Talking to Tea Party picketers standing along Route 35 in the sweltering heat Sunday with handmade signs and American flags hoisted above their heads, it wasn't a stretch to hear their claims that the Supreme Court of the United State's recent ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will potentially lead to socialism, death panels, the destruction of the middle class and the end of the American Dream.
Perhaps even simultaneously.
A few dozen members of the Bayshore Tea Party and Middlesex Tea Party came together at the Middletown Post Office to protest the high court's decision to uphold President Barack Obama's healthcare plan, referred to by many as Obamacare, by a 5-4 margin last week. The contentious ruling focused primarily on the individual mandate, which requires all Americans purchase health insurance or face a penalty.
Because it's considered a tax, the mandate does not violate the country's Constitution, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded in his opinion.
When it comes to taxes, Barbara Gonzalez, founder of the Bayshore group said, the American people have had enough.
Scrawled messages like "Obama Lies; Taxes Rise," were waved on pieces of paper alongside posters decorated with red, white and blue carrying messages of similar disapproval, like "Obamacare is a Grave Choice."
For the two hours the Tea Party members waved their signs and flags at oncoming traffic — thousands of vehicles traveling along the four-lane highway during the span — many positive reactions and honks of support came from cars whisking by. It's not a coincidence, Gonzalez said. People are upset.
Change, she said, is coming.
"The first thing that happened when I found out it had passed — after I cried — was I got a call from my son in college. He told me a lot of the students were upset, angry at the decision and were wondering how they could join the Tea Party," she said. "The email here was going crazy; the phone calls were coming in to the office non-stop. People walked in with checks; people put money in our donation jar. People we haven't seen for months came in to ask how they could become active again.
"I can promise you, nationally, the Tea Party is not going to stand for this."
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was enacted by Congress in 2010. The sweeping healthcare reform, which won't fully go into effect until 2020, includes provisions that make it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to anyone for pre-existing conditions or drop someone once they fall ill, among many other things.
In addition to the individual mandate, which some, like Gonzalez, feel places undue burden on the country's poor and middle class. The act also carries tax hikes for the wealthy and requires small businesses to provide health insurance to all full-time employes. Again, among many other things.
Gonzalez said the Tea Party isn't opposed to the idea of healthcare reform. This, however, is not the kind of reform they were looking for.
"The IRS has a hold on you," she said. "Something has to be done (to reform healthcare), but this is not the way. When the government intrudes on your life, that's a problem."
Riche Zoppo, of the Middlesex Tea Party, wore a placard around his next detailing the tax burden retirees have to look forward to thanks to the health care act. According to Zoppo, his 401K, along with the 401Ks of all people entering retirement, are at risk for drastic tax hikes.
"The taxes are totally out of control," he said. "They keep saying that our federal taxes are the lowest in the world, but they don't tell you about state tax, sales, tax, income tax, property tax, gas tax."
While Hill Republicans have chastised their Democratic counterparts for passing a burdensome healthcare act, Democrats have been quick to point out that provisions like the individual mandate tied to Obamacare are based in conservative ideology.
According to Obama's cabinet, the Affordable Care Act is strikingly similar to the healthcare act signed into Massachusetts state law by Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate in the upcoming presidential election.
With no viable third party candidate running for president, Gonzalez said the Bayshore group is putting its support behind Romney anyway, though support for Romney, and all D.C. Republicans is tenuous, at best, she said.
"We are going to work with the Republican party," she said. "But we're going to hold their feet to the fire. We're not going to let this happen."