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Posts Tagged ‘Activism’

Letting Freedom Ring

I’ve written quite a bit over the last few weeks about the recent Tea Party protests and their long term potential. I’m of the belief that in order to be most effective conservatives need to start at the very bottom levels of government organizing, then get their people elected, the same people who will carry the conservative mantle to higher levels of government. Well, it looks like we’re starting to see that, starting with, of all places, Rhode Island! From Granite Grok (H/T The Corner and Michelle Malkin):

Mere days after the largest nationwide anti-tax rallies the likes of which haven’t been seen since prior to the start of the American Revolution, the City Council of Woonsocket, RI (Yes, THAT RI, with a sales, income, AND property tax, basically the highest in the country…) stood poised to stick the taxpayers with a “supplemental” tax bill to fund a budget shortfall in it’s school department. Essentially, the property taxpayers– with commercial owners paying 2-1/2 times the rate– would be sent a so-called “5th Quarter” tax bill. Normally, taxes are billed and paid in quarterly payments in the year.

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The local paper, The Woonsocket Call described the events:

Harris Hall was so packed that admittance was closed after about 130 spectators filled the room. People were standing against the back walls because there weren’t any more seats left and there was a line of speakers behind the lectern waiting to address the council that snaked out into the foyer. More than two hours after the session began, people were still waiting for their turn to speak, and the council hadn’t even recited the Pledge of Allegiance to mark the formal start of the agenda.

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The expected 6 to 1 vote favoring a supplemental tax bill to be foisted up Woonsocket taxpayers turned into a stunning 4 to 3 midnight vote, DEFEATING it!

An incredible display of citizen activism and organization. Want to start the momentum here? Get involved and attend Shenandoah County’s budget hearing next Thursday, April 30 (time pending). Although currently real estate taxes are not slated to be increased. there is talking of an increase on the vehicle tax (which Superivsors claim due to declining asessments will be “revenue neutral,” words always to be suspicious of when it comes to taxes assesed by value), it is important to ask questions about where the money is going and where it’s coming from. To borrow two old cliches: Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and knowledge is power.

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The Tea Parties: What Next?

The always brilliant Shaun Kenney lays out some of the questions and concerns I’ve had about the “Tea Party” “movement” (yes, that second set of quotation marks is intentional):

I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of “tea parties” to protest what most would accurately view as the mortgaging of our future.  $50 billion dollars in stimulus for Illinois is little more than the federal government whipping out the credit card and cranking up the printers at the Federal Reserve.  

It’s money from thin air, collateral against our children’s future.  OK — be angry about that.

But the way it is taken out on this reporter… this doesn’t help the cause of limited government, does it?

If this represents the mood, approach, and tenor of the liberty movement, count me out.  Doug Mataconisover at Below the Beltway has splendidly criticized the movement to describe not only what precisely they are for, but the outright hypocrisy of not opposing the massive expansion of government under President George W. Bush over the last eight years.

Where were the tea parties for Medicare expansion?  The Ag Bill?  When federal spending on education increased by over 50%?  When property taxes in localities in Virginia skyrocketed year after year?  

Shaun continues by pointing out that activists need to be serious not just in their scope but their direction as well:

In the meantime, until activists get serious not just about reducing and limiting the power and size of their government, but find a manner in which to share their ideals and principles without swearing at reporters (no matter what their bias), the wilderness is precisely what they deserve.  I’m quite certain we’ll see some oscillation — a brief victory here and there from time to time — but the steady march of socialism will remain quite unimpeded until they discover the backbone to do more than protest.

Now, I’m not as down on the Tea Parties as Shaun was. I think that many of the participants and backers here in Virginia (notably Crystal Clear Conservative and Tertium Quids) have been standing on principle for a long time and have taken their fellow Republicans/self-proclaimed conservatives and libertarians to task when they veer from the path of fiscal conservatism. By that same token, though, I do think a fair number of participants were driven by blind anti-Obamaism. I’m not saying that it is necessarily sour grapes, but it is true that many of these people stood aside while Bush ramped up big government programs in a way not seen since the Johnson administration. However, it is very clear that a sizable percentage of the population was heard, and indeed respected (51% of Americans viewed the protests favorably). 

I also agree with Shaun that many of the Tea Party protestors took the same sort of tactics by the same “radical left” that we have derided for years. However, the frustration is palpable. It was going to boil over in some, yes, ugly ways. 

So what do we conservatives do with this? Well, there’s already talk of follow up protests. There’s certainly some good to come out of that. However, I think there is a more fundamental opportunity here: the one for education and activism beyond merely taking it to the streets. AfterTheTeaParty.com has been launched to encourage people to take the movement to the next level. Ned Ryun, the site’s founder, advocated that starting very local is the best way to go on The Next Right:

Think about the 800 or so cities that had tea parties on the 15th. What if those tea parties did the same and decided they were going to focus on taking over their local councils and school boards? Why not? You would have a ready made volunteer base for starters.

And think about the fact that usually half or more of our government spending every year is at the state and local level. I know in 2005 that 53% of government spending was at the state and local level (you can make the argument that federal mandates and some federal money are pushed into state and local to be spent there, but the point is, there is a great deal of government spending that takes place at the local levels). What I’m trying to do is tell people, “Channel the passion, move from protesting to implementing, and thru AftertheTeaParty, American Majority will help empower you to do that.” I think it would be great if all 800 cities focused on their local government, all ran on 3-5 of the same basic points: Transperancy, Fiscal Responsibility, and Accountability for starters.

I agree–if every single locality in Virginia that saw a tea party started a taxpayer’s association, we would see amazing results within just a few years. Once those we get elected to the Board of Supervisors and City Councils come of age as public servants, they will then run for the House and Senate. Think of the possibilities for a golden age of free markets and limited government in Virginia…..

Curran on the Stump

February 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Suzanne Curran is a familiar face to activists up and down the Shenandoah Valley. She really developed her voice here in Shenandoah County but has become a spokesperson on national issues as well, particularly related to energy. Still, she hasn’t forgotten her roots. In this clip she lays out the importance of watching government at all levels and of electing conservatives from the bottom up. 

Suzanne is tireless and one of the best activists in the county. I’m not the only one saying that, though–she was awarded the Activist of the Year Award at Americans for Prosperity’s banquet on Tuesday night. Congratulations, Suzanne. 

Do Citizen Journalists Owe the IRS?

February 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Of late mainstream media outlets have attempted to co-opt the movement towards independent journalism by creating their own outlets with the Average Joe can upload their own videos and reports, attempting to cut into the success of bloggers and YouTubers. It’s largely been a sideshow for many, although there have been instances where it has greatly enhanced coverage (to wit, the Virginia Tech shootings, where students on the ground submitted videos of the chaos on campus). However, according to StinkyJournalism.org, these citizen journalists may very well owe Uncle Sam some money for their hard work:

 While the “volunteers” have their own personal reasons for giving their work away—everything from raising their own profiles or exposing corruption and criminality to pure altruism—they may be unknowingly stepping into a tax minefield. Indeed, according to the rules of the Internal Revenue Service, this popular cost-slashing strategy—the business model for which is based on transfers of content (intellectual property) from citizen journalists to media outlets at no fee—may subject the contributors to a gift tax.

With this in mind, StinkyJournalism.org has asked the question: Is the “donation” of a citizen’s content (video, articles, commentaries, images) to for-profit media outlets that exceeds a fair market value of $12,000 in any single year subject to gift tax? Judging from the IRS guidelines, the answer is “yes.”

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The bottom line: StinkyJournalism.org has uncovered a real hornet’s nest for both for-profit media companies’ business models and citizen journalists who must now examine how much work they have “donated” to any one media outlet over the past year. You should ask your accountant for help. You may even need to go to the expense of hiring a professional copyrights appraiser to help you declare what is called the fair market value (FMV) of your donations, as required by the IRS, and to file a 709 gift tax form. Your professional tax advisors may even suggest that you go back retrospectively for several years to consider re-filing taxes and sending in 709 forms for previous years, if the values seem like they would exceed the previous years’ $12,000 annual excemptions.

I would consult a tax lawyer before you going trawling around the IRS site for hours to figure out if you might soon be joining the ranks of Tom Daschle and Timothy Geithner as those on Uncle Sam’s list. However, it goes to show demonstrate once more the closing gap between the creative class and the professional media and just how many options are out there for those who want to combine activism with reporting. 

Have a day to lose?

January 28, 2009 1 comment

It doesn’t have much of a following yet, and I’m not thrilled with some of the formatting selections, but I have to see any way of looking at the actions of Congress that is more engaging or layman friendly than GovIt. I also think the platform has alot of potential for politicos and pundits as well. Yes, representatives don’t always keep a simple scorecard of how their constituents feel on a particular issue, but this is yet another platform for citizens to become informed AND engaged.