Political Hay

Obama’s Tea-Leaf Readers

They know the dissatisfaction is deeper than reported.

By 4.22.09

Send to Kindle

It's been a week since several hundred thousand Americans met in some 750 cities at TEA ("Taxed Enough Already") parties to protest high taxes and government spending. One group sent a million tea bags to the White House. The self-styled "mainstream" media had studiously avoided covering the phenomenon in advance and, led by the New York Times, belittled it afterward. They were joined by the Obama Administration and its acolytes as being only the ventings of disgruntled conservatives.

These all tended to say that the TEA parties were the brainchildren of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or the Fox News Channel. In fact, the tea party idea was first mentioned by a commentator on CNN, followed by a mid-February TEA party in Orlando, Florida, that drew some four thousand participants.

Oddly, the Obama Administration, which quickly dismissed the events as trivial and inconsequential, kept right on doing so nearly a week later. If something were inconsequential wouldn't they comment, then drop it? Instead, Last Sunday, as a guest on a TV public affairs program, Obama advisor David Axelrod said, "The thing that bewilders me is this president just cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people. So I think the tea bags should be directed elsewhere because he certainly understands the burden that people face."

This mantra was repeated by others. It belies the fact that the "tax cut" referred to amounts to an average $8-a-week reduction in Social Security taxes deducted from paychecks (and does not relieve those workers from the tax liability at year's end). And, for those who pay no income tax, it is in the form of checks called "rebates." If you don't pay taxes there is nothing to rebate. What they amount to are transfers from Americans who pay taxes to those who don't, a.k.a. welfare.

Axelrod's hyperbolic defense of Obama's policy was widely covered on Monday. Then, on Tuesday, President Obama, at the opening of a cabinet meeting, allowed tape recorders to keep rolling after the obligatory group photo, so that he could trumpet "savings" being effected by his appointees. One of these was the "news" that the Department of Homeland Security would save $62 million over the next 10 years by engaging in bulk purchases of supplies. One wonders why they hadn't been doing that all along. The other savings were, accordingly, also minor against the backdrop of record deficits and a $7.6 trillion federal budget.

The Obama recitation, combined with the continuous criticism of the TEA parties by his tribunes, tells us that the White House has been reading its internal polls and finding that the TEA parties were a much more worrisome demonstration of public dissatisfaction than it wants the public to know.

Despite Obama's cool exterior and occasionally soaring rhetoric, he is not immune from making mistakes. The jolly handshake with Hugo Chavez is one; the budget and deficit are two very large ones.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”