Idaho news organizations (especially TV stations) like to mark Tax Day by staking out the post offices that are open until midnight in an effort to accost tax procrastinators as they try to beat the federal government's filing deadline.
A live TV report from the scene of action provides a means of waylaying some hapless taxpayer who hoped to collect an April 15 postmark, get in and get out. That taxpayer is then coerced into performing for the camera, leading to an awkward off-the-cuff interview that is less than inspired.
REPORTER: Why are you here today?
TAXPAYER: Because I need to pay my taxes.
REPORTER: Why did you wait so long?
TAXPAYER: Because I was busy.
REPORTER: Doing what?
TAXPAYER: Earning a living.
REPORTER: How does it feel to be here on April 15?
Yes, very enlightening. Riveting. Why people aren't watching local television newscasts is anyone's guess.
Interviews with taxpayers racing to beat the April 15 deadline is pure sophistry that misses the point entirely. People are getting taxed to death, and those who show up on April 15 with an eleventh-hour filing are generally hurting the most or resent the fact that they have to write massive checks to the federal government when they could be investing that money in their families and businesses. That's the real story. Another story is that many of the people who file early to collect the federal government's "gift" of hundreds or thousands of dollars in refunds are repossessing the money that they unconsciously lent the government in the form of an interest-free loan. The joke's on the refund recipient, but too many don't realize it.
The one basic way in which our rights are siphoned from us is through taxation. Taxation is a necessary evil, but necessity gives way to tyranny when people have to work four months just to pay their local, state and federal governments. According to the Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day for Idaho - the date Idahoans can stop working for the government and start working for ourselves - is today, April 12. This gives Idaho the 18th-highest tax burden in the country.
This year, thankfully, reporters will have something new on which to focus, and I hope they pay close attention. Thousands of Americans take part in nationwide Tea Parties. As many as 2,000 could be involved in rallies slated for Boise. I'm told other tea parties are planned from Coeur d'Alene to Twin Falls to Pocatello. In fact, there are grass-roots tea party organizers operating in 18 Idaho cities.
Tea parties reflect recently inspired frustration with Congress, particularly with those evil twins Stimulus and Omnibus. Both bills increase the size and scope of government, aimlessly spend trillions of dollars and saddle us, our kids and our grandkids with unimaginable debt and very imaginable tax increases. And no one - not a single senator or representative - ever read either bill. No one could definitively say what was in the stimulus legislation until weeks after it passed. The tea parties also reflect outrage over the federal government's taxpayer-funded takeover of the banking and automobile industries and anger over impending proposals to curtail our constitutional rights.
Taxpayers have about had enough, which in a way is a good thing. The overextension of the government didn't happen yesterday, last month or even last year. It's been simmering for some time. And not just on the national level. Here in Idaho, local and state governments do too much and tax too much. City, county and school districts set their budgets and pass policy often without any scrutiny.
But now, people have a chance to stand together, with likeminded individuals who are also worried and worked up about the dissolution of liberty and free markets. Today, tea partyers are making signs and planning for an event-filled April 15. What happens on April 16 and thereafter is what really matters. Some don't expect much will come from the Tea Party of 2009, that it will be a lot of bluster that dissipates as fast as the crowds disperse. I think the opposite is true. Many people didn't expect that the Boston Tea Party would lead to so much, and yet it did.
The tea party organizers who I have spoken to are ordinary Idahoans who are passionate about liberty. They're committed to the cause. We all are. It's going to take a solid turnout on April 15 - and unity and perseverance afterward - to make sure the passion does not fade after Tax Day has ended.