Tea-party activists: Just as ignorant as you thought
Former Bush speechwriter David Frum enlisted some interns this week to survey Tea Party activists protesting in D.C. earlier this week. The goal was to get a sense of the activists’ understanding of taxes — ostensibly, the "movement’s" raison d’être — and factual knowledge.
Bruce Bartlett reported today on the survey’s results, and found that for an anti-tax group, "they don’t know much about taxes."
Indeed, it appears much of the Tea Party crowd is simply clueless about the issues they claim to care the most about, wildly exaggerating federal tax rates, how much a median family pays in taxes, and what’s changed since President Obama took office.
In short, no matter how one slices the data, the Tea Party crowd appears to believe that federal taxes are very considerably higher than they actually are, whether referring to total taxes as a share of GDP or in terms of the taxes paid by a typical family.
Tea Partyers also seem to have a very distorted view of the direction of federal taxes. They were asked whether they are higher, lower or the same as when Barack Obama was inaugurated last year. More than two-thirds thought that taxes are higher today, and only 4% thought they were lower; the rest said they are the same.
As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president…. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama’s policies.
There were no questions in the survey about health care policy, but it stands to reason that these same folks are basing their opposition to the Democratic plan based on little more than confusion.
Bruce added that "it’s a bad idea for so many participants to operate on the basis of false notions." It is, indeed. We’re talking about a reasonably large group of people who seem to have no idea what they’re talking about, revel in their own ignorance, and nevertheless seek an active role in the process.
Making matters worse, this is also a group that seems to actively eschew reality, deliberately rejecting the truth because facts are perceived as having a liberal bias. As John Cole recently noted, "It really is quite amazing what you can do with a group of people who are completely uninterested in the truth, unwilling to believe anything that comes from someone other than Rush or Glenn Beck or an ‘acceptable’ source of information, and who have a vested interest in believing what they want to believe, reality be damned."
Following up on an item from last month, this is important to the extent that there are still some who believe the political mainstream should do more to listen to the Tea Party crowd and take its hysterical cries seriously. But how can credible people take nonsense seriously and hope to come up with a meaningful result? How can policymakers actually address substantive challenges while following the advice of angry mobs who reject reason and evidence?
The bottom line seem inescapable: Tea Party activists have no idea what they’re talking about. Their sincerity notwithstanding, this is a confused group of misled people.