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Boisterous Ventura tax protestors are 'Tea'd Off'

April 15, 2009 |  4:20 pm

In Ventura, more than 1,000 people gathered under blue skies to vent wide-ranging concerns, from over-taxation and government spending to condemnation of a recent Homeland Security report tracking a rise in violence among right-wing groups.

Holding signs such as "Abolish the Federal Reserve," and "We are Obummed Out, Stop Spending, No More Taxes," the crowd was in a celebratory mood, loudly applauding each speaker and cheering as a small plane droned overhead pulling a banner that said "I’m Tea’d Off!!"

Yolanda and Dan Hirsch, both 70-year-old Ventura residents, said they ran a shoe repair shop for 18 years before settling into what they hoped would be a comfortable retirement. But they have seen their retirement savings fall nearly 50% in the last year and don’t think that President Obama’s fiscal policies are going to help turn that around, Dan Hirsch said.

"I’d like to see an end to this out-of-control spending,’’ Hirsch said, as his wife nodded next to him. "Stimulate by cutting taxes, not increasing spending."

Yolanda Hirsch held a sign that said "Our granddaughter is not born yet. But she is already broke." Their first granddaughter is due in June, she said.

Ed Musselman, 69, and a friend Mike Thornburg, 55, drove from Lake Hughes to attend the event. Musselman’s sign said, "Keep Your Green Fingers Out of My Wallet" and showed an image of a watermelon with a red line through it.

Musselman said it symbolized his distaste for environmentalists, people who are "green on the outside and red, for socialist, on the inside." Too much environmental regulation puts a noose on business, the retired plumbing contractor said.

"I've had it," he said. "It’s people using the environment issue to get more government restrictions on everyone else."

Thornburg said he worries that Obama’s stimulus package represents a fundamental change in spending priorities that will accelerate in coming years.

"Supporting all of this is about less government,’’ he said of the boisterous rally.

Both men said they learned about the tea party events on television.

"We watch a lot of Fox,’’ Musselman said.

"Some of your less-liberal stations,’’ added Thornburg, a retired building superintendent.

Armand John Anthony, 28, and his girlfriend, Marisa Lafata, 25, were among the younger participants in the mostly middle-aged crowd. Anthony, a musician with long dark hair, said he’d been chided by friends for going to a "right-wing thing."

"I don’t care,’’ he said. "We need to unite behind the larger problem, and that’s the economy, and how we are becoming slaves to money."

"We shouldn’t be saving companies that are failing,’’ Anthony said, as Lafata, sporting a short punk hairdo, snapped photographs of the crowd beside him. "No one’s bailing me out for misusing money."

The rally was split into two sites, those listening to speakers at microphones set up in a courtyard at the county Government Center, and others holding signs along nearby Victoria Avenue, drawing nearly continuous honks of support from passing motorists.

About 50 yards away in another corner of the Government Center, Dr. Robert Dodge held his annual tax-day protest against federal spending on nuclear weapons. Dodge told the crowd of 45 that the U.S. spent $52 billion on nuclear weapons in 2008, and that Ventura County’s per-capita share was $160.3 million.

Dodge, a longtime leader of Ventura County’s no-nukes advocates, said he wasn’t disturbed that his small gathering was dwarfed by the larger tax protest.

"It’s much easier to be anti-something than to state what you are for,’’ he said. "We are the government and ultimately budgets are a moral document. Spending on nuclear weapons has become an entitlement program. What we need to focus on is what needs aren’t being met."

--Catherine Saillant


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