Monday, September 21, 2009

Is this what a TEA Party activist’s dream world looks like?

This past Thursday, September 17th, TEA Partiers gathered in Lynchburg and in other communities across the nation in honor of “Constitution Day,” to make a symbolic point as they continue to press their anti-tax, less government stance. There is no question that our national debt is massive and we cannot continue to live beyond our means. But, for all the anger and the animosity being fired at President Obama and Congressional Democrats, why are they standing so close to the ones that are the most responsible for our current financial situation?

Cutting taxes for the wealthiest and then engaging in deficit spending during non-recession years started with Ronald Regan. This approach to financing our Federal Government has ballooned our national debt to the levels they are at today. It continued with George H. W. Bush and was only slowed temporarily by the Clinton Administration. During the Clinton years, the size of government was reduced and the amount the Federal Government spent went down as well. In turn, we saw several years of budget surpluses that helped cut into the national debt. Then conservatives and anti-tax advocates had this notion that if there’s a budget surplus then it must mean that taxes are too high and there is no other debt to pay off.

Republicans pretty much had control of the Federal Government from 2001 to 2007 (when the Bush Administration was sworn in to the time that Democrats officially took control). So, it’s pretty misleading when activist groups like the TEA-Baggers put all this on the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats when the ones standing closest to them (Republicans and Free Market Conservatives) are the most responsible for the economic mess that we are in. Now how does this all fit with a possible, and from all accounts probable, dream world for TEA Party activists?

In the Ohio School District that covers Grove City, the normal sounds on Friday nights these days are the sound of passing cars on the road and chirping crickets at the local High School Football stadium. Grove City is notorious for fighting any tax increase. This is no dream world; this is reality for this working class community. The town voted for a third time in August in a referendum to increase the operating levy for the School District. For a third time, they levy failed to pass and the School Board took the next step – elimination of all extra-curricular activities. This paragraph from the article sums it up best:

The issue has turned neighbor against neighbor and caused shouting matches at school board meetings and on street corners. Those who oppose the levy argue that the district should find a more efficient way to spend the money it already has instead of asking for more tax dollars. The anti-levy crusaders appear to be the majority, evidenced by the fact that the levy already has been voted down three times. Those who support the levy warn that if the district doesn't offer a full program that includes a quality education and extra-curricular activities, parents will leave for another district that does. They also fear that another no vote will force the school board to slice into academic programs, which could trigger a mass exodus. That, they argue, would further erode the tax base and rob South-Western of many of its brightest students. To the pro-levy side, the Nov. 3 vote is nothing short of a referendum on the future of the community.
The situation in Grove City, Ohio should serve as an example of what happens when we don’t fully fund things like schools. Our tax dollars fund programs and services, like schools and infrastructure. I think it’s fair to debate how tax money is being spent. But, to hear the TEA Party activist rail on about being Taxed Enough Already, it’s like the Federal Government is taking every dime they have and they’re out on the streets. What are they really saying? Are they against increasing taxes or opposed to all taxes?

Regardless, taxes serve a purpose and when voters refuse to address critical funding issues that support the common good, the end result is what Grove City, Ohio is going through right now - cutting extra-curricular activities like sports as well as Student Government which helps develop civic skills in our young people. It also makes the community less attractive to potential residents, businesses and industries. Do TEA Baggers support killing communities because they feel they are Taxed Enough Already? I hope not.

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