09/03/2009 03:53 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011


I just cannot remember it always being this way. Since when did the idea of taxes become ipso facto a bad idea, no way, no how, under no circumstances. In my 33 years of public service I can remember a time when balancing the fiscal equation meant negotiating a taxing and spending regimen that appreciated the need for government spending on things other than national defense, public safety, and corrections.

And then again maybe I am just daydreaming, but was there not a time when both parties could defend the idea that certain social spending was acceptable not just from a compassionate perspective but also because of the actual benefits that would derive from a more just, more equitable, more diversified, better educated, and yes, more democratic society?

Yet today, conservative ideologues and politically elected lemmings, whose only calculus for leadership entails not wanting to offend constituents, threaten to derail evolutionary progress we as a society have slowly built over the history of the Republic. I neither believe that higher taxes, just for the sake of indiscriminate spending, is appropriate, nor that deficit spending during periods of economic growth is warranted.

However, I do believe that there is good economic rationale for increased spending to stimulate a stagnant economy, and that there are documented cases where social spending can render far more benefits to society than costs, in both an economic and compassionate sense. It seems to me that we are in a period of political bankruptcy where a significant minority refuses to entertain discussion of a fiscal solution that involves fully one half of the equation; namely, taxes.

And this is true at all levels of government; federal, state and local. It permeates all regions of the country, as evidenced in the various budgetary impasses affecting states from California to New York, and it is paralyzing public discourse and threatens to exacerbate the serious adverse economic circumstances affecting huge numbers of American families.

An example of the intransigence of growing numbers of Americans to the idea of rational discourse is the so-called Tea-bag revolution. I must admit, until only recently I had paid little attention to the movement, despite the considerable press attention they have garnered over the past several months, and assumed that they were capitalizing on the conservative mantra against new taxes, a position that seemingly has become the sole remaining political issue of a political orthodoxy that was resoundingly rejected in the last national election.

But I found myself in the unenviable position recently to come face to face with a group of self-described "patriots" of the taxed-enough already (tea) movement. All white, seemingly ordinary, non-descript post-retirement souls, looking more likely to be either loading up on buses to the casino or boarding a cruise ship than mounting a revolution, they politely recited their prepared talking points on why our idyllic democratic society was on the verge of total collapse. Always being one to accept a challenge I respectfully listened. So let's take a closer look at exactly what this movement is all about.

They came with paper, reams of paper. One paper, with a considerable amount of bolded words, underlined phrases, and numbered points was entitled Taking America Back, leaving one with the clear implication that we may have already slipped into a tyrannical abyss. The document regularly invokes the term patriots and "rejects the insidious tyranny and usurpation of our rights by government at all levels."

It rants against frivolous spending and advocates spending cuts across the board, thereby treating all spending as bloated and wasteful, although I am not sure they would heartily embrace large defense cuts, but according to the document they distributed they did not distinguish between entitlement spending and discretionary spending or defense spending from non-defense spending.

Interestingly, they decry public education spending and distinctly point out the need to eliminate funding for school sports. Now as a former athlete I sometimes have considerable heartburn over the inordinate emphasis on sports at all levels of education but still believe it plays a vital role in our education system, particularly given the alarming levels of childhood obesity we are seeing in our society.

They also reject the progressive income tax and support a flat tax. They reject automatic withholding of taxes, the corporate income tax and the so-called death tax. Although they refer to the flat tax as fair, there is absolutely nothing fair about a flat tax. It is regressive, it adversely affects the poorest the worst, and it rejects the notion that those who are most able should contribute more to the perpetuation of an equitable and just society. It assumes, blatantly, that most if not all people who don't work, won't work. This, of course, is patently absurd. Are there individuals who will not work under any circumstances? Yep. Are they a large majority of individuals? There is no empirical evidence to suggest this is the case.

They call for the adoption of the 9.12 principals and values. I was not aware of these principles so I looked them up on Wikipedia, and there again was the invocation of something called the Network of Principled Patriots. I will not focus on the values; they are just that, values, like honesty, courage, personal responsibility, humility, charity, etc. All things we should most assuredly be able to agree upon. The principles, on the other hand, are more problematic.

Let's take a look:

Principle 1. America is good. Okay, in general I have little problem with the proposition. However, this does not mean that we do not have our flaws and that we do not make mistakes, and with very little respect to Sarah Palin that we never need to apologize. Even good people make mistakes, and as a nation we have made some critically disastrous ones. So we must be careful here to acknowledge when we are right and when we are wrong. Just as we teach our children to do.

Principle 2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my life. Simply put, we are not a Christian nation; we are a melting pot of races, religions, and ideologies.

Principle 3. I must always be a more honest person than I was yesterday. Well, I don't get it. You are either honest or not, if you are honest today, you cannot be more honest tomorrow.

Principle 4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government. The absence of organized government is anarchy and chaos.

Principle 5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it. No problem here, does this also apply to I. Scooter Libby?

Principle 6.
I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results. Okay, but what about a guarantee of equal opportunity?

Principle 7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable. I see, I got mine, you get yours. Well, just pay your taxes or else we will put you in jail.

Principle 8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion. Full agreement here, but according to Principle 5 you must contain that disagreement within the confines of the law.

Principle 9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me. Agreed.

The document continues that Oklahoma and Texas are leading the way in declaring their independence from the Federal government. I have read that the Governor of Texas has muttered the word secession, is that what we are spearheading here, a secessionist movement?

The document they passed out cites that Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, both Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, and West Virginia would likely follow this example. It continues that should Mississippi act, so will Florida. Notice any trend here, well they spell it out.

The document states that you should "save your confederate money, it appears the South is about to rise up once again", all this in defense of Tenth Amendment rights.

For those of you rusty on your constitutional law the Tenth Amendment states that "the 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." Personally, I don't see a connection to secession here.

Finally, there is an assault on immigration, under the title of Stop Illegal Alien Invasion, it calls for the incarceration and deportation of illegal aliens and celebrates Oklahoma's adoption of a law including DNA samples from any and all illegals to the Oklahoma database, for criminal investigative purposes.

So this is what the tea-bag revolution is all about. Sounds unpatriotic to me, in fact sounds unpatridiotic. You can judge it for yourself.