Walking along Marine Drive Thursday with his pro-freedom sign held high, Gearhart resident Bill Palmberg Jr. beamed.
The 200-strong tea party rally in Astoria was his first political protest.
"I've never done anything like this before,"?he said. "It's exciting to see people involved like this."
Like others in the crowd, Palmberg is unhappy about the country's record $1.4 trillion deficit and the burden it places on his children and grandchildren. He wants to see the government pay down its debt and cut spending.
"It's a great country, but I'm worried about it," he said. "I'm tired of big government and big taxes.?We need a big change. ... We need to get the government out of our lives."
The tax day demonstration drew fiscal conservatives from all over Clatsop County and southwest Washington. Toting American flags of all sizes and signs emblazoned with anti-tax slogans, they marched along Marine Drive from the parking lot between Second and Third Streets to the post office. There, they heard from Clatsop County Commissioner Jeff Hazen, state Rep. Matt Wingard of Wilsonville, Republican Doug Keller of Portland, who is aiming to unseat U.S. Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., and Lew Barnes of Cannon Beach, who is running against state Rep. Deborah Boone, D-Cannon?Beach.
For the second year in a row, disaffected citizens gathered by the hundreds across the country to protest the way the government spends the tax money it collects on April 15. The rallies draw their inspiration from the?Boston Tea Party tax protest against British colonial rule and the American Revolution that followed.
"Party like it's 1773!" was the sign Olivia Day brought with her from Naselle, Wash.
The 22-year-old Clatsop Community College student is an opinion editor of The Bandit newspaper, and she has a strong opinion about the nation's tax system.
"I believe taxes are at record highs and they're out of control - local, state and federal taxes," she said. "Now they want to add a value-added tax. The Europeanization of the country is out of control."
A value-added tax is a type of sales tax that provides a major source of revenue for countries in the European Union and elsewhere. It taxes buyers for value added to products as they move through the supply chain. Advisors to President Barack Obama have hinted the?administration is taking a serious look at the idea as a way of reducing the U.S. budget deficit.
"It's a lot of money, and it's going to have to be paid off sooner or later," Warrenton resident Tim Peitsch said of the national debt. "They need to be more responsible about how they're spending."
Before Thursday's rally, Peitsch had T-shirts custom-made for his three kids: His daughter, Ella, wore a shirt with the words "I love" and?George Washington's face; His son Oskar wore a shirt with the word "freedom" and a picture of Ronald Reagan; And his son Moses' shirt featured a picture of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Each of his children will have to repay a piece of the country's escalating debt, said Peitsch.
Protester Len Kozloski of Seaside classified himself as "a disgruntled Republican."
"It got to the point under Bush where you couldn't tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans,"?he said.
Kosloski advocated keeping the tax cuts initiated by President George W. Bush and repealing - or at least de-funding - President Obama's recently approved health care bill.
Several protesters in Astoria Thursday said Obama's election to the presidency was what tripped the trigger for them to get active in fighting big government.
Only one visible Obama supporter protested the rally, bearing a sign with a quote from Ronald Reagan:?"Deficits don't matter." On the other side of the sign, Astorian Dan Snapp wrote:?"Bush stole our dignity. Obama gave it back."
"Somebody's got to stand up for Obama," Snapp said. "I?like everything he's done."
Politicians who spoke at the rally talked up the possibilities for voters to oust overspending legislators in this year's elections and keep them out of power forever.
Clatsop County Commissioner Hazen, who is running for re-election this year against Astorian Scott Lee, said it's time for the federal government to initiate a "balanced budget amendment" to keep spending in check.
He assured his audience that Clatsop County government is fiscally conservative - especially compared with other counties in the state.
"We spend your tax money wisely, and we're very conservative in our budgeting,"?he said. "We don't need a bailout."
Hazen called out two other local elected officials in the crowd, Port of Astoria Commissioner Larry Pfund and Warrenton City Commissioner Dick Hellberg.
Wingard, a Repubician state representative from Wilsonville, drew multiple outbursts of approval from the crowd during his speech. He said the turnout far exceeded his expectations.
Wingard told the crowd to "start tithing yourselves for freedom" by giving money to candidates they support, spending more time being politically active and exerting "constant pressure" to get the kind of government they want.
"The other side does that every day," he said. "Simply voting isn't enough. That's how we got here today. ... If you want your community and your country to remain free, you can't ever stop. ... It's not about 2010 or 2012. It is every election going forward. We will take this country back. We will restore freedom."