainable. And I think the administration is correct to think that they should not compromise on their main policy pillars. The issue, though nobody wants to say it, is that taxes need to be higher.If more people on the left had the courage to make this argument in public, many questions about the motivation and funding of the recent protests would give way to a simple, "how do you take your tea?"