Monday, April 20, 2009

April 15 Tax Day or the New April Fools Day?

Did you attend a “tea party” on April 15, an event in cities across the country to protest big government and high taxes? These events were billed as non-partisan, grass-roots efforts to show the government that we, the people, are sick of the way the government has spent our tax dollars carelessly and still want more. However, the origins of the tea parties were far from a grassroots movement; the intentions were not non-partisan at all. When this event, for the most part, showed that Democrats and Republicans can come together peacefully for the common good, why does it matter?

Grassroots is defined as coming from ordinary people, not of the leadership. This “grassroots” movement was the brainchild of former Republican Congressman, Dick Armey and his Freedom Works political group, of which he is founder. Mr. Armey is a lobbyist with DLA Piper, a mega Washington D.C. law firm employing over 4,000 lawyers in over 20 countries. One of DLA Piper’s clients is American International Group (AIG), who was recently in the news over the giant taxpayer bailout, which is supposedly one reason for the tea parties. Are we starting to get the drift here? Other clients include the Dubai Group, BP Oil, Lehman Brothers and more. Their lobbying fingers are in the pies of finance, oil, and securities, among others.

Along with Armey is board member and fellow Republican James Burnley, former Department of Transportation Secretary under George H.W. Bush. He was active in the campaigns of such notable Republicans as George W. Bush, Elizabeth Dole, Bob Dole and John McCain. Currently he is a partner in the law firm of Venable LLP. In 2007, Venable was ranked as one of the top 25 lobbying firms by Rollcall, a newspaper in Washington thats been around since 1955. He also sits on the board of directors of Infrasoft, Inc. Infrasoft Inc. is a company that specializes in software for outsourcing (our American jobs!). Infrasoft’s vision is “to be one of the leading and preferred IT service and solutions provider in the Philippines.” We wish him and Infrasoft great success, Not!

Do any of the local organizers of these tea parties understand what this movement is really about? Government services, which cost tax dollars, is one of the issues that many tea party organizers have been rallying against. Okay, I can see the point when it comes to Octo-mom who has 8 babies, along with the bunch she already has, just because she knows the government is going to prop her up. However, many of the people currently using those government services are hard working Americans who have paid plenty into the government coffers. Unfortunately, due to the corporate trend of out-sourcing jobs, both manufacturing and service, to overseas companies, they have to rely on government services in the form of unemployment compensation, food stamps and welfare to help them through. Just how can Mr. Burnley justify being on the board of directors of a company dedicated to providing outsourcing products and a group who supposedly is for lower taxes? Those two goals are contradictory, to my mind.

Matt Kibbe, whose resume, peculiarly, is not listed along with the other board members, was the previous president of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). Though it was promoted as a consumer group, according to, the Washington Post reported that 85% of its funding in 1998 came from major corporations such as Amoco and Citibank. CSE merged with Freedom Works in 2004.

Another organization taking credit for the grassroots tea parties is Americans for Prosperity. David Koch, a billionaire co-owner of Koch Industries, heads that group, which is an offshoot of CSE. His company had a 97 charge federal indictment and possible fines of over $350 million for environmental crimes in September of 2000. They were charged with hiding the fact that 91 metric tons of benzene was released by the company oil refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. Benzene is a known carcinogen. After George W. Bush was elected, 88 of those charges were dropped by John Ashcroft, and after a plea bargain, there was no jail time for the 4 executives charged and the fines were a fraction of what they should have been.

Still another player in the tea party movement is Newt Gringrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future organization. There is current buzz that Newt may be gearing up for a 2012 presidential run. Newt Gringrich, along with Dick Armey, was the architect for the “Contract with America” that the American people bought and so brought the Republicans back into power in 1994. Mr. Gingrich was a Congressman for 20 years and was elected to Speaker of the House. Why didn’t he do all this when he was in a position of power? According to his website, after he was elected Speaker, he “disrupted the status quo by moving power out of Washington and back to the American people. Wait a minute . . . . Where was I? I do not quite remember that power shift. I would also like to know who stole it back!

Has anyone ever heard the phrase “herd mentality?” Herd mentality is a state where people, instead of thinking for themselves, are swept up in new ideas, trends, fashions, etc., because other people are doing it. I believe that is the basis for the tea parties and really, it is a brilliant move on the part of known and proven strategists like Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey. That also makes them(and all the rest of them) dangerous.

Before anyone gets upset, thinking I called him or her a cow for participating, that is not quite true. However, if you are a Democrat or an Independent voter who bought into the non-partisan ideal of a grassroots movement, you should feel a bit used. You helped to make that effort a great success on behalf of the national organizers, all of which are Republican. I am sure not all of the people who attended these tea parties were unaware of the facts, and of the movers and shakers behind them. I am also sure that many did not. That is where the herd mentality comes from.

For all of you who want to change the government, I am right there with you. I, too, am upset with many aspects of our government, both past and current. However, before I make a move, I check my facts. I do my research. I know what I am talking about. I do not allow trends or movements to affect my decisions. My decisions are made only after I gather the facts. Even then, with the advent of new facts, I can change my opinion. That is the only way to leave the herd and move to the front of the line. Knowledge is power.