Sometime last year, David Mazzerelli, a 28 year-old advertising executive from Prato, Italy, developed something that makes liberals on this side of the pond cringe; a fascination for Sarah Palin’s Tea Party Ideology.
Inspired by the cries for lower taxes and less government, Mazzerelli had an epiphany; within a year, Tea Party Italia was born.
There are some substantial differences between the US Tea Party movement and that of Italy. For starters, the US tea partiers consider themselves conservatives while Italian tea partiers consider themselves liberals. Secondly, Mazzerelli’s Tea Party actually faintly resembles what one might expect a 1776-American-Revolution-Tea-Party-inspired movement to embody.
While he may have been inspired by Sarah Palin and her devotees, Mazzerelli certainly follows a different path of action. US tea partiers, aside from complaining about taxes and pontificating as to the damaging effects of the involvement of government in just about anything, like to skirt the edge of relevance by taking up issues such as abortion, gay rights, evolution, creationism and other such issues that are hardly germane to any economic related issue. Italian Tea Partiers on the other hand, restrict themselves to issues of the state. Mazzerelli says; “Before everything we refrain from taking positions on ethical, moral and religious themes. We’re interested in economic themes: less taxes, less public spending and less government.”
In a country that actually does have reality-fueled reasons for feeling skittish about skewed governmental priorities, schoolyard-like ethical mud-throwing takes a back burner with the Italian Tea Party on issues that surprisingly made it into the 21st century. Frankly, who needs Christine O’Donnell when you’ve got Pope Benedict XVI? The chances that he knows what’s in the first amendment might actually be greater.
Mazzerelli asserts that Italian tea partiers work together despite moral or ethical differences to focus on what the real issues are; “We have those that are pro-choice and those that are pro-life, those that are for the war in Iraq and those that are against it, but what unites us is the battle to have less government and more liberty.”
What the Italian Tea Party does not have are big names followed by throngs of people infatuated with conservative ideals that have nothing to do with the current state of affairs in the economy. In this respect, they have far surpassed the American Tea Party in terms of honest approbation, and relevancy. Furthermore, they have no plans for governmental affairs, nor do they seek affiliation with any party or any political figure; they are simply “by the people, for the people”, sending a message to the Italian government that Italy needs a change.
The Italian media has not dished out to the Italian Tea Party the same incessant limelight that the American Tea Party has gorged itself on, certainly no one has paid 2000 euros to see David Mazzerelli speak and so far, there has been no Italian Glenn Beck prototype spewing out melodramatic soliloquies on national television. In fact, Italian tea partiers consist mostly of educated young people, organizing meetings and protests that address the two issues that they stand for; less government, lower taxes.
Considering these two issues, which party has more reason to howl? I often suspect that many Americans simply cannot fathom how much they take for granted in the world. For the sake of time and space, I’ve erased the comparisons that I previously slathered across two pages of Microsoft’s cyber office monopoly. Let’s compare the bare minimum. [The following figures are taken from the CIA world factbook, http://www.worldwide-tax.com, http://www.taxrates.cc].
Imagine you make $50,000 dollars a year in the United States, what would your income tax rate be? Well, if you were filing as single or married and filing separately, it would be 25%, if married and filing jointly it would be 15%. What about in Italy? The current equivalent of $50,000 in euros is 38,162, which brings a standard tax rate of 38% whether single or married. By the way, the average GDP per capita in Italy is $29,000 (which would be 22,135 and taxed at 27%); in the US it’s $46,000 (with the same tax rate as $50,000). Click on the links above for further information or to compare corporate tax rates.
What about government spending? In 2009, US revenues were $2.104 trillion and expenditures were $3.52 trillion while public debt accounted for 53.5% of GDP; this is in a country with a population of 310,232,863 mind you, and a labor force of 154.2 million. In Italy, a country the size of California with a population of 58,090,681 and a labor force of 25 million, revenues totaled $987 billion in 2009 while expenditures were $1.099 trillion and public debt accounted for 115.8% of the GDP.
Before you accuse me of running a preferred narrative, let me digress: Yes, economies are bad all over the world. Yes we are all in a recession. But whilst republicans and democrats throw ostentatious stones at each other, O’Donnell and Palin ironically campaign for Intelligent design, and Berlusconi declares “Hey at least I’m not gay!” on national television, the world is once again manifesting those fun little side effects of human society that occur when the going gets tough: pissed off groups of people that demand change, some more relevant than others.
So what will become of these tea parties? Nothing, we might argue, and we may be right. Nevertheless, the Italian spawn of the American headline grabbers certainly make the latter seem like much ado about nothing.
Nina Michael is in her junior year in the BS in Business program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Nina has been all over the world and loves traveling; she currently lives between Italy and New York where she works as a professional English teacher and translator. She loves languages, food, coffee, wine and a good book; she is also a first-rate bartender.