This is in response to comments received on "Why The Tax Day Tea Party is a Stupid Idea" -- for further information and for the original comments, check back there.
I think whoever organized the Tea Parties needs to work on their publicity campaign and documentation. Just reading through these comments, I have counted five separate reasons given behind them:
1) 'I am personally plotting a revolution against the federal government because I just don't like income tax.' (Incidentally, the link connected to this one doesn't seem to work, so I'm forced to draw a conclusion based on the comment itself.)
So what's the R3volution about? Well, according to my trusty companion, Google, it's the work of a politician named Ron Paul, who depending on who you ask is either a failed Republican (which doesn't make this sound any less like a Republican publicity stunt) or a reborn Libertarian (which, according to their website, thinks that things were much better when the state and federal governments didn't interfere in people's business and didn't impose taxes. You know, back when we had the Articles of Confederation.
2) 'This was a grassroots event of the people to show their outrage against the government!' I'll buy that if Republicans will stop claiming that every time someone raises a grassroots event against Wal-Mart, for example, it's not simply backed by greedy unions. Or, on the other side of the coin, that whenever someone protests against a grassroots event against said company, that they aren't immediately accused of being shills for the other side. Grassroots movements are typically usurped to represent greater causes -- this is part of the risk of letting people into the movement, especially if you're actually concerned about representing 'the will of the people'. The people might not want what you want. Which brings us to...
3) 'But it is about taxation without representation! Our politicians don't listen to us and our president is a dirty liar!' To put it bluntly, elected representatives are supposed to listen to the populations of the people they were elected by. The problem, of course, is when they don't. That said, it's awfully difficult to claim that someone is lying / not listening to the voice of the people when they are, at least to outward appearances, attempting to do exactly what they promised.
4) 'But we're against Republicans AND Democrats!' For all that we smile and pretend that we work on a system of multiple parties, the 'silent majority' of Americans are in either the Republican or Democratic party, which means that if you aren't, your goals automatically fall into the realm of 'vocal minority'. You might have some valid points, but witty acronyms are the sort of thing I do to make my players laugh at the gaming table, not the sort of thing a third party considering a serious run at political power should be trying.
5) 'Our budget is too overblown! We need to reduce spending!' This seems to be the point most people are trying to make -- and there is a kernel of truth to it. Remember how I said that 2010's budget was lower than 2009's (Obama signed for $3,552 billion versus Bush's $3,938 billion?) Both numbers are still dramatically higher than 2008's $2,983 billion. The question is, how much of this increase includes folding in of appropriations and other 'off-budget' expenditures, and how much of this increase is pure inflation?
One statistic given by a commenter was that "Only 10 years ago, the federal budget was roughly one-third less than it is today." So I pulled up an inflation calculator and typed in 66 for 1999, and asked it to tell me what the results were for 2009 -- $87.14. Roughly two thirds of the budget increase between 1999 and 2009 can be attributed to raw inflation. Scary, huh?
Let's keep talking, though -- it's interesting to hear others' perspectives, and it does explain a few things that haven't really been openly discussed yet.