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Explaining The Tea Party To My Son

Updated on July 14, 2015

My son asked me a question the other day,

“Hey dad, what’s the Tea Party? I mean what do they want, what do they believe in?”

I said, “That’s easy. The Tea Party believes in lower taxes and balancing the budget. They formed right after Obama was elected. They started holding Tea Party rallies protesting tax increases immediately after his inauguration.”

"So what Tax increases were they protesting?", asked my son.

“Good question. The first thing Obama did as president was create a stimulus package to bring the country out of the recession. That included hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for families and small businesses. This lowered taxes for 95% of Americans.”

“Lowered taxes? Don’t you mean he raised taxes?”

“No, the tax cuts from the stimulus package, cut income taxes for most Americans lower than they had been in over 60 years.”

“But if the Tea Party was protesting tax increases, who’s taxes were going up?”

“Well, as it turns out, nobody’s. After the Obama tax cuts, most protesters were paying less in Federal income taxes than they had ever paid in their lives. But polls showed that 98% of Tea Partiers wrongly believed their taxes had gone up.“

“If their taxes didn't go up, why were they protesting?”

“Well for one thing, after Obama's first year in office our country had about 12 trillion dollars in debt and a lot of people thought Obama was putting us deeper into debt.”

“Wow, Obama ran up TWELVE TRILLIONS DOLLARS in debt in his first year in office?”

“Yes. Well, maybe not ALL of it. Actually the first $5 trillion took about 225 years to accumulate. The next $6 trillion in debt was from the 8 years George W. Bush was in office. Under Bush we went from a $200 billion surplus to a $1.4 trillion deficit. Under Obama the annual deficit remained over a trillion dollars for the first year or so but it has been reduced by two-thirds since then.“

“So the Tea Party must have really protested a lot against George W. Bush then, right?”

“Not exactly. They believed that deficits didn't matter when Bush was president.“

“So why was the deficit so high under Obama?”

“Well, there are several reasons. First, President Bush cut taxes for rich people to stimulate job growth. But that added about $400 billion to the deficit every year and didn't create many jobs. He also started two wars which added another $150 billion or so in debt each year. Then during the last year of Bush’s presidency we had the worst recession in over 70 years, millions of people lost their jobs, so there are no income taxes coming in from those people and the deficit reached $1.4 trillion. And finally, Obama and Congress spent several hundred billion, spread out over several years, to bail out certain industries like car manufacturers to put people back to work and stimulate the economy.”

"What does the Tea Party think we should do to stimulate the economy during a recession?”

“Just one thing, they want us to cut taxes for the rich. Then rich people will use that money to hire more employees and it will stimulate the economy.”

"What do they think we should do when the economy is already doing well?"

"Simple. Cut taxes for the very rich."

"How would they help the millions of people who lose their jobs in a recession?"

"They'd give tax cuts to the very rich."

"And what would they do to reduce the deficit?"

"Simple. Cut taxes for the rich."

"OK. And what about reducing poverty?"

"That's easy. Cut taxes for the rich."

"Uh huh. And what would they do about the growing income gap between the rich and the poor in America?"

"Cut taxes for the rich."

"Wow. So do they think tax cuts for the rich are the solution to every problem?"

"Of course not, they also think we need to start new wars with oil rich nations from time to time."

“I have one question. If Bush had already lowered taxes on the rich to about the lowest they'd been in decades, how did we have all these problems if tax cuts are the solution to all our economic problems? Weren't the rich already using that extra money to hire people?”

“Well, you’re a little too young to understand. I mean, it’s complicated.”

"Dad, didn't Obama eventually raise taxes on rich people?"

"Yeah, in 2013 he raised taxes 3 percent on people making over $400,000 a year. That's the wealthiest 1% of the population. But the Tea Party thought that was a terrible idea. They said it would actually increase the deficit and put millions of people out of work."

"So what happened to the deficit and the economy since that tax increase?

"The deficit has been reduced by 60% and the economy has added several million new jobs. In total, since the recession ended, the economy has added about 12 million jobs altogether."

“OK, so here’s what you told me so far...

"The Tea Party was created shortly before Obama became president to protest tax increases that he never proposed. After Obama cut most people’s taxes to the lowest they had been in over 60 years, the Tea Party held rallies all over the country protesting imaginary tax increases. And they complained about the economic stimulus adding to the national debt even though they said debts don't matter when Bush added more debt than all other presidents combined. They also said tax cuts for the very wealthy are the solution to all our problems even though huge tax cuts under Bush were followed by trillion dollar deficits, a huge recession and the loss of ten million jobs. Then they said a tax increase on the top 1% would kill jobs and increase the deficit but just the opposite occurred."

“Well, when you put it like that you make it sound kind of silly. Like I said, its complicated.”


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