Tax revolt could alter politics

Something wonderfully ironic happened last week at the state capitol: a sales tax increase of 3/10 of one cent was formally proposed by leading legislators on April 15. The irony isn’t that it was unveiled on tax day. It’s that 200 feet away, the bigest rally at the capitol in five years was protesting – higher taxes.

Something wonderfully ironic happened last week at the state capitol: a sales tax increase of 3/10 of one cent was formally proposed by leading legislators on April 15. The irony isn’t that it was unveiled on tax day. It’s that 200 feet away, the bigest rally at the capitol in five years was protesting – higher taxes.

At 5,000 strong, it was the largest of more than 30 “Tea Parties” taking place throughout the state (and a thousand more across the country). People who lean conservative aren’t inclined to protest or march in rallies – particularly on a work day. But they covered every corner of the state, from conservative Colville in eastern Washington to liberal Seattle at Westlake Center. From upscale San Juan county to blue collar Aberdeen. Way up north in Anacortes and clear down south in Vancouver. And throughout the eastside, from Redmond to Bellevue, Woodinville, Issaquah and Renton, among others.

Media coverage ranged from positive (Fox) to curious (most local newspapers and television stations) to hostile (all the major networks and most cable stations, especially CNN, where out-of-control “news reporter” Susan Roesgen argued on camera with the participants and told viewers that the rally was “anti-government,” “right-wing” and “anti-CNN”). Many commentators, pundits and analysts, most of them in D.C. and Manhattan, dismissed the events as mere anti-Obama rallies, or an attempt to rebrand the Republican party, or the angry outcry of a movement and a party in decline

They’ve got it wrong. It’s not the end. It’s the start of something, and the political players in Washington, D.C., and Olympia will be the last to figure it out.

I went to the Tea Party in Redmond. I saw hundreds of people waving American flags and handmade signs, most of which were either irreverent or funny (“I am not your ATM”; “Long time taxpayer, first time protester”). Plenty of grassroots Republicans showed up, but so did lots of people I’ve never seen before. Of the people I talked to, most had never been to a protest, including one 80-year old lady from Bellevue. They included families with kids, retirees and a surprising number of young people.

One word summed up their message: “Enough.” These are people who work hard and play by the rules. They are appalled that rising spending, deficits and debt in Washington, D.C., is now skyrocketing. They are dismayed that Olympia wants to cover its reckless spending with higher taxes. They are angry that so much of this money is going to help people and politically connected companies that made bad choices. The people at these Tea Parties don’t want bailouts, and they don’t want their taxes going up to bail out other people’s bad behavior, either, whether it’s their neighbor three doors down who got a mortgage he had no business getting, bankers who violated the fundamental rule of finance (never lend money to someone who can’t pay it back), the Wall Street executives who packaged bad loans to disguise the risk, or politicians who raised spending way beyond inflation, expecting that government revenues would just keep growing, just as Wall Street kept expecting housing values to keep accelerating.

Enough.

In the late 1970s a lot of common, hardworking Americans got fed up with their rising tax burden while government grew and the economy shrank. Political insiders derided them as eccentrics and extremists because their message was so discordant with political discourse within legislative chambers and editorial boards. But those people ignited the Tax Revolt. It changed the face of American politics.

And it could be happening again.

Political

Columnist

More in Opinion

State Dems may abandon caucus chaos in time for 2020

Washington also is considering becoming more significant by moving its primary to early March.

The four cornerstones of arguing irrationally

Don’t get caught up in the techniques people use to ignore rational arguments.

A taste of Krain history, from its dive-bar days

I first went in the place one winter’s evening when I was 8 or 9 years old.

Supreme Court resets the playing field

The ruling on the Masterpiece Bakery v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case wasn’t a win for the right or a loss for the left; it’s a chance to do things right the second time around.

Supreme Court ruling shows sanity, moderation

The 14th Amendment equal protection clause does not negate the First Amendment religious freedom clause.

Initiative signatures are the new greenbacks

As of Wednesday, June 6, petitions for four statewide initiatives were getting circulated.

Trump supporters see the president doing ‘God’s will on Earth’

Why did Truman recognize Israel so quickly and why do we care about modern Israel, enough to bring the ire of the Muslim world down upon us?

Eyman risking retirement funds on car tab initiative

Will the $500,000 investment be enough to get the initiative on a ballot?

U.S. isn’t the only nation flirting with trade wars

There’s another brewing between Alberta and British Columbia.

I wish I could stay in Enumclaw | Guest Columnist

There is a kindness and decency and desire to be a community in Enumclaw.

We live in frightening times

Our country is being torn apart from limb to limb, coast to coast.

Voting habits tied to feelings of security

The dangers of authoritarianism are a far greater threat to the nation than seeing rising racial equality and religious diversity brought about by immigration.