What does the Tea Party stand for?
I’ll admit it, there are some things that I get about the Tea Party, but mostly, the thinking of Tea Party members is somewhat of a mystery to me. I understand the populist anger against an increasingly dysfunctional government and an anemic economy. What I don’t understand is Tea Party politicians’ proposed solutions to our problems.
Mostly, this is because the Tea Party very often contradicts itself and their actions rarely live up to their rhetoric. In theory, the Tea Party is in favor of low taxes, cutting the deficit, setting the Constitution as the revered document at the center of government, giving the government back to “We the People” (as opposed to special interests) and promoting states’ rights.
Now that the Tea Party has elected many members to Congress and has a couple preferred Presidential candidates, we can judge how its actions match up to its stated goals. The results are not pretty, and mostly just confuse me.
The Tea Party may claim to be for this in theory, but in practice, it gets more complicated. Turns out, two of the Tea Party’s favored candidates for President, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, do not want states to decide on the legality of gay marriage. After initially endorsing states’ rights il/legalize gay marriage, both have said that they favor a national, constitutional amendment against gay marriage. On abortion as well, Perry and Bachmann have taken stances that appear to indicate that they want abortion to be illegalized on the national level. These stances have not hurt them with the Tea Party base at all and have probably helped the two candidates. On these issues, it appears the Tea Party opposes states’ rights when it is otherwise convenient for them.
Giving the government back to “We the People”
Tea Party members seem to have quickly forgotten all that talk of getting rid of special interests in Washington. Dana Milibank recently looked into the only bill that Tea Party Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia has proposed since entering Congress. Scott filed his bill on behalf of a big agricultural grower in his district who was illegally discriminating against American workers to hire Mexican migrant workers. Scott’s bill would make it much harder, if not impossible, for abused workers to sue when their rights are infringed upon.
Likewise, Rachel Maddow recently chronicled the law adjustments and bureaucratic hoops Texas Gov. Rick Perry jumped through to let one of his top contributors build a uranium dump site in Texas. Nevermind the fact that this radioactive dump is built perilously close to a source of Texans’ drinking water.
It just seems that Tea Party politicians don’t care about sticking up for the little guy.
Putting the Constitution first
For a group that prides itself on its reverence for the Constitution, the Tea Party sure has a lot of proposed changes to the Constitution. In particular, Tea Party members seem to want to repeal amendments 14, 16 and 17 to the Constitution and to add a few more, for good measure. What kind of “Constitutionalist” party is this? It seems like Tea Party types would rather scrap the whole thing than put the Constitution up on a pedestal. How can a movement say that it wants it government to be “based on the Constitution” when it also wants the Constitution to be changed so fundamentally?
The Tea Party has staked its entire populist message on the fact that it wants low taxes. This is one of the hallmarks of the Tea Party movement. Which is why I find it very curious that the Tea Party arose in a period where taxes are lower than they have been in modern history. Taxes (which Tea Partiers claim are too damn high) are at their lowest point since 1950. How very curious…
The other contradiction that has recently emerged is that Tea Partiers do not actually want lower taxes, well at least not if you’re poor. Turns out, Tea Partiers want to raise taxes on the poor. The Tea Party only wants lower taxes for corporations and the rich.
Cutting the Debt
Tea Party members always lament the deficits that the government has been running in recent years. However, they also stand in the way of solving those deficit problems in a responsible fashion. The Tea Party wants to continue the irresponsible Bush tax cuts, which is the principal driver of our long term debt. They also want to eliminate the IPAB which, contrary to the Tea Party’s claims, is about the best chance we have for getting our Medicare costs under control.
The Tea Party does not really want to deal responsibly with our mounting fiscal issues. Their proposed solutions are to cut spending on the poor and vulnerable, cut investment in the future and to privatize and voucherize Medicare. I suppose this could just be considered a policy difference between myself and the Tea Party on how to reduce the debt. But when your policy proposal for fixing the debt involves implementing or repealing policies that will reduce the debt and then using the fiscal calamity that results from your policy choice to justify huge structural changes to American society, I think its safe to say you are not serious about debt-reduction.
The only explanation I have for all these contradictions is that the Tea Party is not a a new political movement, but rather a revival and re-invigoration of far-right wing thinking, and Republican politics.