WICHITA — More than 750 people, including U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, are expected to gather near the Wichita airport post office on Wednesday for a taxpayer “tea party” to protest the federal economic stimulus package, organizers said.
“It’s too much money. It’s way too big,” said John Todd, a Wichita real estate agent and pro-business Republican activist who is organizing Wednesday’s demonstration. He said the protesters are also troubled by the prospect of nationalization of key industries such as banking.
“If you want to stimulate the economy, you just need to reduce the taxes and regulations,” Todd said.
Supporters of President Obama and the stimulus say the tea bag protesters are a small, vocal minority and that most working families will see an $800 annual tax cut from reduced withholding that’s part of the stimulus.
“The vast majority of Americans support the effort to turn around the economy,” said Andrea White, communications director for the Kansas Democratic Party. “The American people proved that they don’t want the same failed policies that got us into this.”
Local volunteers and the activist group Americans for Prosperity are organizing the Wichita tea party event, scheduled for 4:15 to 8 p.m.
The demonstration will be held in a field at the corner of Ridge Road and Harry Street near the airport post office.
Restaurateur and former Sedgwick County Commission candidate Craig Gabel will provide hot dogs and soft drinks; donations will be accepted to defray the cost, Todd said.
In addition to Brownback, other speakers who have confirmed include state Rep. Jason Watkins, R-Wichita; Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, former leader of the Kansas Taxpayers Network; and Vicki Tiahrt, the wife of U.S. Rep. and senatorial candidate Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard.
It is one of about 30 such protests planned across the state on Wednesday, the deadline day for filing federal and state income tax returns.
AFP is taking a direct role in organizing the demonstrations in Wichita and Topeka, said Derrick Sontag, the group’s state director.
He said Brownback has agreed to speak at both events. State reps. Joe Patton and Lana Gordon, both Topeka Republicans, will join him at the Topeka event, Sontag said.
AFP is also maintaining a list of scheduled demonstrations around the state that are being organized by local groups, including events planned for Mulvane, El Dorado, Hutchinson and Emporia.
The primary goal of the Wichita event is to protest against the $787æbillion federal stimulus package, centerpiece of the Obama administration’s plans to jump-start the faltering U.S. economy.
Tea and tax protests have gone hand-in-hand in American politics since the 1773 “Boston Tea Party” helped ignite the Revolutionary War.
The current “tea party” movement started nationally with the concept of mailing tea bags to Washington in a generalized protest against taxes, Sontag said.
“To me, what really kicked it off was the stimulus plan,” he said.
Although the stimulus money is being credited by many with helping Kansas state government work its way out of a $1æbillion budget hole, Sontag said the underlying problem is the size of government.
The state will still need to make major spending cuts or raise taxes by 2011 or 2012, he said.
“I think it (the stimulus) has helped put off the inevitable,” he said.