400 Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
- Toll Free 1.888.564.6273
- Local 202.783.3870
For now, it’s not about the war on terrorism, abortion or gay marriage.
The issue stoking outrage among thousands of conservatives across the country is runaway spending. And that’s why they chose Wednesday — tax day, April 15 — to hold "tea party" rallies nationwide.
Dozens of tea party rallies are being planned to oppose the Obama administration’s fiscal policies. At least 10 rallies are being planned in the Metroplex. Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to attend the Fort Worth rally at LaGrave Field.
"It’s a day to get together with fellow patriots all across the state of Texas," Perry said in a YouTube video about the rallies posted last week. "Let them know what you think about the bailouts, all this stimulus, all this runaway spending going on in Washington, D.C."
The rallies are the most visceral display of a growing frustration among conservatives over President Barack Obama’s approach to the economic crisis. Though the multibillion-dollar bailouts started under President George W. Bush, the opposition from conservatives has grown stronger as Obama has increased the public stake in troubled banks and other private industries while continuing to pursue expensive campaign promises like healthcare reform.
"It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to know we’ve been living beyond our means," said U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, who plans to attend a rally in Seabrook. "Most people are looking around and thinking who are they going to blame the most. I think there’s plenty of blame to go around."
Paul has been speaking out about fiscal discipline for over 20 years. He focused his presidential bid last year on the issue and gained a small but passionate group of supporters around the country. In recent weeks, some have assumed that Paul and his supporters were behind the Tea Party movement, he said.
"What’s amazing about this is that it’s not from some central organizer," Paul said. "These things are popping up spontaneously around the country."
It began on Wall Street
Ironically, a nationwide movement of those opposed to Wall Street bailouts began on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli gained folk hero status in February after delivering a tirade against the Obama administration’s plan to help people in foreclosure stay in their homes. Santelli attracted whoops and cheers from traders as he slammed the federal government’s decision to "promote bad behavior." He announced a "Chicago tea party" for capitalists who don’t want to "subsidize the losers’ mortgages."
The clip was widely distributed online. Within a week, tea party rallies were being organized in cities around the country.
Hundreds attended the Fort Worth rally local activists organized at a west-side bar in February. By then, the focus had extended beyond Santelli’s criticism to fears of trillion-dollar deficits and Obama’s overall fiscal strategy. Protesters carried signs like "Taxpayers Revolt Against Gimme-mania" and "Obama ’bin Lyin’, No-More-Pork."
This week’s Fort Worth event is being organized by the Tarrant County Republican Party, which also put up the money to lease LaGrave Field. Party chairwoman Stephanie Klick said no one should think the local GOP has co-opted the movement from the grassroots activists.
"This is still an American event," Klick said. "I get calls every day from Democrats that voted for this president and will tell me that this is not what they voted for."
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Denton is helping organize some of the rallies through his conservative FreedomWorks group. He said that Washington has been spending irresponsibly for years but that Obama appears to be taking that approach a step further.
"President Obama seems to want to move so far so fast that he’s alarming a lot of people," said Armey, who plans to attend a rally in Atlanta.
While many in the movement appear to be focusing on Obama, Paul stressed that members of both parties are guilty. Obama is "to blame for perpetuating the problem," Paul said. "You can’t create this crisis in 60 days."
Taxes are a hot issue
Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said Republicans have long found success emphasizing tax cuts and reduced spending.
"That message will play for them again but right now Americans are so focused on Obama being successful that they’re going to give him a chance," Jillson said. "What that means for Republicans is for the next six months to a year, they are going to be shouting into a wind tunnel with no real effect."
Steve Maxwell, chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, said it isn’t only Republicans who are concerned about federal spending.
"I think it concerns the most liberal Democrat," Maxwell said. "Our position is there is a good reason. We are in an extraordinary situation that requires extraordinary actions."
Local Democrats are in the early stages of planning their own rally to show support for Obama, Maxwell said.
"I almost hesitate to call it a counterprotest, but it’s to do something that is in support of the future of our country," Maxwell said.