Nearly 300 protesters pounded the sidewalk of El Camino Real in San Mateo, CA on Wednesday to demonstrate their disapproval of the federal stimulus package and the implications of bailouts for taxpayers.
Some participants grabbed the attention of drivers-by and cameramen with colonial costumes, teakettle props, signs reading "Change - it's what's in your wallet," and chants of "no more pork." Others standing on the sidewalk quietly planned for a 2010 Republican comeback, or discussed their differing views with each other under swaying signs and flags. Some spoke their minds freely, while others balked at talking to me, since this piece was for the Huffington Post. Several in the crowd expressed their anxiety at the way I might twist their words, and how Arianna Huffington was "not credible" and a "nutcase."
Those who did speak to me described feelings of anger toward a stimulus bill that they called unconstitutional and a tax system that they felt leaned toward socialism. To support the argument that the stimulus package is not constitutional, veteran Leonard Stone passed out a resolution written in the Texas legislature, stating that the federal government is in violation of the tenth amendment, in which "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Stone said that 33 states are now adopting a similar resolution.
"Bailouts are unconstitutional," Stone said. "Let capitalism do what it does...when government pays for failure, you're only going to get more failure. You get what you pay for." Stone said that the vast majority of Americans are employed at small businesses, which are the cornerstone of American prosperity. He argued that the government should keep its hands off of business altogether: "The business of government is not business. It's governing. The rule of law. Treating everyone the same. Regulating for protection. Not to stop growth."
Barbara Barnes is a fourth-generation Californian who agrees with Stone. She came out to the Tea Party because she disapproves of being overtaxed. "This [protest] is not Democratic or Republican. This is for the people," Barnes said. She said that people are now taxed almost 50 percent, and that for those benefitting from others: "Once you run out of other people's money, I don't know what's going to happen."
Standing next to Barnes, 24-year-old Charles Hoelzel said that he did benefit from taxpayer money as a child, when his single mother was on welfare. But Hoelzel has done well for himself since then and plans to run for office in November. Originally from New Orleans, Hoelzel said that he took an unpaid day off to be at the Tea Party protest: "I'm 24 and I'm fed up with prosperity leaving us. I've seen poverty, and I'm not going back." Hoelzel's main purpose was to voice concern at the administration's recent actions and hope for a correction of the problem: "At the end of the day, Obama is still our president. No matter what, we need to back him and pray," a comment that many surrounding him did not agree with.