Bemidji joins national Tax Day Tea Party
BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe serving as a backdrop, more than 350 people rallied Wednesday for lower taxes and less government.
Part of a national Tax Day Tea Party held in hundreds cities, the Bemidji protesters picked the annual April 15 income tax filing deadline to signal "enough is enough."
On a platform in front of the famous Lake Bemidji statues, Ken Cobb said they were an icon for northern Minnesota -- a mythical icon.
"Paul Bunyan never existed, but at the same time, Paul Bunyan stands for everything that makes this country great," said Cobb, chairman of the Beltrami County Republican Party and a Tea Party organizer.
"Paul Bunyan stands for something called rugged individualism," Cobb said. "And that means it's not up to the government to pay our way. The pioneers didn't go down to their local welfare office to figure out how to forge a way out of the wilderness."
For more than an hour, 350 people lined Bemidji Avenue for more than two blocks, holding signs and American flags. Cars honked in support, while one carload of young people flashed an obscenity while holding a Barack Obama campaign sign out the window.
Chuck Buus of Bemidji dressed as a Keystone Kop holding a "Stop Earmarks" sign, said both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for excessive government spending.
"Both Democrats and Republicans just plain overspend and use earmarks to buy themselves back into office," Buus said. Wednesday's protest was the first he'd ever taken part in, he said, and hailed it for its bipartisan gathering.
Some of the signs included "Party like it's 1773," "Socialism is a philosophy of failure," "No cap and trade" and "Stop raising taxes."
In front of the platform where rally speeches were held, a small boy held a sign that said, "I'm only 12 and already $3,600 in debt."
Former state Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, held a Minnesota flag during the rally. "I just think this is fabulous," she said of the turnout. "We also can't let Minnesota off the hook."
Minnesota faces a $6.4 billion budget deficit, with about $2 billion from the $787 billion federal economic stimulus package that protesters were opposing going to help the state budget.
Ruud, who is a candidate for State Republican Party chairwoman, also said the gathering was non-partisan, that Democrats and Republicans alike were protesting big government and high taxes. "All are concerned ... all are Americans here. This just isn't about federal taxes but also Minnesota taxes too. All of our taxes."
The Rev. David Myers and Abby Cobb, dressed in colonial garb, held a "Declaration of Grievances" which Ken Cobb read and later asked people to sign.
"We have had enough of out-of-control government spending that is mortgaging our future and threatening our very way of life," Cobb read as the two others held up a rolled-up parchment-like document. "We have had enough of both major parties being arrogant and unresponsive to the people they were elected to serve."
Cobb said that "we may have representation, but taxation with representation without deliberation is no representation at all. Our government was set up to be of the people, by the people, for the people. Today we have a government that's of the government, by the government and for the government, and it's got to stop."
A USA Today/Gallup Poll released Wednesday, however, found a majority in agreement, 52-44 percent, that approve "of the government expanding its role to deal with the economic crisis."
Mark Skogerboe, author of "The Threefold Plan to Save America" and chairman of an upcoming Liberty Weekend of the Baptist Church, called Wednesday a "great day of awakening when the people said you cannot take my freedom.
"Government is not God," he added. "Bad change is not good, and the changes this new government are putting forth are almost all bad."
God never changes, and He said not to covet, don't steal and don't hate people who work night and day that have more than you have, he said. Skogerboe quoted Abraham Lincoln, who said, "You can't make the weak stronger by tearing down the strong."
Taxing takes away the power to create jobs, he said. And fewer jobs means fewer taxpayers.
The Obama administration's budgets will double the national debt of all previous budgets in American history, Skogerboe said. "Our children and grandchildren will be given a bill they cannot pay." And that greater debt is being bought up by China, he added, which now holds $1 trillion in U.S. debt.
"Those who hold our debt hold power over us," Skogerboe said. "The more debt we have them buy, the more power they have over us. Do we want China to have power over us?"
Skogerboe said bailouts are not the answer to solving the current economic recession. "You cannot get rid of a hole by digging it out. You can only get rid of a hole by filling it up. You can only get rid of a deep hole of debt by filling it up."
When government takes over energy, it is socialism, he said. "Just say no to socialism." He said the same of government6 takeovers of banks and automakers.
"Obama is not king, he is our president," Skogerboe said of Obama's firing of the head of GM.
"Our founding fathers studied all the wisdom of the world ... and they came to the conclusion that government governs best that governs least," he said.
Kath Molitor, past Beltrami County GOP chairwoman, said higher taxes hurts working Americans.
"We give Washington our money to spend wisely, but it's becoming increasingly and distinctly clear that Washington is spending it as fast as they can," she said. "Washington is not just spending our money that they do not have, Washington is spending the money that our grandchildren will not have."
Government needs to understand that it cannot tax and spend its way to prosperity, she said. "I need my paycheck to pay my house payment, not to pay your taxes for your programs."
Some $2 trillion has been spent in the past year on bailouts and stimulus packages, Molitor said. And Congress has passed the largest budget in U.S. history which doubles the national debt five years and triples it in 10 years.
And who pays? "That would be us," Molitor said. "The wage-earning American people, not the people who are not making any money or not working or who are on programs, but it's us who go to work every day and bring home just enough to feed our family."
Ken Cobb urged support of a U.S. House bill, sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-6th District, that would require every bill to include where in the Constitution that service is required.
"It is sad but true our country is headed toward total socialism like a fully loaded freight train headed down a steep decline at full throttle," Cobb said. "If you love America, it's time to stop the train.
"This may be our last chance to slow down the train," he said.