Today is Tax Day, which for the newly formed Tea Party means stepping up their anti-taxation and anti-government spending protests. The Tea Party protesters have gotten lots of press and media attention. I’ve paid them a bit of attention, to see what is driving their anger, and to be honest it’s a bit of a smorgasbord. Recently they have announced their 10-Point “Contract from America,” a take on the 1994 Republican “Contract with America.” The basis for this “contract” is to rally their supporters around a cogent set of principles, rather than the disjointed message of anti-government protest they’ve displayed to date. At first blush their positions appear Libertarian in nature:
- Individual Liberty
- Limited Government
- Economic Freedom
However, while the Tea Party claim to not support any particular party, a recent poll of their members show they “almost always” vote for Republicans and they have a 57% favorable view of former President George W. Bush, who as you may recall left office with a 22% approval rating, and was the most unpopular president in our history. A little digging shows that this “Contract from America” was devised by a Tea Party member who worked for the Rudy Guiliani campaign for President in 2008. Tom Heckler started drawing up the contract shortly after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. I say all this because it casts a bit of doubt over the sincerity of these Tea Party folks. They certainly didn’t complain about the $400 Billion annual budget deficits run by the Bush White House and approved by a Republican Congress. They made not a sound when President Bush chose to invade, overthrow and occupy the sovereign nation of Iraq at an enormous cost of blood and treasure. They whimpered not when Bush and the Republican Congress passed the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, which was the most costly social spending program our nation had ever seen.
Combine the above with the fact that the Tea Party folks overwhelmingly disapprove of President Obama (90% disapprove) and many of the signs seen at their protests are specific about President Obama, and this blogger sees the Tea Party for what it is: Republicans who are highly motivated against an activist Democratic President, especially when he has a Democratic Congress behind him.
I’ll spell out what I see as the Tea Party hypocrisy and fairly obvious Republican partisanship point by point:
Our moral, political, and economic liberties are inherent, not granted by our government. It is essential to the practice of these liberties that we be free from restriction over our peaceful political expression and free from excessive control over our economic choices.
- The issue I have with this opening principle is that under the Bush Administration, the Patriot Act was the single largest infringement upon our individual liberty in a generation. Under Bush, the Faith Based Initiative was created funneling Federal Tax payer dollars to churches and other religious organizations. Bush & Company also illegally wire tapped untold thousands (possibly millions) of American citizens in clear violation of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution. In terms of peaceful political expression, anti-Bush protesters were either forcibly removed from Bush speaking engagements, arrested, or never allowed near the pro-Bush crowd. So this sudden cry for Individual Liberty seems a bit late.
The purpose of our government is to exercise only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people, chief among these being the protection of our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety from threats arising inside or outside our country’s sovereign borders. When our government ventures beyond these functions and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.
- Again, this principle appears disingenuous. The previous President of these United States expanded the power of the Executive as a matter of course. The Bush Administration also attempted to sell control of 7 major US Ports to a company owned in part by the nation of Dubai. A public outcry prevented this from occurring. The Bush Doctrine of intervention and preemptive military action against any nation deemed to be a threat to the United States is a clear expansion of the powers granted specifically by the Constitution. Last but not least, under George W. Bush and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, the United States began its now infamous “bailouts” of private industry. First with the purchase of 80% of AIG and then the forced takeovers of failing banks by banks the government had more confidence in and ultimately the purchase of billions of dollars in stock and a direct infusion of cash into the hands of the largest financial institutions in the country. The Tea Party didn’t seem to be motivated into action by any of these expansive actions by our government, although the continuation of the “bailout” program by President Obama sure got them fired up.
The most powerful, proven instrument of material and social progress is the free market. The market economy, driven by the accumulated expressions of individual economic choices, is the only economic system that preserves and enhances individual liberty. Any other economic system, regardless of its intended pragmatic benefits, undermines our fundamental rights as free people.
- This particular principle is merely a theoretical statement. The economy of the United States is complex and the government is a major driver of economic activity. Not only does the government make the laws under which the corporations function, but many corporations have the US Government as their major customer. While our market is “free” it is a regulated free market and has been for decades if not generations. So I don’t put much stock in this principle.
The Contract From America then goes on to state some specific requests for Public Officials to sign, which are extensions supposedly from the above principles.
There are Tea Party activists who are unemployed, drawing funds from government programs. There are Tea Party activists who are retired, drawing Social Security and using the government run health care program known as Medicare. Organizers and backers of the Tea Party are Republican political operatives like Tom Heckler, the primary author of the Contract, and large corporate interests like Fox News, Freedom works, and Americans for Prosperity. While there may be some Tea Party members who feel passionately about the issues they are involved in, they clearly haven’t done their homework or they’d see that these issues have been around for a lot longer than their movement. As for the folks brewing this Tea, they’re using the same old politics but taking advantage of the unprecedented government intervention in the markets due to the financial meltdown and the lingering unemployment of the recession to fuel the fire.
I am going to make a prediction here and now: As the economy continues to improve and the employment market finally catches up, this Tea Party will fizzle and fade into historical oblivion.