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What Do You Think of the Tea Parties?

You may have heard about these "tax day tea parties" that took place around the country today. In hundreds of cities, protesters gathered to oppose excessive taxation and wasteful government spending, and air a general suspicion that the common man is being cheated.According to legend, the tea party idea was sparked by a February rant by CNBC's Rick Santelli, in which he railed against homeowners who can't pay their mortgages and the politicians subsidizing their bad decision making. In the Squack Box segment, Santelli called for a "Chicago tea party" to dump worthless derivative securities into Lake Michigan. This sentiment-that government bailouts, broadly construed, were undermining personal responsibility and wasting taxpayers' money-resonated with many frustrated Americans. Since then, a number of these tea parties have happened, culminating with today's coordinated national event.There's been a lot of controversy about whether or not the tea parties represent a genuine grassroots movement or Fox News-fueled "astroturf." But the revelations that conservative nonprofits and media shills are involved shouldn't be shocking. The tea parties are political; of course political organizations are trying to capitalize on them and co-opt them.Like any large rallies, including the anti-globalization and anti-war demonstrations of the 1990s, the tea parties lack a laser-tight focus and provide critics with plenty to ridicule. Some of the ridicule is opportunistic sniping. Some is valid and substantive. To the extent that the tea parties are about high taxes, they seem really out of touch with reality. As Krugman notes: "President Obama is being called a "socialist" who seeks to destroy capitalism. Why? Because he wants to raise the tax rate on the highest-income Americans back to, um, about 10 percentage points less than it was for most of the Reagan administration. Bizarre."But, to the extent that the tea parties are about watching government spending for waste and rewarding hard work rather than the manipulation of the rules, they don't seem all that crazy.And if you want to see some of the more bizarre, hypocritical, or racist signs from the DC tea parties, check this photo gallery. But if you want to remind yourself that a range of people show up to these events and most want the best for America just like you, search Flickr for taxdayteaparty.

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