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Obama's Mockery of Tea Party Stirs Tax Debate

For 20 seconds on Thursday, President Obama basked in applause from donors in Miami when he mocked the nationwide Tea Party rallies that caused an eruption of angst on Tax Day.

"I've been a little amused over the last couple of days where people have been having these rallies about taxes. You would think they would be saying thank you," Obama said to a group of Democratic supporters who shelled out between $250 and $1250 to attend.

But it remains unclear who will get the last laugh: the president or the Tea Party?

"What the president said last night was arrogant and smug and a perfect example of why the Tea Party is so intense and so organized" said Republican strategist Terry Holt

Democratic strategist Peter Mirijanian defended Obama's statement by saying if you take a look at the middle class voters, contrary to protesters' claims, you'll see that their income levels and their taxes have actually not gone up.

Larry Summers, the president's top economist, blogged for the Huffington Post that in 2009 the middle class and poor were showered with $173 billion in tax cuts, resulting in average federal refunds of $3,000 -- up 10 percent from the previous year.

This largess, the White House says, has arrived via payroll tax refunds, college tuition relief, and the first-time homebuyer credit, and energy-efficiency credits.

But Tea Partiers are protesting against deficits, debt, and taxes, not to mention the tax implications of financing the mounting federal debt: $12 trillion and rising.

"The protests on Tax Day is one thing to stage," Mirijanian said."It's another thing to mobilize and vote. That's the true test."

Tea Party members also fear a drift toward socialism -- a trend a majority of the country also sees.

The latest New York Times / CBS news poll shows 92 percent of Tea Party members fear moves toward socialism. Fifty-two percent of 1,580 adults surveyed saw the same drift but 38 percent did not.