At the Heart, Hate
Actually, I would say that 250,000 Americans showing up to teabag events across the country is a pretty big number. This talk from liberals minimizing the amount of people sounds an awful lot to me like conservatives talking about anti-war protests. So I won't deride the raw numbers. Clearly there is anger and frustration, mainly from the bailout, that has been pushed together into a ball and shaped into some kind of anti-spending, anti-tax rallying cry. The real question is not the presence of that grievance, but the recommendations for how to best handle this economic downturn. And when you see the disturbing amount of anti-government sentiment, when you hear comments like "On 9/11, I think they hit the wrong building" coming from the participants, you realize that these were just mini-versions of those ugly Sarah Palin rallies during the election, with all the hate talk and anti-Obama sentiment baked inside. Some would spin this out to say that Obama is a polarizing figure, but that's nonsense. The overriding sentiment at these tea parties was sour grapes, a "deeply neurotic reaction to the enormity of their own cockups in office," as Joe Klein puts it. They were an expression of anger from people who see the world passing them by, stoked on in their hatred by movement conservative groups.
We can talk about how the average American's tax burden was the lowest in decades, we can talk about all of the tax cuts for the middle class the President has already authored, we can talk about the fact that taxes are primarily used to finance the debt, defense, Social Security and Medicare, and so talking about lowering taxes means receiving less of those and other services. Some people even did this right to the faces of the teabaggers.
But while the chorus of boos reacting to those factual claims were revealing, that's honestly besides the point. These rallies were a chance for the people normally at the end of the bar to rant about the black Muslim in the White House.