There are some obvious things about the Tea Party such as their opposition to taxes and to Obama and their paranoia about socialism of all things. The discussions that I’ve had so far with actual Tea Party supporters however never get past the slogans. When I push for more depth they tend to get defensive. So, I turned to their web sites where I found the “Ten Core Beliefs of the Modern-Day Tea Party”. So now I am at least able to understand the official core beliefs of this movement. Here are my responses to each of them, starting with the preamble…
Preamble: The Tea Party Movement is an all-inclusive American grassroots movement with the belief that everyone is created equal and deserves an equal opportunity to thrive in these United States where they may “pursue life, liberty and happiness” as stated in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.
When you have millions of dollars funneling into the movement from the top 1% it’s hard to call it a grassroots movement, but otherwise it does seem to be organized on some level in a grassroots sort of way. The of the statement is nice… pretty much the same thing all the rest of the parties are saying.
OK, here’s the ten core beliefs…
1. Eliminate Excessive Taxes – Excessively high taxes are a burden for those exercising their personal liberty to work hard and prosper as afforded by the Constitution. A fiscally responsible government protects the freedom of its citizens to enjoy the fruits of their own labor without interference from a government that has exceeded its necessary size, scope and reach into the lives of its citizens.
So my first question is… How do we determine what excessive is? This isn’t a stupid question. If anyone in the Tea Party actually took the time to figure this out, they would probably realize quickly that it’s not such an easy question to answer, especially since every penny taken by the IRS is funding something that is viewed as critical to someone. As far as I can tell, determining what is “excessive” is basically the same thing as determining which Americans to cut off. I’ve heard a lot of opinions from various Americans about this and it’s usually a matter of targeting “someone else”. This works fine for the self-obsessed that think the common good means them. So much for “all-inclusive”.
2. Eliminate the National Debt – By implementing fiscally conservative policies at all levels of government, progress can be made toward eliminating the U.S. National Debt. Massive increases in the National Debt have created and continue to create a huge burden for the next generation of Americans, thus imperiling the country’s short-term and long-term economic health and prosperity.
I basically agree with this stance on the national debt. So do most Americans it seems. I’m not sure what they mean by fiscally conservative policies though. If they are referring to the fiscal policies of the GOP then they’re on the WRONG track. So far there have been two main types of spending polices… “Pay as you go”, which is typically what the Democrats adhere to. They spend a lot, so they tax a lot, which infuriates people. The other category is “Pay later”, which is typically what the Republicans go with, where they DON’T tax people… (yet). Instead, they borrow from the Fed and use the money to pay for their spending, which is just as much if not more than what the Democrats spend but this way, they don’t have to tax the people, so the spending isn’t noticed and the Republicans can win elections on their low-tax policy. The only drawback to this is a deficit which accumulates into a national debt.
So… on very basic level… How do the geniuses in the Tea Party expect to “eliminate” the national debt AND “excessive taxes? I can only think of one way… Cut spending down to where both is possible, but that introduces a whole new problem, the fact that government spending has become such an integral part of our economic system, both on the supply side (i.e., defense industry) and on the consumer side. To bring spending down to the level where we can pay off our national debt AND cut taxes would be slitting the throat of our economy. We can always look and see how well the austerity programs in Europe are going… Greece, Ireland… Yeah – cutting their government spending is working out REAL well for them 😉
3. Eliminate Deficit Spending – All deficit spending must be eliminated immediately. We insist that government representatives at all levels maintain a fiscally responsible budget and balance the books as would be expected of any American business.
Good idea. Thing is… we already DO expect government representatives at all levels to maintain a fiscally responsible budget and to balance the books. The Republicans expect this, the Democrats expect this, we ALL expect this. The problem is that the representatives don’t always do what their constituents expect. That certainly doesn’t make their fiscal irresponsibility a tenet of their party but it DOES prove that you have to do more than “expect” you’re representatives to behave.
What I find interesting is the reference to American business – as if we hold business to a higher standard. As if the private sector wasn’t already many times worse than the government when it comes to deficit spending and accumulated debt. Our national debt (created by government deficit spending) is currently at around $16 trillion. The way the Tea Party reacts you would think it’s the end of the world. But they seem oblivious to the fact that our private sector debt is at about $38 trillion. They also seem to have no idea that our national debt isn’t as bad now (100% of GDP) as it was at the end of WW2 (120% of GDP) and the fact that instead of freaking out about the debt, Democrats AND Republicans at that time calmly SPENT their way out of the debt by investing in our industries, which boosted productivity and created the boom that was the 1950’s.
4. Protect Free Markets – America’s free enterprise system allows businesses to thrive as they compete in the open marketplace and strive toward ever better services and products. Allowing free markets to prosper unfettered by government interference is what propelled this country to greatness with an enduring belief in the industriousness and innovations of the populace.
Protect free markets? Isn’t this an oxymoron? Isn’t protectionism the antithesis of a free market? Seriously, the elephant in the room is the fact that there is no such thing as a free market …and there never has been. What we have are markets that are all guided by rules and all these rules translate to market advantages for some and disadvantages for others. The common approach for the disadvantaged is to try and change or eliminate the rules and a common battle cry for their efforts is the free market. It’s an appeal to a broader ideal in an effort to pass off their personal ambitions, which they advertise as a valiant crusade toward freedom for all. One of the oldest tricks in the book.
This core belief is the single most critical issue I have with the Tea Party AND the Libertarians and here’s why…
1. I’ve been following the expansion of international trade agreements for the past 20 years and the resulting battlefront between international investors and sovereign governments. The international investors have taken the banner of “free markets” as their own in this battle, giving their victories names like the North American FREE Trade Agreement and the Greater Arab FREE Trade Agreement.
2. Every so-called “free trade” agreement is actually a set of rules and limitations that regulate the market in a way that favors the international investors and limits the ability of local governments to protect their local business communities.
3. I don’t actually have a problem with the benefits these agreements provide, my problem is with the consequential disadvantages to the people of compliant nations and the fact that they can no longer appeal to their own governments for protection.
This second issue is the reason why I don’t think supporters of the Tea Party really put much thought into this, because the free market movement as it currently exists is nothing less than a full frontal assault on their own 10th core belief.
5. Abide by the Constitution of the United States – The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land and must be adhered to without exception at all levels of government. This includes the Bill of Rights and other Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and their provisions designed to protect states’ rights and individual liberties.
Again, how is this unique to the Tea Party? The Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians… they ALL support the U.S.Constitution. It’s the one thing this country has that unifies us all. Almost every government oath taken requires one to uphold and protect the Constitution. The disputes among citizens are never about whether or not we should abide by the Constitution… the disputes always arise from differing interpretations of the Constitution when applied to laws and actions. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this belief and I’m glad to see it included but it certainly doesn’t set the Tea Party aside. All I can say here is welcome Tea Party to the same thing everyone else is saying.
6. Promote Civic Responsibility – Citizen involvement at the grassroots level allows the voice of the American people to be heard and directs the political behaviors of our representatives at both the local and national level so they, in turn, may be most effective in working to preserve the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of this country’s citizens.
I agree with this one, I mean it *IS* basic democracy 101 folks. When I hear people say the U.S. is NOT a democracy, the only truth I see in their statement is that people aren’t involving themselves in the process and that’s a personal choice not the core belief of ANY political party in our system.
7. Reduce the Overall Size of Government – A bloated bureaucracy creates wasteful spending that plagues our government. Reducing the overall size, scope and reach of government at both local and national levels will help to eliminate inefficiencies that result in deficit spending which adds to our country’s debt.
OK, this is another one that I’m just going to call too simple minded to be any good to anyone. I have one word for you… Ratios! Why on earth people can’t figure this one out is beyond me, but it’s not that complicated. To be represented you need a healthy ratio of representatives to citizens. How many parents do you hear screaming that there are too many teachers? How many times do you hear people saying there are too many police officers? In both cases people seem to be acutely aware that there needs to be a healthy ratio of teachers to students, police officers to residents. So why is this logic completely eliminated from our view on the size of government?
I suggest having a look at the web site for an organization called Thirty-Thousand.org I am not associated in anyway with this organization, but I do appreciate their insight on the matter and I think anyone who thinks reducing the size of government is an actual answer should consider their view. The objective of this organization is described on their web site as…
The primary purpose of Thirty-Thousand.org is to conduct research on, and increase awareness of, the degradation of representative democracy in the United States resulting from Congress’ longstanding practice of limiting the number of congressional districts despite the continuing growth in the nation’s population.
Here’s an interesting passage from their website, that may appeal to the conservatives out there who think we should return to a society as envisioned by our founding fathers…
The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights intended that the total population of Congressional districts never exceed 50 to 60 thousand. Currently, the average population size of the districts is nearly 700,000 and, consequently, the principle of proportionally equitable representation has been abandoned.
They are referring to the original draft of the Bill of Rights which contained not 10 but 12 amendments. Only the last 10 amendments were ratified. The original first amendment is where this idea that the total population of Congressional districts should never exceed 50 to 60 thousand. That amendment was short one state on being ratified. For the skeptics here’s a way to see for yourself – (excepted from usgovinfo.about.com)
If you are fortunate enough to visit the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives in Washington, DC, you can view the original government copy of the Bill of Rights as sent to the then 11 states for ratification in 1789. What might surprise you is that the original Bill of Rights contains 12 – not 10 — amendments.
I’m not necessarily saying that we should increase the size of government to match the population… in fact I am more inclined to suggest we break the union up into smaller governments. Bottom line here… we have a huge government because we have a huge population. Want a smaller government? Then here are your choices… accept less representation or consider the ratio.
8. Believe in the People – The American people, given their guaranteed freedoms, will thrive in a democratic, capitalist environment which allows individuals to strive toward ever greater achievements, innovations and the efficient production of needed and valued goods and services.
The Constitution stuck with basic universal principles; it did not specify religion, nor economic model. This eighth core belief however is very obviously promoting one economic model. Capitalism. I think capitalism is a viable economic option it excels in fast moving industries like consumer electronics and commodities but our system is a hybrid system with a fair amount of socialism baked in and there’s a reason for that. Over the years the American people have found areas where strict capitalism doesn’t necessarily offer people the best option, usually areas where compassion and human judgement serves better. Capitalism has no such compassion, no sense of judgement and and for most things like consumer products that’s fine but sometimes the best option for a human being is not a profitable one. The danger that I sense here is that there are business people out there that are pushing for a strictly capitalist system so that profits can be made even at the expense of human interest and the Tea Party has all the earmarks of a vehicle to make that happen.
9. Avoid the Pitfalls of Politics – American politics is burdened by big money from lobbyists and special interests with an undue influence on the peoples’ representatives. The Tea Party movement is seen as a threat to the entrenched political parties and thus is the continual target of smear campaigns and misrepresentation of its ideals. We choose not to respond to these attacks except to strongly and explicitly disavow any and all hate speech, any and all violence as well as insinuations of violence, and any and all extreme and fringe elements that bring discredit to the Tea Party Movement. We are a peaceful movement and respect other’s opinions and views even though they do not agree with our own. We stand by the Tea Party beliefs and goals and choose to focus our energies on ensuring that our government representatives do the same.
1. Ironic how a movement funded by big money from lobbyists is such a critic of big money from lobbyists.
2. I was going to say a lot more about this somewhat whiny tenet, but I think the underlying message is a good one – at least in principal, so I’ll leave it at that.
10. Maintain Local Independence – The strength and resilience of a grassroots movement is the ability of citizens at the local level to determine their own platforms, agendas and priorities free of an overriding central leadership. Exercising the clearly stated message of the Tea Party movement by its nature involves discourse about which policies and candidates best hold to our stated principles, and these various opinions should flourish and evolve at the local level.
The Anti-Federalist in me wants to high five the Tea Party for this tenet, but the realist in me can’t ignore the contradictions. I’ve already stated the conflict of interest between this core belief and the fourth core belief but I can’t stress it enough because while you’re protesting the overriding central leadership in the Federal government, you are bowing down to the overriding central leadership of the free-trade movement, which overrides the Federal government and is arguably the primary road to a one-world government.
So… in summary… I understand the frustrations of the Tea Party supporters. I also agree with what I think are the ultimate hopes and dreams of the Tea Party such as self-determination but I am not impressed with what I can only describe as a half-baked set of principals that only makes sense when you put the big money sponsors into the picture at which point it becomes clear (at least in my mind) that the Tea Party is a rhetorical and manipulative trick played on the frustrations and political ignorance of good people.