It was a hugely successful rally today at Denver’s state capitol to protest the so-called “stimulus” package that President Obama signed while in town. Hundreds of people showed up. Jon Caldara ripped up dollars as an act of civil disobedience to protest the “stimulus.” The hugely popular Michelle Malkin arrived with roasted pork. A live pig trotted about. Speakers denounced the federal spending, guiding the crowd alternately in cheering, booing, and chanting. The media attended, and some even covered the event.
Despite the overwhelming media cheerleading for Obama’s “stimulus” package, a lot of regular people remain angry about it, very angry, and the success of today’s rally shows only a little of that bubbling to the surface.
At the same time, the rally sent a few mixed messages, a few of the participants stepped out of line, and Republican partisanship carried the day. Former congressman Tom Tancredo spent several minutes of the rally ranting against immigration, both legal and illegal. Several others wore anti-immigration shirts or carried anti-immigration signs. These folks don’t want economic liberty: they merely want the federal government to control the economy in different ways. A couple of guys shouted down Michael Huttner, a left-wing activist, as I was trying to interview him. The fact that Dick Wadhams, chair of the state GOP, took the stage indicates the partisan flavor of the event.
A personal anecdote suggests why I felt a bit out of place. I had printed a few signs with two messages: “Stimulus? Try Liberty,” and “What Would Mises Do?” Yes, I know that, in the general culture, Mises is an obscure figure recognized by few. Yet I still like the quote, as it might provoke some to look him up. I figured that Mises would be widely recognized by those at the rally and that the signs would elicit knowing glances of solidarity. Yet when I offered somebody a sign, I heard, “Who’s Mises?” I explained with understatement, “He’s a free-market economist.”
Perhaps I shouldn’t make too much of it; after all, somebody else had a sign referring to Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, while another sign referred to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Still. “Who’s Mises?” At a rally supposedly about economic liberty? That’s a bit like asking “who’s Jesus” at Catholic mass or “who’s Lars” at a Metallica concert.
But on with the rally. My photos of the event are available, and Slapstick provides video of the event. For those who prefer lower-bandwidth mp3 audio, I’ve provided a recording of the entire formal event.
Jim Pfaff from Americans for Prosperity kicked off the event:
Is everybody stimulated? [Crowd chants “no!”] Why not? Because it’s not stimulus. We’re here today today to say, Barack Obama, you don’t know stimulus.
Stimulus is when individuals and businesses are able to take their own decisions and go out and make a life for themselves. To pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now do you pursue happiness through big-government programs? You make your decisions for happiness.
You should be able to make those decisions, and this stimulus package takes decision-making away from individuals like yourselves. And we want to say no more pork. …
We want real stimulus, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today. When you consider Barack Obama’s program, he takes money from current and future taxpayers, promising to “invest” — so-called — in the economy. Except that it’s not going to work. He’s going to have to come back and ask for more money, and we’re here today to say, no more money.
That, to me, guys, looks like a Ponzi scheme. And in my opinion, Obama, Pelosi, and Reed are the Burnie Madoff Democrats who want to take our money and use it for their purposes, and we’re here to say, no more!
Next, Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute took the microphone:
So, are we feeling stimulated yet? Let’s make this clear: this is not what we usually do. Usually at this time of day, we’re at work. All we want to do is get back to work — and keep what we earn. According to the CBO, the long-term impacts of this is going to be about $30,000 per family. …
Caldara introduced Michelle Malkin, who ripped also the Republicans who supported the stimulus:
Thank you, my fellow un-Patriots. You know, Barack Obama gave special phone calls to the members of what I call the turn-coat caucus, Specter, Snow, and Collins, who were behind the engineering of this trillion-dollar sell-out. And he praised them for their patriotism. And my response is, if selling out our children and our grandchildren’s future is patriotism, I am very proud to be an un-Patriot in the age of Obama.
When President Obama signs the bill here in Denver, it will represent an unprecedented act of generational theft in this country.
Chuck Schumer said that there wasn’t anybody in this country who cared about the pork in this bill. And I think that the most important reason that we’re here today is to say, yes, we do care. …
Caldara next introduced Tancredo. He said, “If President Obama wanted to do one thing for American workers… he would stop the illegal immigration into this country. He would reduce the number of people coming here every day legally.” Wow. Not a single word about restoring economic liberty, because that is not a goal that the Tancredo wing of the GOP shares. Why Caldara invited Tancredo is beyond me.
Shawn Mitchell thankfully and predictably stuck to theme:
Today is unfortunately historic. It marks one of the biggest, most expensive mistakes in the history of American domestic policy. Obama-Reed-Palosi couldn’t decide if they wanted a bill that was an economic boost, a big-spending welfare wish-list, or a politician free-for-all pork fest. So they did all three. I don’t get it. If the problem is that people are borrowing too much on credit cards and on home equity, how does it help things for the federal government to shove us aside and show us what a world-class credit binge looks like?
We today, sadly, are betting our grandchildren’s future on the falsehood that you can spend your way to prosperity. You cannot. The Obama-Reed-Palosi lurch to the left is not the change that Americans voted for. We need to remember, we need to get involved, and tell the federal government, live within your means. Thank you.
State Senator Nancy Spence, having to compete with the introduction of the live pig, made some noncommittal remarks about how politicians have to do something, just not what this bill states.
State Senator David Schultheis complained that the “stimulus” package does not sufficiently crack down on illegal immigration. It is a shame that Mitchell had to compete with such off-topic nonsense.
State Senator Kevin Lumberg again got back on track but offered no new substance.
State Representative Cindy Acree said, “Thank you Coloradans for joining together to say that we don’t expanded government intervention in our lives. We can manage our lives, our businesses, our health care better than the government can.”
Josh Penry, showing good stage presence, said, “I believe that history will remember this vote, this moment, this bill as the moment when Republicans reclaim the mantle of fiscal discipline that is rightfully ours.” That would certainly be a nice change of pace.
Wadhams pointed out that many Republicans opposed the so-called bailout. Caldara followed the state GOP chair’s brief remarks with the unconvincing note that “this is not a Republican or Democrat event.” He then introduced yet another Republican politician, State Representative B. J. Nikkel, who delivered a nice if generic speech. Then Pfaff predicted that Colorado would again be a “red state.”
State Senator Kent Lambert said:
We’re going to start the road back this afternoon; I’m introducing a bill, we’re going to have it here in committee this afternoon, to do something that many of you will find very interesting and will support. That’s to put the state checkbook back on the gold standard. Starting this afternoon we’re joining with other states to do this. We’re going to bring fiscal responsibility back to the United States of America.
I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. States cannot possibly reinstate the gold standard; that is a federal matter.
Peggy Littleton from the state board of education tried unsuccessfully to tie the “stimulus” to her position. (By this time I was wondering just how many speakers Caldara had invited. I guess it’s good to get them on record.)
State Representative Frank McNulty repeated the same stuff. He did let slip, “How can a president who campaigned on change give us so much more of the same?” Do you mean, more of the same of what George W. Bush gave us?
Finally — thank God it was nearly over — Pfaff regained the microphone, which he passed off to Caldara to close out. Caldara said, “We believe we can spend our money better than government can. In order to support this package, you must believe one simple truth: that somehow Washington can spend your money better than you can.”
Again, it was overall a great rally. Still, while it is totally legitimate to criticize pork-barrel, special-interest spending, the fundamental issue is not pork. The fundamental issue is that people have the right to control their own income and associate voluntarily, and therefore forced wealth transfers and political controls of the economy are wrong. The issue, then, individual rights, as manifest in a free market, the system of economic liberty. Yet, by my count, all the speakers combined mentioned the word “liberty” exactly once, and they did not mention free markets or individual rights. Caldara and Pfaff did say that people should be able to control their own resources, and several other speakers at least hinted that economic liberty is a good thing. Yet two of the speakers concentrated their remarks on further violating economic liberty through protectionist immigration restrictions. Thus, as successful as the rally was, it was also a missed opportunity in many ways.
I’ll continue the discussion in a subsequent post, “Stimulus and Partisanship.”