Across the country today, Americans are expected to come out in large numbers to protest taxes and what many see as a move away from the country's core values.
These "Tea Parties" may have started as a grassroots show of displeasure, but they have become a coordinated effort, backed by a national political action committee called Freedom Works.
There are 23 parties planned in Georgia alone, according to www.taxdayteaparty.com. That includes one that is sure to be among the nation's biggest in Atlanta.
That's because Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator and one of the most popular talk radio hosts in the country, will broadcast live from the steps of the state Capitol starting at 9 p.m. He will be joined on stage by Macon City Councilman Erick Erickson, who is an occasional guest on Hannity's television show.
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Between 5,000 and 10,000 people are expected at the Atlanta event alone. The numbers show a level of dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress that Hannity called "fairly unprecedented."
"I would argue that conservatives are not typically the people that go to protests," Hannity said. "They're busy working hard."
Hannity spoke to The Telegraph via the telephone Monday night, as he was heading home from his show in New York. He said he was looking forward to returning to Atlanta, where he worked in radio for about four years before getting his big break at Fox News.
"People feel like, 'Wait a minute, where's my bailout?'" Hannity said.
"We never get to the root cause of how we got here. ..." he said. "It's the idea, or the concept, of redistribution. that every American has a right to buy a home whether they can afford it or not.
"Since when did America become the land of equal results, not equal opportunity."
TELEGRAPH: Did you choose the Atlanta tea party because you worked here back in the day?
HANNITY: What I started noticing was that these events were happening spontaneously and getting little or zero or no coverage. And I'm thinking, now wait a minute. If 5,000 show up in Cincinnati and 5,000 in Orlando and, you know, people are planning on April 15 all around the country, I can't remember that ever really happening during the Bush presidency. And I remember when Cindy Sheehan was down in Crawford Texas (protesting the war). I mean that was a big deal.
TELEGRAPH: What exactly is being protesting at these parties?
HANNITY: I think people are just making a statement that, you know what? We're spending way too much money. The omnibus bill is up 8 percent. We're bailing out corporations. We've got big bonuses for big execs. The average person that's paying for it is the person that gets up every day at 6 a.m. and leaves their kids and takes them off to school and works hard and plays by the rules. ... They're saying, 'Wait a minute. Enough.' ... And, on top of that, $10 trillion dollars in debt is way too much for our kids and grandkids.
TELEGRAPH: Do we need to make any fundamental lifestyle changes in this country? It's not like this potentially crushing national debt just showed up because of the (Troubled Asset Relief Program).
HANNITY: Well, but if you add it all together: TARP, if you add stimulus, you add omnibus, you add the Obama $4 trillion budget, we're talking about real money here. ... He's going to triple the debt in 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office numbers. That is not insignificant. A $634 billion down-payment on health care. Well, what does that mean? ... I think there's a real concern that America is moving away from a free market, capitalist economic system, one that has created wealth and opportunity for everybody and has advanced, single handedly, the human condition, that now moving toward a cradle-to-the-grave, womb-to-the-tomb nanny state. That, I think is pretty much predictable failure if we look at some of the European models that have tried it.
TELEGRAPH: How many of the things that you and Rush Limbaugh, other talk show hosts — how much of what you say is an absolute belief and how much is to draw in readers, listeners and viewers?
HANNITY: I can tell you Sean Hannity doesn't — you know, everything I say is true. I'm surprised you'd even ask that question. You mean you think I would contrive opinion just to get reaction?
TELEGRAPH: I wouldn't say... I certainly wouldn't say that. But it is an entertainment business, although you're in the news business. There has to be a, sort of, flair to it. I'll give you an example if you like. ... Today on your show I heard you say that Barack Obama has this country headed for a total economic collapse, much worse than anything we're experiencing now, within the next few years.
HANNITY: What I was saying there is, when I add up all those numbers that I just mentioned to you... and I look at the Congressional Budget Office analysis, which for years was the gold standard in terms of predicting what the deficit and the impact on the economy economic plans are going to have ... and they're telling me that the numbers are not sustainable. ... That is a formula for economic — potential economic — collapse. ... You can't really fully, completely predict. But I was saying that in the context, with the texture of, these numbers are frightening.
TELEGRAPH: They are frightening. The (Government Accountability Office), though, has been saying for many years that our way of life is unsustainable. I'm not certain that this is a Barack Obama problem. I think this may be an America problem.
HANNITY: Well, I would agree with you except that, if you agree with what you just said, then why would we triple-down, quadruple-down on spending? I'm a Reagan conservative. I'm not a Republican. ... And Reagan repeatedly... said that government is the problem and government spending is not the answer. How do you increase spending 8 percent in an omnibus bill... you put a tax cheat in the highest position in the Treasury Department and think that you're going to have any credibility? I don't think you can.
TELEGRAPH: I read your interview with Rush Limbaugh. And he said he expected... Democrats under the Obama administration to "over reach." Has our elected government just become an alternating series of over-reaches by the victorious party?
HANNITY: That's a great question. It really is. The day after Obama was elected I read on the air... Ronald Reagan's speech to C-PAC in March of 1974. And what Reagan pointed out in that speech, I think is exactly what's happening today. The election results will be misinterpreted. Democrats that sounded like Republicans... they will revert to type and they won't be able to control themselves. ... I think there's a feeling in the Obama administration and among (Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid that they've got to get this done. They've got a limited time and then political capital begins to wane. ... So I think they're going for way too much, much to quickly.
TELEGRAPH: Is that because they refuse to stake out middle ground, and I mean politicians, or is that because there really is no middle ground in this country?
HANNITY: I think there is some middle ground. ... You can't have middle ground if Nancy Pelosi won't let you offer amendments to a bill or offer alternative bills. The Republicans were shut out of the bill writing process on most of the economic issues.
TELEGRAPH: A lot of people might say you're not much of a fan of middle ground.
HANNITY: I'm a principled Reagan conservative. ... This is not the worst economy since the Great Depression. ... We lost a million jobs under (President Jimmy) Carter, or somewhere in that area. And Reagan came into office and... ended up creating 21 million jobs... Your original question was, well I'm rigid in my views. Well I'm pretty convinced that supply-side economics... work. If you look at the history of the Great Depression, for all the spending, and I'll quote the treasury secretary of (President Franklin Roosevelt), who said, for all of our spending, it didn't do anything to fix the economy. What got us out of the depression was World War II. ... The question is, do we really believe it's capitalism or government that is going to continue to advance the human condition? And I think that it's capitalism and I think that, right now, that system is in jeopardy as they move to nationalized banks. They talk about regulating CEO pay. They talk about the right to take over companies. ... That's pretty frightening for people.
TELEGRAPH: But draw a bright line for me. Particularly with the banks. How is what the Obama administration is doing different from what the Bush administration was doing, or beginning to do?
HANNITY: Well, I was against the TARP plan to begin with, personally. I thought it was the single biggest transfer of the economy from the private sector to the federal government. Little did I know that would only be the beginning of our troubles. ... There's a lot to be concerned about here. These are unchartered waters.
TELEGRAPH: Let's talk about the media for a minute. This maybe is a personal pet peeve of mine. How come amazingly popular guys in the media are always saying the media is ignoring things?
HANNITY: (Laughs). Because we are the alternative media.
TELEGRAPH: You're the No. 2 talk show host in the country. You're not that alternative.
HANNITY: Well, but we're alternative in as much as — people are scratching their heads all the time: 'Well why is talk radio and the Fox News Channel successful?' If it wasn't filling a void, and it was the same old media... I don't think we would have the viewership or the listenership that we have. ... I would argue that most of the nation's newspapers are standardly liberal. You look at the last campaign and I first interviewed Jeremiah Wright in March of 2007. ... It was about a year later that it became a big issue. Same thing with Bill Ayers. When I discovered that issue we stayed on that pretty hard and it was months later that the rest of the media kind of picked up on it. So I would argue that we're doing things and covering stories that they ignore on a regular basis.
TELEGRAPH: Are you a night owl? After you get home are you going to be on the Internet prepping for tomorrow?
HANNITY: I'll be up to 2 or 3 (in the morning) minimum.
TELEGRAPH: How much do you read every day?
HANNITY: All I do is read. Honestly. You know, it's my passion. ... When I started in radio I worked for free. When I moved to Huntsville, Ala., I made $19,000 a year. ... When I was doing the afternoon show and they they gave me an opportunity to do the morning show and the afternoon show I did both for no extra money. When I made it to Atlanta it was a dream come true. And then when (Fox News President) Roger Ailes brought me up to the Fox News Channel, if you look at the original tapes of me on TV, they should have fired me. I was terrible. He was compassionate. ... I think he saw potential.
TELEGRAPH: Do you expect to see, at these events, are they a lot of Republicans or are they a lot of Libertarians? Are they a lot of just conservatives?
HANNITY: I would assume you're dealing with people that want, that sort of believe in the principles of limited government. ... I live in New York. And, literally, when you add up New York City / state tax, and county taxes, and property taxes and sales taxes and my federal income taxes and social security taxes, I take, probably a little less than 40 percent of my gross pay home. And that's not just me, that's everybody. ... And the government shows zero discipline in terms of their spending. We're all showing discipline in our own lives, why can't (the government) show discipline?
TELEGRAPH: The flip side of that coin, when you take home less than 40 percent ... I heard you say today that the top 10 percent of our population pays 72 percent of the taxes. But once they've paid those taxes, with what they have left, what percentage of the country's population do they still have more than?
HANNITY: Since when did America become the land of equal results, not equal opportunity? I think that's the point. If we're going to punish success.... and redistribute or spread the wealth... then I think the America that has advanced the human condition, and the America that has created a standard of living for its poorest citizens (that is) second to none, that America ceases to exist in its current form. ... Government always plays on people's fears. We're going to provide you healthcare, daycare, housing, college and a baby fund. And somebody's got to pay for that. ... If 50 percent of the electorate doesn't pay a thing you've got a voting majority now that's saying, 'Hey, we're going to empower you to take other people's money.' ... My grandfather, when he came from Ireland — my grandfathers and grandmothers — didn't have guaranteed healthcare and they didn't have any money, but they still wanted the American dream and they found it.