Frank Carlson looks at Tea Party protests and asks, "Where was the libertarian outrage before Obama took office?" ["Tempest in a Teapot," From the Hill to the Hills, April 30, 2009] I think a lot of it was in the Ron Paul campaign. But while I can't speak for the 2,500 or so people who attended the Knoxville Tea Party protest, during the Bush years I was an organizer of PorkBusters, an anti-earmark campaign that so irritated Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss) that he pronounced that he was "damned tired" of the whole PorkBusters movement. Among other things, Porkbusters successfully pushed the passage of an earmark transparency bill cosponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn and Barack Obama.
But if more people are upset about budget deficits now than they were under Bush it's because the deficits are—as the accompanying chart illustrates—much, much bigger now. Bush's deficits peaked in 2004 and declined every year until 2008, when they got a last-minute boost from the TARP bailout, which libertarians and fiscal conservatives opposed. The 2009 deficit, meanwhile, is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to reach $1.85 trillion, with huge deficits following as far as the eye can see. By contrast, the 2008 deficit was less than one-fourth that size, and the 2007 deficit was much lower than that. In addition, contrary to Carlson's assertion, I don't see the spending that's taking place now as being directed at the sick, the indigent, and the uneducated. Rather, it seems to be going to bailout banks, insurance companies, and automobile giants. It is very likely, however, that the resulting budget deficits, and the likely inflation and dollar devaluation to follow, will hurt the poor and sick more severely than bankers, insurance executives, and auto company managers.
Glenn H. Reynolds, Knoxville