Tired Republicans gather for tea

It's good for America that thousands of well-meaning citizens ventured out on tax day and demonstrated against the massive government debt we're incurring by ever-increasing deficit spending.

They demonstrate in the streets of France all the time, though it's probably not the French with whom these participants would most readily identify.

It is troubling that our government's spending, deficit and debt have exploded. Those aghast at the seeming immorality of passing mountains of debt to future generations are to be admired if they use their rights of free expression and assembly to say so.

And they needn't be told that they are obligated to offer alternative solutions to our economic meltdown. They're not policymakers; they're free citizens. Their role is to convince the policymakers to act differently or, at the least, demand of the policymakers that they explain and account.

What was irksome about Wednesday's spectacle was that these demonstrations were hijacked, fomented and exploited by failed conservative politicians on the Republican side.

These brazen Republican political interlopers -- Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich, to name two of the more absurd who once took over the U.S. House of Representatives for a so-called Contract for America and then accomplished absolutely nothing even against an anemic rival named Bill Clinton -- offered no alternative solutions, or at least any practical ones.

They, in fact, bear a responsibility in that regard. They themselves deserve massive chunks of blame for long-standing patterns of debt-incurrence, fiscal irresponsibility and regulatory negligence. Yet they eschew any mention of their past malfeasance.

Now they seek to discredit for their own raw partisan advantage the poor fellow who simply inherited the disaster they helped make and who, by the way, actually wants to cut taxes for everyone except the very wealthiest.

Take this Armey guy. Please.

He was a destructive, anti-government, overly partisan Republican congressman from Texas.

Once he gave a talk and admitted that, if Republicans really believed in the virtue of free and open markets and the power of unfettered commerce, as they say, they'd invade Cuba with American goods and dollars.

But he said Republicans couldn't do that because Florida had close elections and the pivotal Cuban-American population wants Castro isolated and strangled.

Here in Arkansas, we had on the recent state legislative agenda a cigarette tax for a statewide health care program featuring a new system of emergency room trauma care.

Local Republicans, having no better idea, brought Armey to the state to decry this tax and charge that Democratic policymakers were leaving too many other viable options not exercised.

But, when asked, he couldn't say what any of those other viable options might be.

Our state legislature went on to pass the cigarette tax by a three-fourths majority. Armey went on to infest the tea party in Atlanta.

Gingrich? Actually, to be fair, he offers solutions. He wants to make deep cuts in all taxes practically to a flat rate and open up all domestic energy production.

The deep cuts would make the deficit and debt even worse. A flat rate would reward the rich. Depleting natural resources to pollute the environment would amount to a sin against future generations at least as bad as mountains of debt.

So, actually, it would be better if Gingrich offered no solutions. And it's probably fair to say that, when you get right down to it, he doesn't really intend to offer any.

Obama is the best hope, even with a $2 trillion deficit that, yes, is scary.

John Brummett, an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, is author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.