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The 'tea parties' had a serious message -- were you listening? [Blowback]

April 28, 2009 | 12:00 am

Phil Kerpen is policy director for Americans for Prosperity and can be reached through philkerpen.com. Here he responds to The Times' April 24 Op-Ed "The GOP: divorced from reality." If you would like to respond to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed in our Blowback forum, here are our FAQs and submission policy.

Judging by his April 24 Times Op-Ed article, "The GOP: divorced from reality," alleged comedian Bill Maher is confused about the message of the April 15 "tea party" protests. In saying demonstrators were merely sore losers reacting to an election that didn't go in their favor, Maher ignores the clear statements made by the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans who took to the streets earlier this month: Enough bailouts. Enough debt. Enough taxes.

When President Obama took office in January, the predicted deficit for the 2009 budget year (assuming current projections for tax receipts and economic activity) amounted to 9.7% of the U.S. gross domestic product. Obama grew that to 11.9% with the stimulus and the omnibus spending bill he signed last month. And under Obama's proposed budget, it will grow even more this year, to an astonishing 12.9% of GDP.

The amount of money for which the government put taxpayers on the hook through bailouts -- undeserved rewards for people who took risks that didn't work out -- went from a shocking $7.7 trillion under George W. Bush to an utterly incomprehensible $12.8 trillion during Obama's brief time in office so far. The anti-bailout majority of Americans are justifiably angry. They were angry when Bush got this mess started and are really angry now that Obama has made it worse. People who played by the rules, took care of their families and paid their taxes are going to pick up the tab for special interests on Wall Street and in Washington.

The "tea parties" showed that ordinary Americans understand what's happening a lot better than elites like Maher, who has an easy time accepting the Obama administration's claim that taxes will go up only slightly and only for the rich.

But anyone who looks at the numbers knows that Washington simply doesn't have enough money to pay for the trillions of dollars in new spending and bailout commitments made by the Obama administration. Worse, ordinary Americans are called stupid by the likes of Maher when they worry that they'll be forced to pay for all this new spending. Middle-class Americans know that Obama eventually will have to reach into their pockets -- through taxes, inflation or a combination of both -- because the scope of federal spending increases and bailout commitments is far too great to be paid by increasing taxes on the rich.

It might seem easy to dismiss this unrest as simple electoral sour grapes, as Maher does. After all, we saw the angry left take to the streets with wild conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines and the like after Bush was elected and reelected in 2000 and 2004. Some might want to chalk up the "tea parties" to the same effect. But unlike the Bush-bashing professional protesters who march all the time and for any reason, the "tea parties" included thousands of regular people who are so angry or scared that they showed up at a political event for the first time in their lives. Ignoring them would be a mistake.

Tax dollars continue to enrich Washington bureaucrats and Wall Street bankers at the expense of ordinary Americans. We are facing trillions in debt for out-of-control special-interest spending at the expense of the workers (and their children and grandchildren) who will have to pay it all back with interest.

Nobody won this election promising endless bailouts, a huge federal spending spree and broad tax hikes. If elected officials fail to change course, they may discover that the masses of Americans who took to the streets on April 15 will also canvass neighborhoods, work phone banks, contribute to political campaigns and vote. That's reality, and anyone pretending that most people who voted Democratic knew all this was in store is in serious denial.

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