SALINA, Kan. - Last week brought the universally disliked "tax day," the deadline to file federal income taxes. But not to despair, the occasion has also been greeted in the last couple years by a new phenomenon, Tea Party rallies.
As citizens weigh their decisions on whether to attend these kind of gatherings, they will want to consider several factors.
First of all, to enjoy these events, people will need to leave their knowledge of history at home.
This movement was named "Taxed Enough Already" because its acronym allows the group to evoke the memory and emotions of the Boston Tea Party. However, looking closer, the modern movement is misnamed.
The rallying cry of the original tea partiers was, "No taxation without representation!" Unlike the British crown's penchant for unilaterally levying taxes on its colonies, all current federal taxation has been voted on by our elected representatives.
Where were all the modern Tea Partiers in 2001 and 2002 when our current tax structure was put in place by President George W. Bush and his congressional allies?
Those fiscal measures, and their accompanying tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans set us full throttle down the path towards credit card-funded federal government.
That leads to the second prerequisite for enjoying the Tea Party - selective amnesia. Chances are that attendees will meet few people at such rallies who will remember or acknowledge the fact that the federal government was running surpluses at the beginning of the previous decade.
In fact, most attendees will act like the problem just started when Barack Obama was elected president. Instead, the current occupant of the White House will be fingered as the source of all problems that are leading us to a fiscal Armageddon.
And lastly, Tea Party attendees should be prepared to be subjected to a parade of fiery rhetoric, a la Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachman. A recent national magazine described Congresswoman Bachman's rhetorical style as one that "frequently will strip the bark off trees." While Bachman is known to be quite loose with her facts she is acknowledged as one of the best at getting a crowd whipped up and angry.
So for those interested in a dispassionate analysis of this critical national problem, combined with a reasoned discussion of potential solutions, these rallies are probably not the place to go.
On the other hand, leave it to American ingenuity and creativity to bring some merriment to such an otherwise disliked occasion. The Tea Party movement is the latest in a long line of populist movements in American history, many of which have provided an impetus to positive change. The current group deserves credit for focusing attention on our federal budget deficit, much the same as Ross Perot did two decades ago.
In simple terms the solution to our federal budget deficit is to bring in more money and spend less. Unfortunately Tea Partiers focus solely on the spending half of the equation, as if spending cuts alone will solve our problems. In fairness, there are those on the other side who see only the other half of the equation - the need for tax increases.
A solution will only come when each side tones down the rhetoric, recognizes the legitimacy of the other side's demands and shows willingness to compromise for the good of the country.
Ideology won't solve this problem. But this fact will likely be missed by Tea Partiers.
Interested individuals who bring the earlier mentioned three items will probably enjoy future tea party rallies.
To those who take a pass I'd be happy to discuss the issue with you later over a cup of coffee.