FIRST-PERSON: Tea & taxes
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--With the April 15 deadline for the filing of personal income taxes on the horizon, a recent Associated Press report will not only add fuel to this year's scheduled Tea Party tax protests, it will also serve to validate the grassroots movement's argument that it is all about "the taxes, Stupid."
The AP report revealed that 47 percent of U.S. households will not pay a single cent in income tax for 2009. Additionally, AP indicated that a huge majority of these same citizens will actually profit from the income tax.
According to the AP, 40 percent of households that pay no income tax will still receive a payment from the government. In actuality, they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. Thus, these households get "something for nothing," said Curtis Dubay, senior tax policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation a conservative think tank based in Washington D.C.
Couple that information with the fact that, according to the AP, the top 10 percent of wage earners in the U.S. pay 73 percent of all income taxes in America and toss in the deficit spending our government has engaged in for far too long, and you begin to understand why some people might feel driven to protest.
The income tax in America has long been what 19th century French economist Fredric Bastiat called "legal plunder." According to Bastiat, legal plunder occurs when the government takes, by force, what one citizen has legitimately earned and gives it to another.
When a private citizen engages in the practice described by Bastiat, it is called theft. When the government does it, it is described as income redistribution.
Currently, 100 percent of income taxes collected in the U.S. are paid by 53 percent of households.
The fact that the tax code has been applied with such inequity, and for so long, is one reason the tea party protests have emerged.
"There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe anything lawful is legitimate," Bastiat wrote.
In the days to come, some in the mainstream media will characterize Tea Party protesters as racist. Those who do so are either purposely lying in an effort to marginalize the legitimacy of the protests, or they simply refuse objectively to understand the true motivations of those attending the events.
Any and every movement has its fringe adherents. Liberal and conservative groups both have a few crazy radicals in the same way every family has a wacky aunt or nutty uncle. So, when a Tea Party protest takes place there are likely to be a few bigots present. However, the minority presence of a few radicals should in no way detract from the majority's purpose for peacefully assembling.
When you see reports that attempt to characterize the Tea Party protests as racist, know this, the overwhelming majority of protestors are not racist. They are simply weary of the inequity of the U.S tax code and a government that will not exercise fiscal discipline.
Whether or not you agree with the Tea Party protestors, they have a right to protest peacefully. And their purpose for gathering will be about one thing: "the taxes, Stupid." And given the recent AP report concerning the income tax in America, it seems they have a point.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.