One of the biggest frustrations that American taxpayers have with government is its inability to ensure that the wealthy are paying their fair share of taxes. By wealthy, I specifically mean, the corporate element of society. In past articles I’ve argued against the right of corporations to be legally defined as a “person”, and in doing so, it was an attempt to help readers understand that being defined as a corporate “person” is only a legal avenue by which the plutocracy in America can get away with having to pay its expected rate of taxes like every other tax paying “person” in the United States. The argument is against the rich in America, because it is this same group of individuals who have griped about government placing too much pressure on them to pay forth reasonable taxes. Yet, there are so many tax laws in place that permit this class to piece by piece remove themselves from the enforcement of having to share in the responsibility of sustaining society’s infrastructure. So, according to the tax laws, in the U.S., the poorer classes are mainly upholding the burden of economic national stability, while the rich, and those with more financial capacity try to shed their responsibilities to American society, all for the sake of financial self-preservation.
Before I move any further along with my argument, I would like to discuss the concept behind the formation of today’s Tea Party. Even if most individuals think that the Tea Party is not made up of wholly wealthy elements, it portrays the characterization of elitist wealth. It’s a club for those wishing to preserve the image of wealth and prosperity.
Don’t believe it? Well, New York Times and CBS conducted a poll in August of 2010 of 1,600 adults, and found that 31% of Tea Party supporters earn more than $75,000 per year, as contrasted by the 26% total participants of the poll. 68% of those Tea Partiers consider themselves middle class or above, and the main reason why they are angry with government is spending. That is spending on poor people. The observers of the poll, The Nation magazine, concluded that the Tea Party supporters simply loathe poor people, because they assume, that what is in their minds defined as minorities, or the “poor”, are receiving way too many benefits of entitlement from the government. The Nation reporter continued to point out that this was simply a myth, in that the poor who do receive welfare benefits from the U.S. government do not make windfall incomes from what the Tea Party terms excessive waste, and on the same token, those that consider themselves middle-class or higher, are receiving tax cuts in excessive amounts, that in comparison to welfare benefits, seem a greater compensation than welfare. It’s very evident based on that poll that Tea-Partiers are the wealthy class, and their argument against excessive waste at the government level to enable the poor to be entitled is just simply a disproportionate attack on the poor, especially when the Tea Party middle class is receiving tax benefits that benefit their class by far. It comes down to placing the government benefits side-by-side for comparison, and reconsidering who actually is prospering more from government spending, regardless of whether it is a handout or a mechanism to help individuals with money keep more of it from government hands (3).
The political atmosphere is now flooded with the language of wasteful government spending, and according to members of the Tea Party, this waste comes from providing a level of sustainable income for the poor, instead of the government deciding to relinquish its responsibilities in providing a stable economic environment for all people, whether rich or poor, so that there is not a tremendous part of the population, without the capacity to sustain itself with the necessities of life. Instead those struggling to survive are labeled as spoiled, or entitled individuals, who are also persecuted as those taking too much from a system meant to provide stability. Someone needs to preserve that element of society, and it certainly won’t be the Tea Party stepping up to offer assistance for the poor, in an effort to stabilize economic chaos.
The name ‘Tea Party’ itself, when viewed from the perspective of a historical context, has a strong connotation and connection to money. The name was drawn from the historic “tea party” of the American Revolution, where revolutionaries boarded ships carrying tea, dumping the ships’ inventories into the waters of Boston harbor, in protest of the imposed tea tax by the British Parliament. This was in part driven by wealthy tax-paying land owning colonists, who were insistent they were no longer obligated to hand over money to the crown of England. It was always about money. Not only this, but it was about who was entitled to what money, and how much of it went to whomever thought they were entitled to it. Really?! What poor people or financially disadvantaged individual, would spend money on tea, anyhow, when their limited budget needs to go towards putting nourishment on the table, not some lavish cup of warm leaf brew?
This point is brought forth, not to argue that the colonists were wrong in fighting a tax, but to compare it to the efforts put forth by today’s Tea Party, how the two situations are completely derived from two separate agendas, and how absurd their argument is in comparison to that of revolutionary principles. The American Revolution was a fight for independence, or let’s say the freedom not to be financially tied to a foreign empire, to which the colonists had no social bridge. Money, or public funds were meant to go directly back into the colonial municipalities, to benefit the colonies, and not some distant nation.
Now, the modern-day Tea Party is not some foreign entity, nor is it representative of an American colony. It is a political party, so tied into the U.S. social structure, in that its constituents drive on public roads, benefit from public programs, probably send their kids to public schools, reserve the right not to pay exorbitant taxes, and in some cases benefit from public funding somehow as contractors or consultants of the Federal system. All of the aforementioned things are funded for the most part by tax dollars, that everyone pays within the American social net. What the Tea Party is countering is the infrastructure that offers them nationality. If they seek the elements of a nation by denying a tax that is fundamental to the existence of their nation, then they are not seeking independence, but only the preservation of their financial entitlement.
If this battle over taxes and spending is truly about independence, then why isn’t there a significant number of individuals ready to band together, and prepare for secession? Instead of asking the federal government for financial freedom, why doesn’t the Tea Party, establish itself as a nation in and of itself, and veritably declare independence? This is because it is simply a political strategy to ensure financial stability for a class of people in the United States, that are satisfied with the perks of being a citizen of one of the most free nations in the world, yet under financial pressures, they must fight to preserve their own economic status, against the tide of social stability. The Tea Party is not pressing for independence as a populace under the guise of one state, which is what the American Revolution’s Boston Tea Party colonists sought. The colonial revolutionaries had a common purpose to found an independent nation, where as the Tea Party has yet to form “around a single leader, a single agenda or even a common name” (4).
The mere fact that the party has no single defining purpose, expresses to the political scene that it is not ready or willing to form and independent state, and that members of the Tea Party are content with what the U.S. has to offer, but never will its members admit to how the benefits of being a U.S. citizen are tied to the elements of a federal society, upon which they subsist. “There appears to be no consistent ideology or coherent set of policies behind the movement”, and that alone shows that this movement is based on an idea, not a framework, by which supporters can bind themselves to, and begin to build a defining state. Instead, their focus is upon government taking their money away, or implementing laws that would further crush their individual financial sustainability, including radical if not extreme proposals to “return to the gold standard”, abolishing Social Security, and a reflectance to implement a carbon-based emissions tax upon private enterprise (5). When it comes down to it, the Tea Party is all about the money, and in contrast to the 1776 American revolutionary model in which they tend to cast themselves, the party is in no way concerned with creating a stable, secure, and independent state, but rather more concerned with individual financial preservation, by taking down the elements of a state that provides stability for the greater citizenry.
If you look over the plethora of web sites tied to the Tea Party movement, you will often find mission statements that talk a lot about taxes and government spending. Take for instance The California Tea Party’s web site, and its about page states, “The number one principle and goal of the California Tea Party is to empower the California Tax payer to fight for change!” (About | California Tea Party). So, they are willing to fight for change? Change what? Why, only tax payers? Why does the Tea Party feel the need to emphasize enabling specifically taxpayers? Again, there is this ever-present language that alludes to some form of financial constraint placed upon the citizen, and that there is some external factor involved in oppressing the taxpayer into paying-up, but there is no discussion in their mission of what needs to be changed in government in order to provide the taxpayer with more return for their tax dollar. In other words, a Tea Party individual would rather preserve their own dollar, then have to hand it over to a state entity, and feel convinced that that dollar will never benefit the individual in any manner (when in fact it does in some indirect way). It’s as if the members of the Tea Party are all members of a really great country club, but they don’t want to be obligated to pay their membership dues, and failing to understand that they can join or create another club, maybe cheaper, or maybe one that provides more member benefits. There is no implementation of new policy concepts, but instead a lot of finger-pointing, and an underlying agenda to hijack the government for the purpose of forcing the greater part of society to play by their selfish financial rules.
So, when we are debating change for ourselves, the Tea Party is missing the mark, completely, because the main focus is financial independence, and not providing a discourse on how to rebuild infrastructure, or instead of disabling government, finding more progressive ways to reform it. In other words the Tea Party doctrine really represents the “independence of me”, and not the independence of a particular society or state. It’s platform shouts of greed, selfishness, a lack of stability among any state that they would attempt to form, and its attempts at destroying a system that is in place for all the reasons of civilized society. The Tea Party is bringing us back to the Dark Ages.
A particular situation that has arisen in a region of the United States, Orange County, California, is the persistent selfish demands of the wealthy elite, and those associating themselves with wealth, that follow along the same political threads as those of the truly elite. There is this beach-side city known as Newport Beach, and since the 2008 presidential election, this city has been the thorn in the side of most other Orange County citizens, in that those who can afford to live in one of the nicest areas of California, are making demands upon the state and local governing agencies to meet the desires of a privileged life, at the cost of the average taxpayer.
The first instance that caught my attention was the battle over redirecting aircraft taking off from John Wayne airport, located in Santa Ana, requiring pilots to direct their planes up a steeper takeoff angle, so as to rise far enough above the beach-side residential areas of Newport Beach. This noise abatement is understandable from the perspective of providing a better living environment for those in the takeoff path of commercial airliners, but it is the cost and sacrifices that other taxpayers in Orange County are having to make, in order to preserve the sanctity of an over-privileged, wealthy beach community.
The John Wayne airport “maintains some of the most stringent noise rules in the United States”, according to its website, utilizing a regulatory system called General Aviation Noise Abatement (GANO), which has been in place for many years now, and includes official enforcement and technological audio monitoring, all paid for by the taxpayers. This compliance program basically requires that air carriers remain within a certain decibel level so as to not excessively disturb the beach communities that lie within the take off pattern of the airport. This is the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard, when you weigh and compare the noise of a single commercial jet airliner to the environmental effects of nearby noisy freeways, their contribution to greenhouse pollution, and the pollution produced by making airliners take off at a steeper rate, requiring pilots to burn more fuel to accelerate higher and higher above Newport Beach residents.
The irony, here, lies in the fact that a Tea Party supporting community, that in turn supports less taxes, enjoys the legal implementations of noise abatement, that is fully regulated by Federal, state, and local governments, and therefore paid for by the taxpayers (Airport Noise Law: Statutes and Regulations). Another irony exists in the inefficiency of environmental protection of the noise abatement program, in that it is a protection against noise pollution, and not environmental or climate pollution. A plane is required to make adjustments to its takeoff pattern, so as to climb faster and steeper, in order to put distance between the residence of Newport Beach, therefore generating more greenhouse gas emissions from the jet engines as they consume more fuel to do so (12).
It is utterly ridiculous to be more concerned about the effects of noise when people consider a jet taking off, then to try to balance that with the effects of pollution from jet engine exhaust being sprinkled upon the residence below. Instead of rich residents relocating, private airport interests redeveloping land, within the scope of takeoff patterns, for aerospace use only, or simply dealing with it, the taxpayers are left with a huge wasteful bill to cover the costs of making sure the elite of Newport Beach get a good night’s rest. While tax dollars go to waste, these same residents breathe the pollution from jet exhaust, surrounding freeway exhaust, and can’t provide the funding necessary to build seawalls or preserve wetlands (we’re getting to that) to protect from the sea’s effects of “global warming”. It’s just too noisy in Newport Beach. According to Newport Beach residents, pollution is only bad if you can see or hear it, but not if you’re breathing or drinking it.
Not only does this produce a higher cost for the private interests, like the commercial airlines, but this cost eventually spills over into the private businesses that depend on airport’s economy, and most importantly the cost of regulating noise. I mention the effects of vehicle traffic noise, because Newport Beach is littered with heavily traveled side streets, and there at least three major freeways intersecting through the city, that potentially could create more of a noise factor than a single airplane. No one in Newport Beach complains about that element of noise pollution, and if they did, regional taxpayers would be paying for it at some point as well.
Well, there is more. Newport Beach residents make more of a demand on state taxpayers to construct sea walls, and reinforce wetlands in the area, so as to protect their homes from flooding. Think that over, and while you do, consider the fact that in the 2008 presidential election, the Republican candidate for vice president, Sarah Palin, made a fund raising visit to Newport Beach, and the cost of: $1,000 for the food, and $2,300 for food and a photo with the candidate (6). With a population of about 86,000, 4.4% of that below the poverty line (source: the Wikipedia entry for the city), let’s be generous and say that 50% of the population could afford a $1,000 dinner with Sarah Palin. That’s a whopping $43 million. Now, I’m not trying to say that gathering campaign funds is a problem, here, but if the Newport Beach community is so overly concerned with the preservation of their environment (or lack thereof, because there is really very little left of the environment, when you consider that it’s less that 50 miles from the L.A. metropolis, and is one of the most over-developed areas in the country), one would think they would be wise enough to pool their resources for conservation, instead of the political preservation of a GOP vote?
So, we are all well enough aware, that the lower income voters of Orange County were not going to be shelling out $1,000 for dinner, and the mere fact that Palin decided to fund raise in one of the wealthiest areas of Orange County, mostly recognized as a right leaning region, heading left, she decided against simply creating a wider campaign presence, by visiting other less financially-enabled areas of Southern California, for the sake of adding more dollars to her campaign. To add to this she drew money from those complaining about the lack of funding for their area’s preservation of environmental elements that are meant to protect from natural disasters such as flooding from excessive tides or even earthquake damage. If they should be complaining about anything, it should be about the point that they wasted their money on a hollow presidential campaign. Instead the wealthy class of Newport Beach should have been spending those lost contributions on taxes, that could go back to the state or local governments so that their public investments could go back into building up seawalls or any other related infrastructure needed to ensure the safety of their elite neighborhoods. But, no! Why would the rich stoop as low as to use public funding to ensure their own security in case something should go drastically wrong, because conservative/Tea Party doctrines assume that tax dollars used to protect the public is not theirs to spend. A blatant irony. Is it not?
Another thing to weigh in on these so called big spenders, is that while the conservative elements of both the Tea Party, and Republicans, beat it into our collective heads, that implementing infrastructure spending, into things such as high-speed rail, or general public transportation is just way too expensive of an investment for the taxpayer, the reality (contrary to what the media tells us) is that investing in mass transit infrastructure is an environmental strategy to step-down global warming, the one reason the conservative elite of Newport Beach want to use tax dollars to build sea walls and conserve the surrounding area’s wetlands. Of course it is a large investment, but the return that would be offered to taxpayers comes in the form of a secure, stable, and efficient infrastructure, offering the necessary engineering feats that provide civilization with roadways, trade ports, rails, preserved open spaces, and yes, even sea walls to protect homes from washing into the sea.
So, instead of focusing their efforts, and their big dollars on social spending, and providing the means to gain effective infrastructure, more attempts are made to isolate individual income from the community, and at the same time negatively impact the governing agencies’ finances that provide large scale assured infrastructure. Maybe, if the tax structure in California was more sensible and less extreme in the realm of creating more tax breaks, the state could effectively supply a reformed plan for implementing engineering projects statewide that would have a climate strategy plan. It may cost more in the short-term, but it would certainly alleviate heavier tax-derived revenue expenses in such things such as environmental preservation, and sea-wall construction, both of which are smaller, and more expensive fixes, that would not ensure unabridged protection from disaster over the long-term.
Building sea-walls, and preserving wetlands has its good intentions, but it is not an end-game solution for addressing domestic protection from natural disasters related to global climate change. While, infrastructure is beginning to crumble nationwide, there is no better time then now, to invest in state infrastructure, and look to new ways of overcoming our old ways of indifference toward carbon-based emissions, and the “avenues” by which we keep enabling its increased presence.
If the conservative element of Orange County wishes to continue with a global-warming prevention strategy that is too small, non-effective, expensive, and self-serving, then they should do it at their personal expense. Let the wealthy community take care of its own environment on its own terms. While touting that taxes are unfair, and while making demands on the state’s tax revenue, in order to implement securities that don’t benefit the state’s infrastructure as a whole, the self-serving elite of this region do not have the capacity to understand that creating a greater resource of revenue at the state level, would create alternatives to conventional transportation infrastructure, like the implementation of efficient public transportation, a system by which climate change can be reined in, and over time decrease our overwhelming contribution to global-warming (7).
Even if the conservative, wealthy elite of Newport Beach don’t buy into the whole global-warming story, or their disbelief is just a by-product of entitlement, the evidence is stacked against their disbelief. As Tea Party members and politicians alike, share in a common theme, that climate activists and scientists are a part of some conspiracy to make the world aware of the dangers of climate change, because a potential threat, according to conservatives, has never been a threat at all (sarcasm is present here), experts, leaders and scientists all have relentlessly proven that human factors over the past century have had an effect on warming our climate (9).
There was a recent speech given by Keith Olbermann at Cornell University, where a conservative student reprimanded Mr. Olbermann for labeling conservatives as being “stupid”. Well, when you consider the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence put forth by academia, and institutions of intelligence, evidence that screams of climate-change warnings, yet this evidence is ignored by conservatives or marginalized as a farce without evidence proving it so, the irony of their position shows that they are “wildly stupid” or ignorant of the truth for the sake of preserving their financial status (keep in mind, as well, that Newport Beach has recently decided to scale back their public libraries by removing library staff and books on shelves, as part of austerity due to the bad economy, so it’s no wonder there is a lack of common intelligence among those conservative elite (13)).
As a note, there is a paper studying the effects of transportation on the climate in New York State, a two-part study to adjust transportation infrastructure, land development, and their climate effects, so as to curb natural disasters related to global-warming. This study found that “[t]ransportation, and in particular, emissions from vehicular transport is considered a major contributor to greenhouse gasses” (8).
So, while the Orange County conservative element, especially those in Newport Beach, seek out sea walls to protect their private land from global-warming, while simultaneously seeking to limit the amount of taxes they would have to contribute to the state, what they fail to realize is that they are working against their own efforts. The tax franchise in California would provide larger scale solutions, not just to implement sea barriers, but to also have the state provide alternative forms of transportation through mass transit infrastructures, like more train lines in the region, and a more efficient and effective bus system (10).
Even if the revenue didn’t derive from an income or a property tax, which is currently in low supply as it is, most South County residents, including Newport Beach, mostly single-rider drivers, have been enjoying relief from transportation sales taxes, from things like low sales taxes at the gas pump (11). So, according to this demographic of wealthy, granted limited tax liability, placing a heavier demand on the state’s budget, in order to maintain a climate-damaging transportation system, like freeways, and constructing sea-walls to protect against the same systems which they utilize at the cost of all the other taxpayers, who is really taking advantage of the welfare system in a two-fold damaging way to security, social stability, and sensible spending? This is welfare for the rich. There’s no need for a modern day Tea Party, when the reality of abuse of the individual fiscal rights is stomped out by extreme entitlement, and meanwhile the wealth defeats itself.
If we are to seriously contend with the economic issues that we are having on a national scale, locally we need to recognize that some conservative elements like the Tea Party, provide us with ideals that feel good to promote, and may make sense from a financial standpoint, but the Tea Party, and conservative idealists are completely missing the point. Solutions for our local economies are born from contribution to the community in the form of investing in the mechanisms by which we gain better community, sustainable infrastructure, and an improvement in the quality of life for all that take part in those communities, whether or not those individuals have an ample amount of financial capacity. Instead of challenging or making expensive demands upon government, why not work with, and contribute to the mechanisms that would provide stability.
- Why Do Conservatives Hate Trains? http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/03/why-do-conservatives-hate-trains/72242/
- Coastal cities prepare for rising sea levels http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-newport-sea-levels-20110306,0,3204468.story
- Koeppel, Barbara. Nation, 8/2/2010, Vol. 291 Issue 5/6, p4-6, 3p.
- Von Drehle, David. “2 The Tea Party.” Time 176.26 (2010): 81-86. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 13 Mar. 2011.
- Harris, Lee. Policy Review, Jun/Jul2010, Issue 161, p3-14, 12p.
- Palin to Fundraise in Newport http://articles.dailypilot.com/2008-09-09/news/dpt-palin09092008_1_sarah-palin-alaskan-governor-newport-beach
- Connecting California: Key Public Transportation Projects and Their Benefits for the Golden State http://www.uspirg.org/home/reports/report-archives/transportation/transportation2/connecting-california-key-public-transportation-projects-and-their-benefits-for-the-golden-state
- Global Climate Change and Transportation Infrastructure: Lessons from the New York Area http://climate.dot.gov/documents/workshop1002/zimmermanrch.pdf
- Science bites climate skeptics in the ass on the House floor http://www.grist.org/list/2011-04-01-science-bites-climate-skeptics-in-the-ass-on-the-house-floor
- Grand jury says OCTA fails low-income bus riders http://articles.ocregister.com/2010-06-09/cities/24630277_1_grand-jury-bus-service-octa
- OCTA board approves cuts to bus service http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/orange_county&id=7133743
- Plane Pollution http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1289/ehp.971051300
- Tomes’ time might be up at Newport Beach library http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0329-newport-library-20110329,0,1671782.story