It's a good day to talk taxes.
Rub your chin thoughtfully if this sounds familiar: Government spends a ton of money on an expensive foreign war while dispatching soldiers to fight radicals on other fronts. It needs to pay its bills. It resorts to specialty taxes. People get sore. Say it's not fair and, by gum, they'll do something about it.
That's right. The year was 1773 and the specialty tax was on tea, which was sort of the Diet Coke of its day. It had a loyal following. The government was Great Britain, which was coming off a costly dust-up with the French. The radicals were in the American colonies and took an ever-dimming view of imperialists.
Long story short, a bunch of radicals threw the tea into Boston Harbor rather than pay the taxes imposed by the crown.
Ever since, protesting taxes has been a cherished facet of American life. Today, there will be "Tea Party" demonstrations in Charlotte and other cities celebrating this universal theme.
Tax opponents, like latter-day prophets, come in many stripes. One should exercise care in selecting which branch to follow.
There are, for example, the constitutional inquisitors. Members will fix you with an unblinking eye and explain how the income tax is patently illegal, never properly ratified and some kind of socialist plot. Follow such drool at your own risk.
Actor Wesley Snipes is perhaps the most prominent to fall in with such a crowd. He said he was immune from taxes for reasons that are somewhat technical and difficult for most Earthlings to grasp. So persuasive were his arguments that a judge awarded him free room and board for three years in an exclusive gated community.
What sets today's protesters apart, however, is a simple fact: They are absolutely right.
Today's Tea Party focuses largely on two themes. The government wastes money. And it needs to quit spending more than it makes.
Theme One is a given. Money is spent on all sorts of things that rankle rational people. Research on skunks. Weird public art. Bridges to nowhere.
But Theme Two is the big one and doesn't get your attention like a bunch of guys dressed as Indians chucking crates into the bay.
For most of this decade, the federal government has been spending more than it makes. It has run up $11 trillion in debt. That's a lot of money, believe it or not. If we split it evenly among us, your share is about $36,000.
And here's the hard part: This has come on the backs of repeated tax cuts. And more tax relief is being used now to stoke the economy. It's bipartisan madness.
So now what gets cut? Not Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security. That's a huge chunk of federal spending and it's not going anywhere – those people vote.
Defense? Pretty popular too. So are education and public safety.
But the tax protesters are right. We can't keep this up. We're on the verge of becoming a bankrupt nation.
One thing we're not cutting is the budget of the Navy Seals. In fact, I'm thinking we ought to hand them the Treasury.