Thursday, July 08, 2010

 

Political Mayhem Thursday: Big Government


It is no secret that I think that the federal government is too big, too expensive, and inefficient at tasks ranging from national defense to education. Our nation would be better off with a smaller national government in nearly all respects-- a smaller federal agriculture program, smaller military, smaller law enforcement apparatus, and smaller federal budget.

I also think that we should not be funneling tax money to the federal government and then back to the states in the form of block grants and other giveaways. Let states tax for their own needs, and reduce the federal tax burden in that way. We would all be better off.

Apparently, a lot of the Tea Party supporters believe the same thing I do in this respect, but every time I talk to one or see one on television, it seems like the conversation morphs quickly into crazytime-- they want to tell me how Obama is a Muslim, or there is a Democratic plot to destroy the country, or how we need to mandate school prayer. I know this is hardly a scientific poll, but it has been my experience.

Could it be that the "Tea Party" movement is suffering from a lack of focus? I wonder what others' perceptions have been.

Comments:
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
I am too tired to enter this debate today.

I want smaller government.
I wish the militray were smaller, but at this point it would mean higher unemployment rates. What jobs would these service people be returning to? Wait - Blackwater or whatever their new name is can hire them.

A side note; yesterday while driving through SC, en route to Tampa, I was flipping radio stations. Christian radio or Country? Anyway, the DJ on the country station started ranting that Al Jazerah (sp) and how it is run by the Iraqi's and the Taliban. I turned on my Carole King 'Tapestry' CD for some relief.
 
Misconception #1: The Tea Party is an organized and cohesive group speaking with one voice with a common platform.

Referring to the Tea Party in the same terms as the Democrats or the GOP, using pronouns like “they” and “their” to imply unity, is simply a mischaracterization of what can be broadly painted as an anti-establishment movement that generally endorses the ideals of smaller government, less taxation, fiscal responsibility and government transparency. There is no doubt that Dick Armey and his PAC, along with a few others like the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, act as the primary financiers for several of the largest Tea Party organizations like Tea Party Nation and Tea Party Express. Incidentally, these two groups have been known to endorse different candidates.

Misconception #2: Tea Party members are just Republicans waving a different banner.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the populist rage we see in America today demonstrates notable similarities between two groups that are both unhappy with the federal government. As we all know, Democrats have the White House, which necessarily means control over all 15 Executive Depts., the Senate and a huge majority in the House. With the control of Washington being what it is—hyper-partisan—Republicans are obviously going to fall into the dissenting category, as will any group (e.g. the Tea Party) that doesn’t identify ideologically with a very one sided political landscape. In other words, it’s either stand with the powers that be, or join the dissent. Still, it can be said with confidence that Republicans are not all fond of the Tea Party. The Tea Party often lumps Republican incumbents, particularly at the federal level, into the “establishment” category—evidenced by Rick Perry’s victory of Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Texas Republican Gubernatorial primary in which he successfully branded her as “too Washington”. Let’s not forget that it was passage of the TARP, under George W. Bush, that really instigated the early Tea Party.

Misconception #3: The Tea Party is a collaboration of ultra-right wing nut jobs that have been disenfranchised by the Republicans.

I think it’s right to claim that today’s political discourse has been largely orchestrated by institutional “elites” who simply conduct the masses with highly ideological, heavily uniformed arguments intended to create an us-versus-them mentality. This sort of behavior emboldens the fringe elements on all sides to come out of shadows to either stand at the door of polling places dressed in military fatigues and brandishing nightsticks or to claim that the President of the United States is a Muslim terrorist born in Kenya. In either case, such behavior is vastly overexposed by the media and is not indicative of the mainstream. I have worked with several Tea Party groups in the past few years, and though I certainly do not consider myself a member, I have encountered many who are much more moderate than the stereotype would suggest.

In sum, yes there is a lack of focus and leadership in the Tea Party. Yes they suffer from radical influences. Yes they are experiencing growing pangs as they attempt to transition from a disorganized grassroots conglomerate into a functioning political party. But no, not every “teabagger” is a crazed lunatic just waiting for the chance to pick up his torch and pitchfork to march on Washington.

But hey, maybe I'm wrong.
 
Misconception #1: The Tea Party is an organized and cohesive group speaking with one voice with a common platform.

Referring to the Tea Party in the same terms as the Democrats or the GOP, using pronouns like “they” and “their” to imply unity, is simply a mischaracterization of what can be broadly painted as an anti-establishment movement that generally endorses the ideals of smaller government, less taxation, fiscal responsibility and government transparency. There is no doubt that Dick Armey and his PAC, along with a few others like the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, act as the primary financiers for several of the largest Tea Party organizations like Tea Party Nation and Tea Party Express. Incidentally, these two groups have been known to endorse different candidates.

Misconception #2: Tea Party members are just Republicans waving a different banner.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the populist rage we see in America today demonstrates notable similarities between two groups that are both unhappy with the federal government. As we all know, Democrats have the White House, which necessarily means control over all 15 Executive Depts., the Senate and a huge majority in the House. With the control of Washington being what it is—hyper-partisan—Republicans are obviously going to fall into the dissenting category, as will any group (e.g. the Tea Party) that doesn’t identify ideologically with a very one sided political landscape. In other words, it’s either stand with the powers that be, or join the dissent. Still, it can be said with confidence that Republicans are not all fond of the Tea Party. The Tea Party often lumps Republican incumbents, particularly at the federal level, into the “establishment” category—evidenced by Rick Perry’s victory of Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Texas Republican Gubernatorial primary in which he successfully branded her as “too Washington”. Let’s not forget that it was passage of the TARP, under George W. Bush, that really instigated the early Tea Party.

Misconception #3: The Tea Party is a collaboration of ultra-right wing nut jobs that have been disenfranchised by the Republicans.

I think it’s right to claim that today’s political discourse has been largely orchestrated by institutional “elites” who simply conduct the masses with highly ideological, heavily uniformed arguments intended to create an us-versus-them mentality. This sort of behavior emboldens the fringe elements on all sides to come out of shadows to either stand at the door of polling places dressed in military fatigues and brandishing nightsticks or to claim that the President of the United States is a Muslim terrorist born in Kenya. In either case, such behavior is vastly overexposed by the media and is not indicative of the mainstream. I have worked with several Tea Party groups in the past few years, and though I certainly do not consider myself a member, I have encountered many who are much more moderate than the stereotype would suggest.

In sum, yes there is a lack of focus and leadership in the Tea Party. Yes they suffer from radical influences. Yes they are experiencing growing pangs as they attempt to transition from a disorganized grassroots conglomerate into a functioning political party. But no, not every “teabagger” is a crazed lunatic just waiting for the chance to pick up his torch and pitchfork to march on Washington.

But hey, maybe I'm wrong.
 
Sorry for the double post! I don't know what happened.
 
Professor Osler--

I agree. I associate myself with many "tea party" or more accurately libertarian political ideas. However, I feel the Tea Party movement suffers not from so much of a lack of focus as suffers from bandwagon supporters. I think the Tea Party will find itself more ideologically as it matures out of its teenager phase. I equate "Obama is a Muslim" to "I hate you Dad for not letting me take the car." Its irrational, not really meant or true, and a reaction to frustration.
 
On the one hand, I see what you're saying about block grants, but one of the reasons we ended up with the Constitution we have was that some States were in deep financial trouble. The idea was to set up a bigger whole that would allow the Feds to take on some responsibilities and to help out States in need. There are richer states and poorer states. I have no problem using the power of the Federal Government to help out the poorer states... on a limited basis.

States themselves do this. Northern Virginia (the D.C. suburbs) pays far more in state taxes and fees percentage wise than it gets back. We help fund the poorer, less developed parts of the State. I am sure its true in Texas as well.

As for the Tea Party, the media is partly to blame. And since its not a unified force, there is no spokesperson or set of spokespeople. But yes, I think it lacks focus.

Candidates rarely win by being AGAINST something (or everything). They need to stand for something.
 
IPLG--

It would be rational if it were "richer states helping poorer states," but I don't think it is really about that. It's really about Congressmen spending money in their own districts.
 
As an initial matter, Lane, what happened to those comments man? There was a lot of good stuff in there, some of which I wanted to agree with, and some of which I wanted to fight about. And now it is all gone. Darn shame that is.

Second, is the Tea Party Movement really a "movement?" Progressives have "movements" that are easily identifiable, in that they have specific issues they care about that set them apart from the general progressive ideology. The "environmental movement." The "civil rights movement." The "anti-war movement." The "free stuff for illegal immigrants movement." These are "movements" as I think that term is defined in the context of political activity (except for that last one, which is actually a secret Obama plot).

The Tea Party seems different to me for two reasons. First, to the extent that it contains conservatives, whether they be from the traditional conservative small government background or the libertarian small government background, they aren't picking out one issue and trying to set themselves apart from the general conservative movement (at least not in any meaningful way). They want smaller government, lower taxes, meaningful restrictions on immigration, more power to the states, etc. These are people that are just repackaging conservatism under a new heading. It is most similar to the "contract with America" under Gingrich. This isn't a different playbook from conservatism, and it isn't a single-issue "movement" that puts that issue first above a general adherence to ideology, this is branding.

Third, the people that have been the face of the Tea Party, and by that I mean the people that MSNBC, CNN, etc. show when they want to talk about the Tea Party, aren't generally that impressive. This is for the same reasons that when you hear the person interviewed on TV who is leading an anti-free trade rally at an IMF meeting you come away feeling dismayed at the state of education in this country. Or why environmentalists sound like dumb hippies. It is because they make the best sound bites. "Hey, here is some redneck in coveralls and a American flag top hat with a sign that says 'Obama is African', lets talk to that guy!" It just makes sense. George Will can make a cogent, rational, detailed argument for smaller government and fewer taxes, but nobody wants to watch him on the 10 o'clock news. The stupid people are always more interesting cause they say crazy things.

Bottom line, when Bush was president there were nutjobs lining up to accuse him of any number of things, not the least of which was the accusation that he was responsible for and in fact orchestrated the 9/11 attacks on his own country, and thereby killed approximately 3,000 of his own citizens. Now Obama is president and some nutjobs are lining up to accuse him of being born outside of this country and claiming the world is about to end.

High minded debate, no? But this is how the sausage gets made.
 
They were rambling and unfocused, that's what happened.

Interestingly, there is a not-insignificant overlap between the "Bush did 911!" weirdos and the birther contingent. I don't fully understand it, but I never ascribe to other motives what human stupidity adequately explains.

And I despair of soundbite culture and modern media's interpretation of "hey, look at this kook!" as "news." What happened to actually informative segments?

I guess what really irks me is how logically inconsistent this has made people (and not just tea partiers). How can someone want "small" government and be for stronger immigration, restrictions on abortion, etc.? I mean, it's not like American liberals are any more consistent, but soundbite opinion-making makes for terrible opinions.
 
I guess what I'm saying is, if you're pro-corporate, pro-business, anti-regulation and pro-privatization, just say that. You're not for "small government" so much as "weak government in terms of economic policy," though you might still be for "big government" or "strong, internventionary government in terms of social policy."

Personally, I'm for strong government in terms of economic policy, extensive governmental provision of benefits at both a state and federal level, but minimal government interference on social issues, and fairly lax economic regulations in non-essential areas (like luxuries, atuomobiles, consumer electronics, etc.). But that's not easy to encapsulate into a soundbite.
 
Bonjour ! C'est moi, le chien qui avait l'habitude d'appartenir à TydWBleach ! J'ai pensé que j'étais mort, mais j'ai appris à ne parler, tellement pas plus ! N'essayez pas d'employer les poissons de Babel sur ce texte. Il causera plus de mal que bon.

La partie de thé était un acte des la porcs américains idiots, mais elle a causé la douleur des la Anglais, ainsi je peux rapporter et être joyeux!

--Boogie Parle Français
 
Just checking in. Hate that I missed this discussion. Ironically, I am working on an essay attempting to offer a a more nuanced analysis of the TPM. My working title is "something inscrutable this way comes." In essence, it is the story of what happens with the smart guys are asleep at the wheel and the crank-pots stumble into being right (it crosses everything up when this happens).

Stay tuned.
 
Boogie! Bonjour!! Comment allez-vous ? Je vous ai manqué. Votre blog était le meilleur et très embrouillant aux avocats.

Votre ami,
Ginger

PS: Je n'ai aucun commentaire en ce qui concerne la Partie de Thé.
 
The Tea Party is a movement, all right... a bowel movement!
 
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