Tea party comes to Houston

March 26, 2009 5:52:39 PM PDT
There's a new political movement sweeping across the country. It's called the tea party, and Houston even has its own branch. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

It's named after the Boston Tea Party of 1773, in which colonists protested British taxes by dumping tea into Boston Harbor.

Felicia Cravens has more than a passing interest in the economy, which is more than she can say for Congress.

"I think these are people who haven't read basic economics or they're attempting to experiment with something that they're not certain will work," said Cravens.

Not only does she carry an economics book with her almost everywhere, she's also becoming a political activist and the leader of a local group.

"We are the Houston Tea Party Society," said Cravens.

Hers is not the first tea party, but it is growing quickly. More than 500 people showed up to a rally in late February to protest the way Congress is responding to the economic crisis.

"Lots of people have been involved. They're tired and frustrated and they want to find a way to express that," said Cravens. "Certainly we have people who agree that the spending is out of control, that there is too much pork, that there are lots of things we could be doing better to get back on the road to recovery."

The group says it's just getting started and is planning rallies that could dwarf the size of the one at Discovery Green.

The group's Facebook page now boasts 1,500 members, including at least one city council member. The website suggests their planned rally on Tax Day, April 15, has grown too big and must now move across the street from Houston's main downtown Post Office.

"It's not anti-tax. It's anti-stupid spending. It's anti-stimulus, which isn't a stimulus. It's anti-generational theft," said Cravens.

There are tea party groups all over the country. Just last weekend, more than 6,000 people showed up at a tea party in Orlando. On the web you can find links to groups in all 50 states. Each of them wants Congress to reverse course on the stimulus and the bailouts.

The group does have critics though.

"We definitely like to see money coming down to the states," said Amber Moon of the Harris County Democratic Party.

She says the tea parties are led by right wing conservatives who would ignore those most in need for the sake of supposed tax cuts. She says Governor Rick Perry, who is scheduled to speak at an Austin tea party event, is a perfect example given that he turned down stimulus money for unemployment benefits.

"I think to sit by and do nothing is to accept unemployment, is to accept foreclosures, is to accept high utility rates," said Moon.

Cravens insists her tea party is non-partisan, with Republicans, Libertarians, and Democrats who see beyond party lines and who hope to evoke their own kind of change.

There's also an e-mail circulating that asks dissatisfied taxpayers to send tea bags to the White House. That effort, however, is not affiliated with any of the organized tea party groups.

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