ON THE ONE HAND...Let's start this time with the tea party folks. Angry Americans of all shapes and...well, angry Americans gathered across the country today with original signs and American flags to express their deep, Fox News-inspired anger at taxes and spending. I was lucky enough to find out about one such event, in Lafayette Park right outside the White House, so during my lunch break, I headed over. There were like 200 people there, not even close to filling the square, and this was supposed to be one of their biggest protests. I mostly saw middle-aged men, and young clean Republican staffer-types, and they had all these signs that said “STOP BANKRUPTING OUR CHILDREN” and “I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK.” It then started pouring rain, so I started leaving, but I got right next to the protest, and I could barely hear it because they were huddled in a big circle. Most people walking by the White House barely noticed there was a protest, and were still taking pictures etc.
Trust me, it’s even more bizarre in person than it is on TV. It’s amazing that these people neither would be negatively impacted by Obama’s tax cuts, nor are any of them really among the most impacted by the recession. They’re just generally angry and bitter. Seeing these suited Republican staffers with crew cuts thinking they can protest with such moral authority is pretty difficult to watch. Krugman was absolutely right to compare it to Florida in 2000, when Republicans staffers were flown in from Washington to stage a protest in order to shut down the recount. As far as I can tell so far, only one reporter actually tried to get some substance out of these people, and it turned out to be pretty entertaining.
You have to hand it to these folks in one respect: they were able to get a mild amount of attention from the mainstream media. Whether that helps or hurts them in the long-run is up for debate.
ON THE OTHER HAND...: Back to the real world, President Obama gave his two cents on American tax policy. He repeatedly emphasized that 95% of Americans received a tax cut in the recently passed economic stimulus bill, and that they wouldn't see their taxes raised one dime in the future. He also, in typical Obama fashioned, explained that middle-class tax cuts are more effective than tax cuts for the rich, because people are more likely to spend the money quickly. He even got in a nice shot at his critics in the Republican party by saying that they use taxes as a "wedge to scare people into supporting policies that actually increased the burden on working people."
In terms of policy substance, he announced that the chair of his Economic Recovery Board, Paul Volcker, is starting a review of the tax code with a goal of making it simpler and less prone to waste, fraud and abuse. I'm always skeptical when people say simplifying the tax code is a solution to our fiscal problems, because it's usually a lot more complicated than that, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
The President switches gears tomorrow as he embarks on a four day trip to Latin America. We will have full coverage tomorrow when he arrives in Mexico City.
NY20: One quick update on the Congressional race in New York: It looks like Democrat Scott Murphy is gonna win this thing. After almost all absentee ballots were counted in Saratoga county, Republican Jim Tedisco's stronghold on election day, Murphy leads by 86 votes. Almost all of the outstanding ballots are from counties that Murphy carried. This is all pretty impressive considering that Tedisco led by 20 points in the polls two months ago. I think we can safely say that the Republican party has not started its comeback yet.
That's it for tonight, see you tomorrow!