America's Last Straw
The tenth of May is the anniversary of the “royal assent” of the Tea Act -- famously known as one of the last straws that led to the American Revolution.
A “last straw” -- defined as “the last of a series (as of events or indignities) that brings one beyond the point of endurance” -- represents the point at which things really do make a difference.
The phrase originated from a proverb about a camel whose back was broken after it was laden with one straw too many. The exact appearance, consistency, or origin of that particular straw, however, is open to speculation.
The proverbial last straw may have been barely noticeable by itself, far from the perfect specimen. It may have been certified organic, or the latest answer to global warming or world poverty. It could have been lifted off of another camel’s back in a fairness or diversity or redistribution program, or simply to benefit a crony. And who knows the emotional state of that beast before that single straw was added to its burden -- or why it would just stand there rather than shrug it off. But even so, for that particular camel -- it was The Last One.
The story and impact of Tea Act was recalled by Sen. Mike Lee in his recent editorial. He wrote: “[N]ot only was the American idea hatched in protest to a government that was too big and too intrusive,” but also one that was “willing and able to unfairly benefit favored special interests at the expense of everyone else.”
That last straw -- remarkably similar to the many issues we presently encounter today -- did not break the backs of those Americans. It energized them to protest.
A hundred years later, President James Garfield issued this warning:
Twenty years ago, the presence of the national government was not felt by one citizen in a hundred. Except in paying his postage and receiving his mail, the citizen of the interior rarely came in contact with the national authority. Now, he meets it in a thousand ways…[and] a vote in Congress may, any day, seriously derange the business affairs of every person.
Today, more than another hundred years later, Garfield would be appalled to see that not only is our postal system bankrupt, but that outside of our mailboxes and in both our business and personal affairs -- we meet the serious derangement of national authority practically everywhere and in every way imaginable.
A crippling burden -- accumulating a debt in excess of 17 trillion dollars -- has been heaped upon us by the intrusive, redistributive, red-tape-wrapping and crony-embracing arms of an ever-growing government bureaucracy. In fact, Uncle Sam could be holding the last straw right now. It may be hovering over our nation, about to drop.
What might this potential last straw represent, and when and where will it land? Will it spur citizens to become more actively engaged in our political community, or perhaps even further, to the point of outright defiance?
“Come and get me if you must, Mr. President. I will not bow before your wicked regulation!” Those were the words spoken by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson at this year’s National Day of Prayer. With this statement, Dobson identified his last straw -- an Obamacare mandate -- and vowed his defiance:
I believe in the rule of law, and it has been my practice since I was in college to respect and honor those in authority over us. It is my desire to do so now. However, this assault on the sanctity of human life takes me where I cannot go. I WILL NOT pay the surcharge for abortion services.
One too many Obamacare mandates represented the last straw for Dr. Daniel Craviotto. In his WSJ editorial titled “A Doctor’s Declaration of Independence,” he urged others in his profession to resolve: “enough is enough.”
The point at which America says “enough” may very well be related to Obamacare. After all, every single one of us is affected in the most personal of ways. Reporter Keith Koffler recently observed: “Obamacare is a catastrophe. Americans know it. The question is whether they are going to do anything about it.”
Might it take one more illegal delay, fix, or “little noticed” provision finally coming to our attention? One more story of a patient denied treatment? A taxpayer bailout of insurers?
Taxes might be the source of another last straw. Justice Scalia, recently speaking before a group of law students, was asked about the constitutionality of federal taxation. He qualified his affirmative answer with the remark: “if [taxation] reaches a certain point, perhaps you should revolt.”
Scalia, obviously referring to taxpayers (which currently comprise around half of the nation when it comes to income taxes) as the “you,” didn’t define that “certain point” -- nor did he explain what he meant by “revolt.” Merriam-Webster, however, defines it as something very serious.
Could a “revolt” be sparked by one more tax dollar or new tax? Or might a “certain point” of Obamacare premium increase be the last straw? After all, only a dollar of income can make a substantial difference on either tax rates or Obamacare subsidies, as can a single hour of work affect eligibility.
A minor “glitch” in the EBT system affected thousands of recipients out of the almost 50 million who depend on the food stamp program, and was the last straw for this woman who angrily wondered, “How am I going to feed my family?”
Giving a set of Common Core standardized tests to his students pushed this teacher past his limit when he wrote that “Today is the first day I was ever ashamed to be a teacher.”
Might one more regulation protecting one more species of tortoise or fish cause farmers or ranchers or entire communities to snap?
Could one more example of lawlessness or appalling waste and corruption unleash a significant reaction? One more IRS scandal? Another trillion added to the debt?
One more “spontaneous protest” or instance of “workplace violence” while citizen protestors are labeled “domestic terrorists”?
One more presidential lie or damning email?
None of the above examples -- singly -- may appear to be cause for “revolt.” But probably neither did the Tea Act to the British Parliament.
The Tea Act, as Sen. Lee reminded us, didn’t actually raise taxes on the colonists -- it reduced the taxes of the politically-connected British importer. One can almost hear the echoes of King George in some of Obama’s comments regarding a Tea Party rally -- that he had “cut taxes,” and “you would think they’d be saying thank you.”
Tea-Act-type cronyist and redistributive legislation has become the norm, and whether due to taxes, penalties, regulations, insurance premiums, or inflation -- the burden on hard-working American citizens has been anything but “cut.” Numerous examples of lawlessness and corruption add to the weight that is breaking our spirits and threatening our financial and national security -- fast becoming an unsustainable liability that future generations had no hand in building, yet will be asked to bear.
And when we dare to balk, we’re chastised by a Democrat-media complex that portrays us as extremist, unintelligent, conspiratorial, anarchist, racist, hateful, or as warring against the environment, science, women or the poor.
But still our party and pundits admonish us to be patient, choose our battles wisely, steer clear of social issues, and employ only “winning” arguments as we focus on the bigger goal of building a bigger tent.
The establishment seems unwilling to deviate from that strategy unless it is presented with the perfect alignment of the perfect issue or the perfect case -- or perhaps it is holding out for the perfect quantity of them. It appears doubtful, however, that any number of additions to the 76 examples listed in a Tea Party favorite Senator’s fourth report on Obama’s abuses of power would receive any serious attention.
Instead, we the People are told to wait for: The Next Election. A rescue by a Republican majority -- led by an establishment that we are supposed to trust to cover our breaking backs, even though we have seen it turn its back on Tea Party members and have heard its hints that “Obamacare isn’t going anywhere.”
Is that last straw fluttering overhead, about to land? Will it inspire citizens to do more than vote, write letters, sign petitions, or stand in protest -- but actually refuse to pay the fine, enroll in the program, follow the rules, or submit the tax? Might we find it necessary to compose a list of grievances that begins with the phrase, “When in the course of human events?”
“There is a direct line from our forefathers on Griffin’s Wharf in Boston Harbor to where we stand today,” wrote Sen. Lee. “They had the courage to challenge a government that was too big and too intrusive, but also unfair. The result was the creation of an America of, by, and for the people. Our challenge today is to reclaim it.”
Before that last straw breaks America’s back.