Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tax Revolt: This Is Joseph Kellard Speaking

By Joseph Kellard

Rational selfishness got a hearing at a “tax revolt” in Levittown, Long Island, hosted by a Young Republicans Club on Saturday. In other words, I got the opportunity to speak to a crowd of about 100 people.

Throughout, I held a sign that read: “Ayn Rand was right, Read Alas Shrugged,” Two teens waved their “Who Is John Galt?” signs at me. One scheduled speaker told me about mine: “That’s a great sign.” And a 20-something man told me he’s reading Atlas, say it was “amazing” how Rand “predicted everything going on today” in 1957.

The speakers gave standard conservative speeches, railing against onerous taxes, left-wing media and the loss of personal responsibility. The best comment among them was: “I like making money and being sorta selfish.”

This woman, the emcee, later gave the microphone to anyone willing to talk. A few protestors made more standard comments.

I recall that I started my speech by mentioning Atlas Shrugged, and said that our nation’s founding principles – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – are based on rational selfishness, the morality that Ayn Rand fully, explicitly developed and advocated.

Mentioning a speaker who had questioned how it was possible that socialism was making a comeback, I also noted that our nation grew out of tax revolts and that we’re still holding them today. “It’s because Americans still hold to the morality of self-sacrifice, the belief that we must live our lives for others,” I said. “If we don’t question that ethic and understand that there is nothing morally wrong with living for our own sake, then we can expect more and more taxes.”

I said that self-sacrifice is the basis for such government programs as welfare for the poor “to, yes, even Social Security and Medicare.”

I ended by stressing that the tea parties/tax revolts will ultimately amount to nothing unless people challenge the morality of self-sacrifice and uphold the rationally selfish principles on which America was founded. The crowd gave me a generous, if slightly reserved, hand.

After I handed the microphone back to the emcee and walked to my car, I heard her tell the crowd that what I said was “partly true,” and she tried to qualify my appeal to rational selfishness by saying it was OK to help others!

Ultimately, all that matters is that I was able to broadcast the central issue: rational selfishness = freedom.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tea Time

Local taxpayers join nationwide series of protests

By Joseph Kellard

For Frank McQuade, it was a tough decision to skip his annual trip to the gala dinner at the New York State Republican Convention in Manhattan last week and instead have some tea. The Long Beach attorney joined about 350 protesters who lined the sidewalks of Sunrise Highway at the Massapequa train station in a Tax Day Tea Party, one of hundreds held across the country.

The sign-wielding, American flag-waving Nassau County protesters voiced their discontent with what they called government’s burdensome taxes, ongoing bailouts, massive spending and pending inflation, as rush-hour motorists honked in solidarity.

“Duty really calls to be at the tea party, because the answer at this point is not parties, not the entrenched,” said McQuade. “… Taxation is choking off initiative, watering down the free market system and is going to burden us with debt that is going to change the face of this country not as we anticipated when [President] Obama was elected.”

For the protests, tea became TEA, standing for “taxed enough already,” and the gatherings — on April 15, for obvious reasons —were likened to the Boston Tea Party of 1773. There were some 25 protests on Long Island alone, from Hicksville to East Hampton, and according to one estimate, there were more than a half-million participants nationwide.

In Massapequa, some voiced their concern with what they described as their fellow Americans’ loss of personal responsibility and can-do spirit, while others characterized Obama, former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain as fundamentally alike on economics, and a few expressed alarm that Obama had pushed out General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner.

Many flashed hand-made signs reading, “No taxation without representation,” “Dump the tea, dump the tax,” “We the people, not we the government,” “Foreclose the White House,” “I am not your ATM” and “No socialized medicine.”

Mike Friechter, a Bellmore attorney who held a sign that said “Obamanomics: Trickle up poverty,” said he believes the president is governing as a socialist.

“Growth is unlimited by imagination, hard work and the American spirit,” Friechter said. “The idea of punishing people for being successful in life is counterproductive. It just makes everyone equally poor, and that’s what we’re protesting against. We want the politicians to know that we won’t be silent about this outrageous spending.”

Tom Walsh, owner of a home-inspecting business, called politicians at all levels “tax crazy,” and said that while he is forced to cut back, they continue to expand government budgets. “We’re committing suicide and they’re spending us into oblivion,” said Walsh, a Syosset resident. “People have no idea what a trillion is, and we’re never going to pay this money back.”

While a few politicians were in attendance, including the Nassau County Legislature’s minority leader, Republican Peter Schmitt, the Massapequa organizers made it a point not to invite government officials. “This is not an affiliation with any political party,” said organizer Laura Gill. “This is really just American taxpayers on Long Island coming together who are just looking to be really vocal about our displeasure with what is going on.”

Gill, who works in insurance, said she organized the event mostly through word of mouth and a Web site, and got involved because Obama’s stimulus bill “will take a heavy toll on hardworking American taxpayers,” she said. “They feel that their American dream and the future of their children is going to be gone.”

Another party-goer, Charles Hapaey, said he is most concerned about the impact increased government spending will have on future generations. “We have to stop it now,” said Hapaey, noting that his property taxes have risen $9,000 since he bought his West Islip home in 2002. “Otherwise they’re going to have a problem that they’re not going to be able to deal with in the years to come.”

Hapaey, who was holding a “Don’t punish success” sign, said his wife works as many as 70 hours a week on her own local newspaper, and he fears that Obama will reverse President Clinton’s “workfare” programs, which took people off the welfare rolls. “If she’s going to put in that time and be successful, why should I be paying for someone who wants to put in 30 hours a week, not put in the time and do just enough to get by, and then I have to supplement their income?” Hapaey said. “I’m not happy with that.”

A nationwide protest is planned for July Fourth. Gill said she plans to keep in touch with other participants, and discuss ways to effect change, from becoming watchdogs of Washington to voting together. “I think what the tea parties will do is make people realize that this is not what the American people want, and nobody is behind it except for the very small few who are going to benefit from it,” she said. “Let’s get back to the American dream. You reap the benefits of working hard, and no more handouts.”