Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The silliness and waste of the modern "Tea Party" protests

Fifteen days ago, in the midst of many Americans talking about mailing tea bags and beatifying Rick Santelli, my friend Billy Beck wrote:
"The tea-bag protest is a fabulous thing,..."

It's rubbish. I guarantee you: everybody talking about this is going to make sure the monster is fed next April 15th and they cannot wait to get in line and vote again.
And he is correct. As if to prove it, Bryan Pick at QandO wrote about Brad Warbiany's idea to minimize automatic withholding, in an effort to "starve the beast."

Brad has been a friend for several years, but certain things must be said here. I left a comment in reply to Bryan that is also for Brad and anyone else who thinks this "protest" will work -- who thinks this "protest" is anything like the Boston Tea Party.
Bryan, don't take too much offense here, but I'll ask bluntly: are you, or are you not, still going to "catch up" by April 15th on what the feds say you "owe"?

If you are, then your "protest" amounts to nothing. Just what do you think you'll accomplish by "postponing" anything? Lack of tax revenue has never stopped the federal government from its real spending. The several so-called "shutdowns" were about budget disagreements on how much to tax and how much to borrow, not an actual lack of revenue.

Regardless of which party controls what branch, the Fed will simply create more money and buy as many U.S. Treasury securities as needed for the feds to keep spending. This means we all will pay via inflation, on top of taxpayers still catching up at the end. So your efforts amount to little children trying to hold their breath at the dinner table. (Not to say the feds are our rightful parents or guardians, but my point is about the efficacy of your method.) You can "protest" until your faces turn blue, but you'll still be all paid up by April 15th.

What difference does it make if your Uncle Sam molests you at 11 p.m. or 4 a.m.? He's patient. He knows you'll eventually submit, and he knows that every applicable November, your siblings will always agree with your parents that Uncle Sam can keep coming over with the specific intent of molesting you (if you follow the analogy, I'm saying Americans just keep voting for the representatives and their bureaucrats who will keep taxing us and spending our money).

Grimshaw is correct. If you want a real protest, then millions indeed must start withholding. This requires a wee bit more resistance than most people are willing to put forth, but that's what it's going to take to change the system.

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." The few, like Wesley Snipes and Richard Hatch, are easily taken out.
I also made a quick followup:
Let me put it this way, saying nothing more.

Was the Boston Tea Party at all about postponing buying the tea? How did it get the attention desired?

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Blogger Bryan said...

I responded to you at QandO, Perry. I'll reproduce the comment here:
I’m not standing in your way, Perry. You want a world-historical, revolutionary direct action? Make it your business to bring it about.

In the meantime, this just denies them the interest-free loan. If you take interest and inflation into account, you’re not really “catching up” — you’re actually denying them real wealth. If withholding didn’t help the government to finance itself, they wouldn’t penalize you for not withholding enough.

That’s all. I’m not expecting it to change everything all by itself. It’s a protest that goes a step beyond waving signs and sending tea bags to representatives. It’s something most people can take part in easily, and if enough of them did it, it would show up on the government’s ledger.

Complaining that the country’s not revolutionary enough yet to bring about sweeping change accomplishes nothing. Meanwhile, I think this form of protest is likely to do more good than harm.

And since that may come across as snide, I want to be clear that I mean no offense.

A few other points:
You write about "Brad Warbiany's idea to minimize automatic withholding, in an effort to 'starve the beast.'"

Just to set the record straight, the original idea was mine, so you can blame me for any faults. I originally posted it on Twitter, Doug Mataconis said he thought it sounded interesting, and it tumbled around in my head for a short time until I decided to include it in one of my posts. Brad took my offhand suggestion to heart and did the homework on how far you can press it without incurring penalties.

You also wrote,
I left a comment in reply to Bryan that is also for Brad and anyone else who thinks this "protest" will work -- who thinks this "protest" is anything like the Boston Tea Party.

I expressly said in my previous post about the "tea parties" and "going Galt" that we should not compare legal, safe, moderate actions to radical ones. And I caught an earful for saying so.

This is merely a protest. It's a protest that shows up on the government's ledger, but it's just a protest. I am aware that it is not a revolt, and I said so in my post.

I understand that you have far-reaching objectives, but in your complaint that this protest won't "work" at achieving those sweeping objectives, you set such a high standard that you count out any realistic action at this point.

I'm not expecting this one protest alone to bring the Democrats or the government itself to their knees, just as I'm sure Billy Beck isn't under the impression that his personally withdrawing as much support as possible from the state will do so.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Brad said...


As you may have seen, I also responded to your comment over at QandO.

As I said in that response:

"There was a long time and a lot of work by folks like Samuel Adams in between the days of the Stamp Act in 1765 and the Boston Tea Party in 1773."

America isn't ready for the Boston Tea Party. With all the bailouts, spending, etc, we're maybe at Stamp Act levels. People are angry, but they haven't gotten to the point where they truly see government as their enemy.

What I'm looking for is a way to harness that anger. Get people used to doing SOMETHING other than complaining on blogs or going to a meaningless protest that nobody in Washington actually pays attention to. I want to do something that forces Americans to actually THINK about how much they really pay in taxes, and I want a few of them to really feel the discomfort of having to write a big check next April.

I don't think we're at a point yet where we can convince them to stop writing those checks at all. But that's an endgame strategy when the collapse is imminent. It's time to lay the groundwork first.

I'm 30 years old, Perry. I've got a long time to play this out. I want to be plotting endgame strategies right now, but I think there's a lot of work to be done before we get there.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 2:07:00 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

BTW, Perry, I've been limited in my blog reading over time, but have finally gotten back into the RSS world to monitor the goings-on. I'll try to keep a closer eye on what you've been up to, because if you're this adamant about the ineffectiveness of this idea, I think we probably agree on far more than we disagree.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 2:09:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

The problem with this kind of protest, guys, and I'm just reiterating, is that it's falling on deaf ears. Harness people's anger, ok, but they're just going to forget by the next election, or vote in more assholes who will spend just as much. Were 1994 and 2006 really milestones in reducing the size of the federal government?

I set a high standard because it's the only one that will work. There's only one step to overcome here, with no half-steps in between. The problem is that we must all hang together, or else, remember?

Remember: just because something is against "the law" doesn't mean it's immoral, improper or even unrighteous. I will say no more.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger sunny said...

people have already made their protest exceedingly clear. Prices are too high!!! So people cut back on spending. I know most tv commentators attribute the drop in consumer spending to a panic, but many consumer who are better disciplined have cut back for a couple of years now. At age 50, my husband and I actually cut our expenditures by nearly half and increased our savings for the past four years. We have made it a point to make more money through barter, by hidden income and by "reinvesting" our money back into our companies. Our rentals all pay under the table and show a loss at the end of the year. This is our way of protesting! The government shouldn't target small businesses that make over 250.000 We are the people who pay over 60% of our income on taxes. Now we will lay low and show no income.

Friday, March 13, 2009 4:16:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Sunny, rock on. The only way to protest is to starve the beast...not make it wait a little longer for the meal. Any protest must involve not paying the taxes at all, not merely postponing them.

Friday, March 13, 2009 9:28:00 PM  

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