Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day and Tea Parties

Of course, this headline had me doing a double take this morning.

Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated:

Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

So let's look at those numbers again: 18% of Americans are identifying with the Tea Party and they tend to be Baby Boomer white males with more education and higher incomes than "average Americans"?

As with any survey, the devil is in the details.

Of the 18 percent of Americans who identified themselves as supporters, 20 percent, or 4 percent of the general public, said they had given money or attended a Tea Party event, or both.
So the number is actually closer to 4% of the population, a number many would still find dubiously high. And these supporters are "more well-educated"?
“The only way they will stop the spending is to have a revolt on their hands,” Elwin Thrasher, a 66-year-old semiretired lawyer in Florida, said in an interview after the poll. “I’m sick and tired of them wasting money and doing what our founders never intended to be done with the federal government.”

“I just feel he’s getting away from what America is,” said Kathy Mayhugh, 67, a retired medical transcriber in Jacksonville. “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says. He’s been in office over a year and can’t find a church to go to. That doesn’t say much for him.”
LOL. I'm thinking if he's "one of them Muslims" he probably isn't looking for a church, is he?

Meanwhile, on tax day, comes this little tidbit of news from the Tax Policy Center: 47% of American households didn't pay one single cent of income tax in 2009. And the 47% is not the bottom half of income earners, but includes vast swaths of middle and upper class households as well.

So why is less than 4% of the American public so angry over "government spending of my money" that they don't contribute to? And what's driving the torch and pitchfork "take our country back from the socialists!" rhetoric? I'll defer to NYT op-ed columnist Gail Collins:
Let us stop for a minute and consider this “take our country back” mantra. Some people believe it is the cry of angry white men who don’t like seeing a lot of blacks, women and gay people in positions of power. I prefer a less depressing explanation, which is that all this yearning for the golden days of yore has less to do with Washington than with the fact that so many of the Tea Partyists appear to be in late middle age. I think they just want to go back to the country that existed when they were 28 and looked really good in tight-fitting jeans. Which is no longer the case.
It would certainly explain who so many of their rallies are organized on Facebook.

UPDATE: former President Bill Clinton made some interesting remarks yesterday, drawing parallels between the "angry" anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party folks and the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing next week.

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