April 16, 2009

Taxed Enough Already

It was an overcast, drizzly day in Central Ohio when the phone rang.

*insert dramatical pause*

It was Herr Bone calling. At his town, about an hour away, he'd talked at a Tea party. He'd cobbled up a talk based on complaints about government spending and media bias as featured on his blog. He mentioned and he was going to the tea party in Columbus and wondered if I wanted to go.

A crowded Statehouse lawn

One guy had a well-made sign listing what he paid in taxes, federal, state and local, with the tagline "Why isn't that enough?" I quickly figured about what he made a year based on his federal tax.

Love that cabinet jibe

Newark, Ohio tea party

I arrived at statehouse lawn and errantly called Ham's home number instead of his cell phone. Given the background noise, I didn't recognize his wife's "hello" as significantly different from his.

"The eagle has landed," I said, still relishing after all these years the spy/ walkie-talkie aspect of cellphones. "I'm at Broad Street."

"Don't you recognize I'm not Dave?" she said incredulously. She always loves the drama of faux outrage and loves a scam.

"You have a deep voice for a woman," I said, and, thinking I'd just dug myself in deeper, "like Lauren Bacall. Husky; it's a good thing."

Her outrage continued unabated so I changed my tune. "Plus it's loud here."

I was surprised at the size of the crowd and was thrilled to be among "my own kind", politically speaking. Conservative rallies are as rare as self-indulgent Disputations posts. Of course this wasn't exactly my own kind; most were to the right of me on these issues and I'd have preferred all these folks had gathered to protest abortion. (It's a crime and a shame that the young have adopted gay rights as the 'civil rights issue of our time' rather than the plight of unborn babies.) I've got more supply-side economics in me than deficit hawk. Still, anyone can see that Obama's budget is insane and I'm old enough to remember when fifty billion was ridiculously large sum. (See Robert Rubin's unintentionally hilarious 2003 book In an Uncertain Age when he had to beg Congress to bail out Mexico, a bailout that has been utterly dwarfed by more recent ones. Bank bailouts will never play well politically because no one ever, ever, appreciates damage avoided. You just don't get credit for it. No one, for example, credits George Bush #41 today with heading off Saddam Hussein's control of the world's oil. Just as no politician will get credit for helping prevent our government from spending itself into fiscal insolvency.)

The positive reaction to Hambone's speech suggests that he is something of a political wunderkind and ought run for office. Bone's talk about mainstream media bias is what resonates most strongly with me, and watching a CNN reporter blast a Tea party participant was pretty close to sickening.

Bone has a taste for what sells and most importantly doesn't make it about himself. I don't think anyone was at the Tea party came to listen to a politician brag about how he saved the taxpayer a buck here and a buck there. But there one was. This is the essence of politics as business as usual - see a big crowd and use it to talk about yourself.

The other unfortunate tendency was of speakers to pander, saying how we were all are patriots and wonderful and good and what's right with America. Perhaps this was to counter the left-wing media image that we're right-wing nuts or would-be terrorists, but still it's a waste of our time and feeds self-righteousness.

Ham's political instincts are keen enough to yell out a word that no speaker uttered: "Michigan". That's the red meat, populist word in Columbus, Ohio. Ham said of Ohio politicians who spend our tax money carelessly, "ship 'em to Michigan!" bringing great guffaws from all who heard. Michigan is a dual-use word since it stands for "blue state, high taxes" to Ohioans and also, of course, as the great enemy on the football field. Pretty politically shrewd for Bone to notice that. "Who said that?" asked one elderly gentleman with a huge smile.

We were standing beside three young girls, presumably sisters, ages perhaps 12, 15, 17, who were carrying "Who is John Galt?" signage. Not particularly heart-warming since I'm not much of a fan of Rand. (I always figure, rightly or wrongly, that in a Randian world I'd be killed for not being productive enough.)

There were some good lines, such as the fact that borrowing was a form of taxation, and that fees are also taxation. It's so disingenuous for government to find all these tricks and "hidden taxes" in order to try to slake it's unending thirst for revenue.

Hambone made the excellent point that while the speakers were all talking about taxes, they weren't talking about controlling spending. That's another "business as usual" tactic, at least for Republicans. The great sin of the party is that it lacks all will to control spending. Oh for those glory days, back in '94 and '95, when whole government agencies like the Department of Energy and the Department of Education were in danger of being eliminated! How nostalgic it feels now, and how incredibly fragile that moment when big government was on its heels turned out to be.

John Kasich spoke to cries from the crowd of "Run, John, Run!". He's thinking of running for governor in 2010 and one would hope he'd announce soon. He's the great conservative hope in Ohio, the only one who has any credibility, earned during his years as the budget maven. He's acknowledged (by me at least) as the country's second greatest member of Congress during the '90s, second only to Newt Gingrich. Despite Kasich's nearly spotless record and superlative service, there's always a sense that he underachieved although perhaps it's merely reflective of voter underachievement since, after all, he did run for President.


smockmomma said...

i. am. so. jealous.

TS said...

How's come you didn't go to one smock? I heard San Antonio was the mother of all tea parties. I'm sure there was one closer to you than that...

Anonymous said...

John Kasich is a talker and that's about it. What exactly does he think he did for the people when he was in office? Balanced the budget for about ten minutes?

What impact did that have on anyone? Wages? Taxes? Tuition? Health care? NOTHING.

Here's Kasich's record: Play footsie with Bill Clinton, get a lot of attention while in office, get a cushy job on Wall Street with Lehman Brothers, and lose the retirements of millions of Americans.

Thanks, but Wall Street has done enough to Ohio's families. I'll be supporting state senator Kevin Coughlin in the Republican primary for governor. Kasich is more of the same old politics and Coughlin is the future of the party and Ohio.

TS said...

Sigh. That comment perfectly illustrates my point: no one gets credit for hard work anymore. These are the days style gets rewarded (see Obama & the banks' fanciful leverage scheme), while substance has to be defended.

The reason Kasich rose like a phenom through the congressional ranks at a very young age was through hard work on the budget committee. He's the opposite of today's congressmen who are mostly concerned about image and keeping or their job -- he not only actually read the budget, he knew it inside and out, passing the only balanced budget in memory.

It was a thankless job, as our commenter nicely illustrates, one certainly not glamourous to those who want bigger government.