Friday, April 15, 2005

Capitol Tax Rally

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:35 PM |  

Kudos to David Strom and the Taxpayers League of Minnesotafor pulling off the "No New Taxes" Rally in the Capitol rotunda today and doing it on short notice. (Pictures at Kennedy vs. the Machine.) For an 8 o’clock in the morning event, a good-sized and enthusiastic crowd of a couple hundred wedged into the rotunda. As noted by Minnesota prodigal son Jason Lewis returning to Minnesota to MC the event, there were no government school buses outside.

As rallies go, conservative events generally have a little less hoopla and a little more substance that liberal events, although today’s crowd managed a rousing and surprisingly on key version of "Happy Birthday" in honor of the DFL, ironically founded 61 years ago on April 15 -- tax day.

The theme of the day reiterated by speakers including Governor Pawlent, Hous Majority Leader ErikPaulsen, Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum, Republican Party Chairman Ron Eibensteiner , and 6th District Congressman and Senate Candidate Mark Kennedy was clearly that higher taxes put a damper on economic growth; lower taxes mean more private sector jobs and ultimately more tax revenue for the state.

Governor Pawlenty noted that Minnesota tax revenues are up 8 percent as the result of holding the line on taxes and income tax receipts are up 13 percent.

Jason Lewis, a main driver of annual tax rallies while a talk show host at KSTP, rode his blazing saddle in from WBT in Charlotte to MC the gig, and once again remind Minnesotans that he has the heart of a liberal . . . which he keeps in a jar on his desk. From his reception, it’s also clear Lewis still has the hearts of Minnesota conservatives.

The finale of the event was the ceremonial signing of large "No New Taxes" pledges by Sixth District congressional candidates Jim Knoblach, Michele Bachmann, Cheri Pierson-Yecke and Jay Esmay. (“No New Taxes” is a good pledge to stand by, but it always makes me a little nervous when politicians are bound to promises to outside groups, even when it’s a group I agree with.)

But the best part of any rally is the protesters.

Most creative and least substantive award goes to the gaggle of about half-a-dozen women attired in faux furs and plastic tiaras -- looking for all the world like they stepped out of a bad community theater production of Arsenic and Old Lace -- waving play money and holding signs declaring themselves “Billionaires for Pawlenty.” “I’m rich. You’re not. God’s will” read one sign. Another -- “State Childcare. Hire an au pare.”

Clever, and they were clearly having a good time cheering wildly as if in support of the “No New Taxes theme.” However, their message -- Pawlenty’s No New Tax stance is sop for the wealthy -- didn’t play very well with the largely wage-earning crowd.

A more disturbing sign, one which I thought Jason Lewis referred to rather cavalierly, read “When did we stop seeing children and start seeing tax burdens?” Lewis noted the sign and asked to effect why his kids had to give up resources to support the protester’s kids, which drew cheers from the crowd.

Fair point, but without context, Lewis’ comment has that ring to it that resonates with a lot of people -- Conservatives are pretty cold-hearted, and the protestors parody of the wealth is not that far off. Unfortunately, conservatives just seem to have a knack of perpetuating that misconception.

A more thoughtful comment might have been asking the protester “When did we stop seeing children as members of families and start seeing them as wards of the state?”

The irksome thing about government spending is not providing health care, welfare benefits or special education funding to low-income families and individuals. The more bothersome and frequently ignored aspect of high taxes producing big government is the sense of entitlement we as a people are developing -- If a person is in trouble, their first option for support is government, and if there is no government program to help them, then their second option is pushing government to fund one.

Ever expanding government welfare is turning us into a people that knows neither how to accept charity with dignity nor offer it with compassion.

In the economic debate over taxes, we ought never lose sight of the fact that high taxes to support ever expanding government programs does irreparable damage to the character of a people. If you don’t believe that, ask yourself why 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education we’re still talking about an achievement gap in public schools.