So I stayed up late last night to finish and efile my taxes. Filing the taxes always fills me with the same warm glow I feel after Christmas. In both cases, I cheer myself thinking it will be a whole year before I have to deal with it again.
So today’s the day the True Believers will take to the streets to protest the marginal tax rate rising 3 percent for millionaires. Joan Walsh points out that most of the people who will show up for the tea parties have just had their taxes reduced. Walsh writes,
Of course, the real irony, maybe even tragedy, of the Tea Party movement is the fact that it’s Obama who kept a campaign promise and lowered taxes on roughly 95 percent of American taxpayers. How many folks attending the protests do you expect will know that? There may even be a significant percentage of Tea Partiers who could be penalized by high-balance fees by the credit card companies or who might ultimately need help with their mortgages. Sucks to be those guys! Expect the president to spend much of April 15 talking about his tax cuts and other assistance for struggling, middle-income Americans. Let’s hope his message gets through, even to some of the Tea Party attendees. There’s still so much class-unconsciousness going on.
I am reminded of the mass insanity that struck New Jersey in the 1990s. When Democrat James Florio became governor in January 1990, he faced (to his surprise, I understand) a nasty $600 million budget deficit left him by outgoing Republican Thomas Kean. The state Supreme Court also had issued an order to equalize spending between suburban and city schools, and obeying the order required finding a whole lot o’ money to send to city schools.
So to raise revenues, Florio proposed a 1 percent sales tax hike plus a rise in income tax. The income tax increase was progressive, beginning with a small rate increase for individuals making $55,000 (it’s 1990, remember) and rising to a very big tax increase for those in the very top income bracket.
As a result, the whole state went ballistic. “Dump Florio” bumper stickers bloomed on vehicles all across New Jersey, including old clunkers being driven by people whose income almost certainly was below $55,000. I remember the woman who was my manager at the time actually circulated a petition among employees calling for Florio’s ouster, which no doubt was against company policy, but no one she supervised would have been affected by the income tax hike; just her.
At one point I realized this woman’s clerical assistant was in terrible distress worrying how she was going to pay the awful income taxes. I told her that her taxes weren’t going up (the salary scale at that company was fairly standard; people in her position made $18,000-20,000). She didn’t believe me. I found a newspaper article that explained the tax rates. She was stunned and relieved, but then asked why everyone was making such a fuss. You tell me, I said.
The answer was, of course, that people in the top income brackets (who really did get a big increase) have a really big microphone. No doubt some smart Republican political operatives were “helping” generate hysteria to bring down the new Democratic governor. People who got most of their news from radio, television and other people just heard there was a big tax increase and went marching against it. One fellow who was “promoted” (again, one saw many manipulative hands behind this) as the head of the anti-tax movement not only lacked the income to be affected, but reporters noticed that his kids’ school system was among those that would benefit from increased state aid. To this day the guy probably doesn’t realize he was being used.
Later that year, the Republicans came very close to ousting U.S. Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ). Bradley stayed out of the New Jersey state tax issue, neither defending nor criticizing, and Christine Todd Whitman ran against him almost entirely on the question of why Bradley was not speaking out against Jim Florio’s taxes. And she damn near beat him. This put Whitman on the map politically, and she became governor of New Jersey in 1994. I say again, there were some smart political operatives in the shadows, whipping up tax hysteria as a wedge issue.
Anyway, regarding today’s planned “tea parties” — I hope no one is stupid enough to show up to counter-protest. Yes, righties crashed plenty of anti-war and anti-Bush marches and rallies. But the Rightbots already see themselves as victims and martyrs being oppressed by the evil forces of Libruhlism, and taunting them just reinforces their cherished sense of victimhood. You can taunt them here all you like, of course.