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Denogean: Tea party goers steeped in bitter loss of election

This was my absolute favorite sign from Wednesday’s Tucson Tea Party tax protest at El Presidio Park:

“Taxes are revolting and so are we.”

OK. I had to get that out of the way. The event, one of more than 700 anti-tax rallies held around the country, was well-organized and well-attended, with an estimated 3,000 Tucsonans showing up to oppose excessive government spending.

As such, I wanted to take the protesters seriously. But they all sang the same one-note – no, make that two-note – song: Taxes are bad and Obama is destroying America.

As to the second note, where were these folks for the last eight years as George W. Bush systematically destroyed America? If Obama fails, it will be because the damage of the Bush years will have proved too great to undo.

As to the primary note of the song, I couldn’t help, as I walked around Presidio Park, but to think about how each and every person in attendance benefits from government spending.

It’s not that I love paying taxes or that I don’t think that government is often wasteful. But, overall, our collective tax dollars are used to do some pretty amazing things.

Among other things, tax dollars are used to educate our children, to keep the public safe by putting police on the streets and keeping the bad guys they catch in prison, to pave the streets we drive on and to provide financial security for the elderly.

Many of those in attendance Wednesday were senior citizens. I doubt that any of them would forsake their Social Security and Medicare benefits or categorize those benefits as “wasteful government spending.”

I also saw parents with young children, at least some of whom are or will enroll in public schools paid for by taxes.

Star Elliott, 35, attended the event with her adorable young son Cash. She’s worried that he’s growing up in a country that is losing its values. She worries that excessive government spending is creating debt that his generation will have to pay off.

“My son already owes $35,000 and he’s 6-and-a-half months old,” she said because of government spending.

I asked if she plans on sending her son to public schools.

“We can’t afford private school. We live payday to payday,” Elliott said, adding, “Our public schools aren’t very promising.”

Fair enough. But I’d argue that’s exactly why taxpayers should be increasing the investment in public schools, rather than complaining about taxes. Quality doesn’t come cheap.

After Elliott and I said our goodbyes, I came across a little girl with a funny sign.

“Where’s my free pony?” it asked in big print. In smaller print, it added, “and laptop, lunch and healthcare.”

Her mother, as it turned out, is a public educator who doesn’t think our taxes should be paying for breakfast, lunch, basic medical care or laptops for schoolkids.

My conversation with the mother was pleasant, but our positions at polar extremes.

See, I don’t like the idea of an impoverished child sitting in class with an empty, grumbling belly. And I’m OK with my tax dollars being used to feed that kid if his parents can’t.

As far as computers for school kids, if we want kids to compete in a global economy, making sure they have laptops is as essential as providing them with papers and pencils.

Another thing I noticed at the protest was a sprinkling here and there of “Thank a cop” bumper stickers.

Hmm. How do these anti-tax advocates plan on showing their appreciation to our heroes in blue? With flowers and a smile?

City of Tucson police didn’t get a raise this year. If you want to “thank a cop” with a raise in fiscal 2010, it’s likely that the city will need more tax revenue.

Before I left the protest, I approached Beverly Hyatt, 52, who had a sign identifying her as “One Pissed Off Voter.”

What are you pissed off about? I asked.

“Where do I begin?” she said.

Socialism. The bailout. The stimulus plan. Taxation. Restrictions on the Second Amendment. Restrictions on freedom of speech.

Wait a minute. Has Obama proposed some new gun restrictions that I’m unaware of?

“Not yet,” Hyatt said.

Has he moved to restrict your freedom of speech?

“Not yet,” she said.

Has the administration imposed new taxes?

“Not yet, but they will.”

Back in the real world, Obama’s stimulus plan created a “Making Work Pay” tax credit of $400 for individuals and $800 for families making less than $250,000 a year.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve seen the difference in each of my last two paychecks.

Fox Network and conservative commentators, who combined to aggressively promote the “grass-roots” tea party protests, would have you believe the rallies are the start of a revolution or an indication of widespread discontent with the Obama administration, despite polls that say otherwise.

The protests around the country proved only that there are some ticked-off voters from the losing side, as there are after every election.

Maybe they should just settle in on the couch with a nice cup of chamomile tea and calm down.

Anne T. Denogean can be reached at adenogean@tucsoncitizen.com and 573-4582. Address letters to P.O. Box 26767, Tucson, AZ 85726-6767. Her columns run Tuesdays and Fridays.

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