Let them Drink Tea

While our president has been studying abroad over the last couple of weeks, there has not been a shortage of attacks from Republicans and conservatives. Their attacks have ranged from the dumb, such as Barack Obama no longer wanting America to be a superpower, to the hilarious, with Rush Limbaugh saying that the only reason the stock market is up is because Obama is overseas and can’t “run” the economy from over there. Now I understand conservative angst and desperation. The Democrats were out of power for awhile in Congress and the executive branch, and they probably said and did some outrageous things while being in the minority. But throwing Boston Tea-Party-like tea parties? Come on.

For those who don’t know, the conservative grassroots are holding tea parties on April 15, largely known as Tax Day. Some of the big ones will take place in Atlanta, San Antonio and Sacramento. The historical Boston Tea Party was done in an act of protest, “No Taxation without Representation.” To the best of my knowledge, almost all the states have some sort of current representation, with the exception of Minnesota, but that’s because Republican Norm Coleman doesn’t want to admit he lost to Democrat Al Franken. Federal income taxes have also stayed the same. So that can’t be it either. I’m guessing the reason Republicans are throwing barrels of tea into the water where fish and other marine life live is actually because they want their own conservative equivalent of “Earth Day.”

Actually, according to conservative Sen. Jim DeMint, it’s because people are “ready to stand up and fight for freedom.” That actually sounds very compelling. I want to fight for freedom as well. Look at the atrocities in Darfur. That’s a great freedom fight. See, I was wrong; conservatives actually just want to fight for freedom and who doesn’t? There, that solves it, mystery closed; count me in.

But wait, what’s taking our freedom away? I haven’t felt less free. I can still watch programs on Hulu.com. Let’s go back to the conservatives for the answer. Texas Rep. John Culberson (R) said that the meaning of the tea parties is to send the “message to Washington that we cannot tax, borrow and spend our way to prosperity.”

In the words of former President Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.” Just when Republicans had me willing to go out and pollute our lakes and oceans, they reveal their true selves.

While President Barack Obama is overseas trying to compromise and get other countries to help us with both our financial and military woes, conservatives are advocating the same policies that got us into this mess. They want larger tax cuts primarily for the wealthy and wait for it: reduction in spending. Reduction in spending is actually a new one because remember George W. Bush left Obama with trillion dollar deficits. However, a government spending freeze … during a recession? That’s like saying, “Hey I lost one finger, why not cut the whole hand off?”

During a recession when consumers and businesses are not spending, it is the role of the government to stimulate the economy if they don’t want the economy to spiral. They have the capability to spend while consumers and businesses cannot or will not. I thought conservatives liked it when America was here to save the day. Sure, the government could give tax cuts, but that doesn’t give the same bang for buck as government spending does through the multiplier effect.

To be fair, President Obama’s trip has not been perfect. He did not get the stimulus he wanted from the European governments. Europe in general has been slower to enact a stimulus for its own people during the crisis than America. But this is because the average person in Europe has the comfort of knowing that they live in an active welfare state and already have a safety net. Obama also did not get large support for Afghanistan. He did, however, get a trillion dollars for the International Monetary Fund to help emerging markets. President Obama’s tactic of not alienating other countries may not have totally worked this time, but it might in other cases, whereas Bush’s cowboy diplomacy hardly ever worked.

However, Obama’s evenhanded approach may be doomed for failure because according to Bush’s last Press Secretary Dana Perino, we also didn’t alienate any country during W’s tenure. Oh boy, tea anyone?

Jaye Estrada is a third-year biology major. He can be reached at estradaj@uci.edu