Friday, April 16, 2010

Thoughts on the Tax Day/Tea Party Protests

Yesterday the Tea Party rallies culminated in a countrywide protests surrounding “tax day” in symbolic protest against all things federal government. I must say, my hopes have waxed and waned quite a lot in regards to this movement. On the one hand it has given me hope for the future of American politics, and the republic in general.

When I hear a man say, “five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing something like this; but now I feel it is my duty,” I take heart. I certainly have never seen anything like this in my lifetime, where the otherwise “button down” people of America have taken to the streets. And I must also say it has been bitter/sweet watching how begrudgingly the media has covered this. If you listen closely enough, you can actually hear the anguish in their voices.

But what a joke. A few years ago the media followed Cyndy Sheehan and her one-woman crusade around the country like she had her own reality tv show, yet here where there is an actual widespread political movement being undertaken by a part of the population which has never engaged in such activity before, the media is scarce to be found. And when the media does cover it, by and large, the information you are given has been mashed through their giant strainer of editorialization. The media is truly doing their best to do their job of "objective reporting" while not actually doing their job of objective reporting. But we must keep appearances right?

Why is this? Because it’s not a movement they can romanticize like they did with the Civil Rights protests of the 60’s, the Vietnam protests of the 70’s, the anti-nuclear war rallies of the 80’s, the anti war and pro immigration demonstrations of the early 2000’s, and the pro gay marriage rallies in California and other places over the last couple of years. No, because these rallies don’t involve a minority group or a minority cause, they simply aren’t nearly as “news worthy.” But are you telling me that a movement that has managed to pull middle and upper class people away from their career and family obligations, senior citizens out of their retirement, and moms away from children, to do something they would never have dreamed of doing is not "news worthy"? I mean, this is the first such movement that isn't based almost entirely on college aged individuals.

But that the media despises the Tea Party movement gives me hope. When the media refuses to cover something adequately it is usually important. That is a rule of thumb you can take to the bank (wow two clichés in one sentence).

I am also encouraged by the recent “blue print” of the top 10 concerns which were recently voted on by Tea Partiers. First on their list is first on my list: (1) Require each bill to identify its constitutional authorization. There is no more pressing concern than the need to place the “shackles of the constitution”, as Jefferson called them, back on the hands and feet of our government. I would love to see a bill requiring, henceforth, that each piece of legislation proposed by Congress give a introductory statement as to which portion of Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution Congress it is deriving its authority to act. There could be no greater need at this time in our country than a resounding reminder that government may only act, IF AT ALL, if the constitution allows it to do so.

The rest of the Tea party concerns are as follows:

(2) Defund, repeal, and replace government-run health care

(3) Demand a balanced budget

(4) End runaway government spending by imposing a statutory cap limiting growth in federal spending

(5) Enact fundamental reform to simplify and lower taxes

(6)Create a Blue Ribbon task force that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs

(7) Reject cap-and-trade

(8) Pass an “all of the above” energy policy

(9) Stop the 2011 tax hikes

(10) Stop the pork.

Most of the list is somewhat vague, but then again, the movement is a coalition of varying shades of conservative, and even includes some self avowed liberals. But by and large I believe the list is a good start.

For all of these reasons I have hope in what the Tea Party movement is doing. But I also have my doubts. My greatest fear is still that this movement will simply become co-opted by the Republican Party and that the movement will simply be smothered and destroyed. Why would it be destroyed? Because the Republican Party is nothing more than the slow train to ruin, whereas the Democrats are the fast train to ruin. Both parties have been leading our country down towards a cliff for the better part of 20 years.

My other concerns about the Tea Party is its affiliation with Sarah Palin, who I do not believe possesses a principled platform of ideas or any where near the qualities needed for leadership, let alone the lofty status of statesmanship. Yet with all of this, my current feeling is to support the Tea Party movement and see where it leads to. If it can lead us to the promised land of a rejection and dismantling of big federal government, I am on board. Yet, I will keep my seat near the back of the train and reserve my right to jump off at any time that I feel the movement is loosing its small government roots.


sheridanboy316 said...

I fully agree with you. I like the idea but don't like Palin and am wary of the GOP control machine. My prediction is that eventually the tea party will have to choose between serious limited government and continued military misadventures. They want lower taxes, but they refuse to address ending all of our insanely expensive and stupid wars. When crunch time comes, they won't do it, and we'll be back to the GW years of pretending we're conservative.

Andy said...

Sheridan, my sentiments exactly! What "national security conservatives" don't realize is just how massive the military has made our government, and how much debt it has led to. You know, the kinds of things conservatives are supposed to deplore. I believe in strong national security, but I don't believe in wars "to make the world safe for democracy" or intervening in other nations' conflicts. Those things are neither in our national interest nor our moral duty to do so.

I heard a libertarian make a great observation the other day when he compared us still housing troops in Western Europe as foreign aid. Those countries that we have troops in, like Germany only spend 2% on national security because we spend it for them, which, in turn, allows them to spend more on their own people.

But anyway, you're right. We won't achieve a small government unless the country is willing to reign in military adventurism.

Jason said...

Hear, hear! America's defense spending directly susidizes European socialisim. The ability of those countries to apply the Euros they spend on their command economies would take a severe blow if their governments had to take on the full burden of their national defense. If it were up to me we'd draw down our units from Korea, Japan, and Germany. By expanding our own energy supply we could get out of the middle east as well. I'd have to argue for an Expansion of our sub and carrier fleets to maintain a substantial deterrant lest any of the rising powers, like China, get too confident in their military prowess as they observe what they will no doubt interpret as a retreat.
As for the the Tea Party, it is full of people like us, the heretofore silent majority - the boring little people forgotten by the government, Hollywood, and the media. Now, with an organized resistance, there is an idealogical battle between those for Constitutional government and those for command and control government instead of an unopposed route.

Andy said...

Jason, I think that is a fair stipulation. I'm all for "real" national defense, and I think an expansion of our sub and carrier fleets is a perfect example of actual national defense, and not simply a senseless token force that serves no substantial national security purpose. If people want to join the military to "see the world" they need to join the peace corps. instead. Either that, or they need to be willing to go into Afghanistan and fight a war. If you're not willing to go to war, you have no business vacationing in Germany or Great Britain (where we still have 12,000 troops).

I also think that your idea of removing all troops from those nations and sending them to take care of our commitment in Afghanistan would be a far better use of our resources. That way we could get OUT of there and not return unless for imminent national security reasons.