Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Revolt of the Haves

I heard Jack Beatty today on NPR's On Point refer to the Tea Party Movement as a Revolt of the Haves. This is a reference to a book of the same name by Robert Kuttner which is about California's Proposition 13. Mid-20th century California was a social democracy with high property taxes and school expenditures funded by a flourishing defense industry which employed a new influx of immigrants from Asia. All of this changed in 1978 when Prop 13 passed which not only capped the property tax rate at 1% but required a 2/3 majority in the state legislature to change. This changed the make-up of the state for decades to come. You can debate this yourself whether it was a good thing or not. Some say that it killed the real estate market, crashed the schools and lead to their current financial woes giving Governor Schwarzenegger few options in resolving the problem. Others say that it introduced stability into their economy making the boom in Silcon Valley possible. Since I am not and have never been a Califlornia resident, I will let them battle over this one.

Beatty called the Tea Part Movement a "Revolt of the Haves" in reference to a recent poll published in the New York Times that identified the demographics of the Tea Party members. The Tea Baggers are largely white, middle class and well educated aka the Haves. Part of me does identify with what the Tea Baggers claim they stand for and I guess that makes sense because I meet their demographic perfectly. I am a little sick of paying taxes and not seeming to get a lot for it in return. If only I could pay taxes only for those programs I do support. If that were the case, none of my money would have gone toward the war in Iraq for example and perhaps would go into Pell Grants to assist working class people paying for college. But as educated members of a democracy we know this cannot happen. We elect representatives that are supposed to bring our values and concerns to light and they make the difficult choices for us. When things don't turn our way, we have to realize that sometimes our values don't win and we learn to live with the circumstances. When we lose, we don't freak out and start calling the President "Hitler" or a "socialist," but I guess apparently some of us do.

I am mostly annoyed with these people. We pay the lowest taxes in the industrialized world and we have, mostly, a safe, clean and productive society that is governed by law not by the cult of personality or grabs for power. We are a just nation and we attempt to make it more so everyday. These folks, the Baggers, have more than most people on the planet. Most of our taxes go (have gone) toward supporting their white middle class lives while little in the past have gone towards the disenfranchised. Should they be frustrated? Surely, but my empathy stops when I analyzed the situation closely knowing that our nation is aging, our economy needs regulating and the planet is in need ... these challenges require government like it or not. And government's only revenue stream is taxes.

I have worked very hard for what I have. When I have to dig into my pocket (which is not bottomless) and give to those who seem to think that they are owed my hard earned cash ... it is indeed maddening. I grew up in a working class town. I worked my way through college working up to three jobs some times to pay for my tuition, books and living expenses. It took me seven years to obtain my Bachelors degree ... long term goals over short term satisfaction was my mantra. While I was doing this, there were so many people that I knew (friends, neighbors, relatives) that didn't bother pursuing an education. It was difficult knowing these folks while they partied and gave no thought to the greater world nor to their future while I had to bog down go to work, go to school at night and then do homework on weekends. Twenty years later, now that I am moderately successful, I am reluctant to assist those who don't attempt to help themselves. I am a Have now but I feel that I have earned it. I don't know many Have's who don't feel the same.

Like I said, I understand the anger. What I don't understand is how they allow their anger to cloud their judgment. For example, I pay high property taxes to pay for a school in my town that I don't use since I have no children. If I didn't think about this situation very closely, it would anger me to no end, but when I consider the cost of not publicly educating children (poor economy in the future, high crime, high cost of prisons, low real estate values etc.) ... the decision is obvious. I will pay high taxes now to obtain positive long term goals. Same could be said about health care costs. I'd rather pay taxes to support health insurance for the poor now rather than pay for their care or lack thereof in the future when it is more expensive. You spend now as a form of preventative care for the future. I consider my taxes as an investment in the US's long term health. It is not always spent wisely, but we learn, review and attempt again. It is spectacular how successful we are actually.

I have a hard time taking the Tea Baggers seriously. They call our freely and fairly elected President asinine names like "Hitler" and "socialist" and when the media turns it back on them, they claim that the media is unfair and snarky. You can't have it both ways. They seem way too much like the bully whining when the neighborhood dork gets a new BB gun. You can't reap two centuries of supremacy and then claim tyranny when you have to pull into your wallet just a little deeper. I find it hard to take the Tea Baggers as anything more than a bunch of selfish jerks whose patriotism is only as deep as the grass on their suburb lawns. They dare to compare themselves to the American colonists who braved the barrels of real tyranny under King George. Revolt of the Haves, okay, but more like the Haves are Revolting.

1 comment:

Delta said...

Great :)

Really well put.