“Happy Tax Day,” said Tennessee Rep. Martha Blackburn to a crowd of tea partiers gathered at the Washington Monument Thursday evening. “Do you feel like you're getting your money's worth?”
It was no surprise that the crowd, members of a burgeoning conservative movement unhappy with Congress and the White House, didn’t answer in the affirmative.
Many Tea Party activists say that they're motivated to speak out about fiscal responsibility on behalf of future generations.
“When I first started going to meetings, I immediately liked that everyone was friendly, organized, and genuinely concerned for their children and grandchildren,” said JoAnne Carowick, a homemaker who became involved with the Tea Party in State College, Pa.
Carowick said she worries every time she thinks about her six-year-old grandson and the burden she believes he will face from excessive government spending and high taxes.
“I like that everyone is worried for their children and grandchildren, too,” she said, gesturing to one of the numerous families present at the rally on the National Mall.
Tea Party tax rallies occurred all over the nation on Thursday. Members oppose high taxes, government spending, and what they see as a lack of adherence to the Constitution by a Democrat-led Washington. Members of the Tea Party say they represent the “average citizen.”
“Look around,” said Ernest Comisac, a retired engineer from Pennsylvania. “When you walk up to people here, they are like your neighbor. They go to work, pay their taxes, try to put their kids through college.”
Joe Vinskey, an employee of the federal government in Dayton, Ohio, said that one of the things that made him become involved with the Tea Party was that it’s a nationwide movement with no leader in Washington to make it “D.C.-centric.”
“They're not trying to start another government party,” Vinskey said. “They are trying to fix what we already have.”
Raymond Tignall, an estimator for a mechanical contractor in Eldersburg, Md., said he and his wife heard of the Tea Party through conservative talk radio.
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“I don't want to be a government-controlled country,” Tignall said. “We're all leaders. We give the government its power. And the Tea Party embodies that.”
“I'm here primarily to support the idea of small government,” added Comisac. “You can't depend on your politicians so how can you allow the government to have this much control?”
Comisac cited the recently-passed health care overhaul bill and the Wall Street bailouts as examples of the government's over-intervention in citizen's lives and the country's economy.
“I want to see non-partisanship in our government,” he said. “Non-partisanship to the point that barely any legislation will be passed, because I hate to say it, but when anything happens in Washington, it's bad.”
Carowick, echoing a sentiment held by many party members, said she thinks the welfare system is out of control.
“I think we do need to help those who have less,” she said. “But the taxes are too much and we aren't seeing any difference in the situations of those less privileged.”
Members at Thursday’s Washington rally decried politicians for failing to listen to constituents.
“The way health care was pushed through was potentially a constitutional crisis,” Vinskey said. “Our elected representatives today aren't respecting the Constitution.”
That's why everyone here would probably call themselves a “constitutional conservative,” he said.
Tignall said he believes in the Constitution and fears that executive orders and bribes are undermining it.
“The Constitution has an amazing way of keeping groups from becoming too powerful,” he said. “I want it to keep protecting the rights and freedom of my grandchildren.”
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