Monday, April 20, 2009

Teabag Parties

As most of the world knows already, on April 15, there were "Tea Party" protests in hundreds of places across America. As might be expected, they were the occasion of some polemic back-and-forth. Doctrinaire Leftists and various other parties with an axe to grind against Middle America complained on various grounds: the protests had no grass roots support, the protesters were too quiet about government spending when Bush was President, and so on. Just another day at the office in our culture wars.

This particular episode has at least one interesting wrinkle though. A substantial number of the critics have insisted on calling the protests "Teabag Parties, " either implicitly or explicitly associating the protests with a kinky sex act. The whole thing is kind of a stupid distraction. The Boston Tea Party was a tax protest, the 2009 Tea Parties were tax protests. The sex act underlying the joke has nothing to do with either one. Nonetheless, there are a couple of things worth mentioning.

First of all, the whole thing was in bad taste. As a red-blooded male who's seen my share of Beavis and Butthead, I'll concede that responses like this are overdone. But repeatedly airing this particular gag on supposedly mainstream TV like CNN and MSNBC is cheap, not necessarily because the precious three-year-olds are watching, but because there are adults watching who might want to escape the forced sexualization of the culture, and current events cable ought to be one place to be able to do it.

The second point is a little more subtle. We're living in difficult economic times of course. And it's becoming more and more difficult, for people on various rungs of the social or economic ladder, to achieve financial security. What little security there is, is protected by the nuclear family, ie, the bonds created by getting married and having kids are strong enough to weather some bad times. It's the people who have those bonds who are protesting at the Tea Parties. They're not looking to the government for help, they want the government to get out of the way of earning a living.

The other side, the people who don't get married, don't have kids, are in palpable danger of being hung out to dry in this recession. Therefore they have to rely on political power to protect government transfer programs, which require high taxes. Unfortunately for them, the American tax base simply isn't big enough to support the government in the place where the Obama Administration is leaving us at any tax rate. They can make jokes about teabags if they want to but in the end the joke is on them.

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