On April 15, perhaps 200,000 people across the U.S. took an hour off to go out and get totally disrespected by the mainstream media.
But the tea parties got their message across, and the message was this: The U.S. is on the road to economic ruin because of our leadership, and we have no control over our leadership.
Tea party attendees put their messages on hundreds of signs that would hopefully be transmitted to TV because no member of Congress was going to show up at the parties. Congresspeople usually are drawn to large gatherings like dung beetles to a cow patty, but they were noticeably absent. They don't want to hear what we're saying.
The only problem with the tea parties was that they came way, way too late in the context of the history of this nation.
We should have taken the hint in 1898, when the excise tax used to finance the Spanish-American War lingered on for more than 100 years after the war ended. That should have been our first clue about how rapacious government can get.
Our next opportunity to take a stand was when the 16th Amendment became law in 1913. This was the amendment that allowed Congress to impose income taxes without limit and was the first amendment to the Constitution that did not address the rights of individuals, but rather added to the power of the federal government.
The next time for the tea parties was after the Great Depression, when many of the programs implemented during that era no longer were needed and should have been put to sleep.
Not all of those programs were bad. I think most of us like Social Security.
The next time we needed tea parties was when President Lyndon Baines Johnson started raiding the Social Security Trust Fund to balance the budget. This odious practice has been followed by every president and every Congress since then, to the point where there is no money - zilch, nada, zero - in that Trust Fund, which now is just a bunch of Congressional IOUs in a drawer.
The next time we should have hit the streets was when President Ronald Reagan created the biggest peacetime deficits in the history of the world. Mr. Conservative sent us into a pit of debt from which we have never emerged.
We should have protested loudly when the feds set up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two institutions designed to remove risk from lenders, thereby destroying a basic tenet of capitalism and putting the risk on the backs of the taxpayers who never asked for that burden.
And we should have raised an uproar when the federal government passed a $700 billion spending bill in a matter of days, holding no hearings, not pausing for informed input to arrive on the scene, operating in panic mode and never weighing the consequences. And then passing a $786 billion spending bill. And then printing $1.3 trillion to support big banks.
We are too late, folks. The unfunded liabilities - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and all the others - now total $53 trillion. The total federal revenue in the last fiscal year was $2.5 trillion. We can't pay that bill.
We're too late. We cannot now even fund our own current debt but rather depend on foreign nations, some of them hostile to us, to lend us money so we can operate our own country.
What are we going to do if China finds us a bad risk? What are we going to do in eight years when entitlement spending exceeds revenues? Who in Washington is addressing these questions? The answer is A: too few, or B: no one.
Jim Dustin has been a journalist for 35 years and has won a ton of awards. He is the author of three books, none of which is about politics.