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‘Tea parties’ come to New Mexico this week
Elwood Baas of Las Cruces said he is “fed up with the out-of-control spending of Congress” that includes a national debt of more than $11 trillion, massive corporate bailouts and unfunded liabilities of tens of trillions of dollars in other programs, including Medicaid.
“This is simply unsustainable, and would eventually reduce America to a banana republic,” Baas said. “I am concerned about my children and grandchildren.”
Baas plans to voice his frustration publicly this week at one of at least 16 “tea parties” that will be held in communities across the state. The protests and rallies were born out of a recent suggestion made during a rant by a TV journalist on national television, which has sparked a nationwide movement.
The rallies, in cities including Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Clovis, Hobbs, Taos, Farmington, Silver City and even Mayhill, will be held on Wednesday, the deadline for filing personal income tax returns. Click here for the most updated list NMI has obtained of the locations and other information for the events.
Marta Nystrom, a financial adviser who plans to attend the rally in Santa Fe, said the events are nonpartisan. Though a registered Republican, she said she’s actually socially moderate and fiscally libertarian, and she’s been registered as a Democrat in the past.
“We’re all united in the same desire to fix the problem,” Nystom said. “We just may not necessarily agree on what it will take, but there has got to be a huge concern about this continuing to bailout these companies and rewarding them for making these poor decisions.”
‘Kind of hypocritical’
Though most interviewed for this article, and most who have been attending similar events across the nation, identify themselves as fiscal conservatives, one New Mexican with a different viewpoint who will be speaking at the Santa Fe event is former Democratic state Sen. John Grubesic.
Never one to mince words, Grubesic said in an interview that he believes many of the people organizing the tea parties benefit from and don’t want to lose tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration. He said it’s “kind of hypocritical” for the wealthy — mostly Republicans — who have profited off of the government’s poor fiscal policies to compare their rallies to the 1773 protest after which they are named.
Though many involved in the tea parties, including Baas, say they want lower taxes and reduced government spending, Grubesic said such policies have harmed the American people.
“We’re starting to look like a Latin American country with the divergence in wealth. We are eradicating our middle class,” he said.
If he doesn’t agree with the impetus behind the tea parties, why is Grubesic speaking at one?
“I think the whole mess that our country is in is a bipartisan mess, and the only way we’re going to solve it is to have a dialogue,” he said. “I’m going to speak from my heart like I always do.”
GOP will assist ‘citizens of either party’
The Republican Party of New Mexico isn’t officially supporting the events, Chairman Harvey Yates Jr. said. But his office is tracking the parties and, he said, stands ready to assist “citizens of either party to protest their frustration at this administration’s financial ineptitude.”
“We have conversed with angry citizens of both parties who are concerned about the administration’s proposed spending plans because they cannot ascertain that the government has any means to pay for its proposals, other than through a combination of massive tax increases and massive inflation,” Yates said. “The former would move us toward European-type unemployment, and the latter would make this country’s finances look like those of Argentina.”
That sentiment is shared by Bob Cornelius, a Republican and former congressional candidate who is attending the Albuquerque tea party on Wednesday.
“I am joining other like-minded individuals from all party persuasions who believe our elected officials should maintain personal responsibility and fiscal responsibility with our tax dollars,” Cornelius said. “I am joining the cause to show my opposition to this out-of-control spending by the Obama administration and to stand up for a free-market society.”
‘Heed our voices now’
Grubesic said the push shouldn’t be to lower taxes or cut programs. He said most Americans are fine paying taxes, but “don’t get the bang for the buck that they expect.” That, he said, is what has to change.
“We need to produce a product and we haven’t been doing that,” Grubesic said. “Instead, We’re Band-Aiding everything.”
Baas said he sees the tea parties as “a first step in getting the attention of Congress to stop bailouts and reduce government spending.”
“I admit it will take more than a one-shot event,” he said, “but I think it will encourage ordinary citizens to be more aware of what is happening in Washington, and to take a more active part in the political process as we go forward.”
“What I hope will happen is that people who haven’t been thinking a lot about this will start thinking more, and that they will choose to become more active politically,” she said. “It’s gotten to the point where people forget that elected officials represent us, and we need to be telling them what to do, as opposed to this whole top-down approach to government, where they tell us what to do.”
Cornelius said the “enormous support” for the tea parties in New Mexico and around the nation “means that our citizenry is turning from apathy to engagement.” He said he hopes elected officials in New Mexico and Washington “heed our voices now and take a second look at some of the proposals being put forth by our governor and our president.”
“If our elected officials do not heed our voices today, they will definitely heed our vote come Election Day,” he said.