June 13, 2010

High Tea in the Empire Room

But while I throw the term around, often (admittedly) in a pejorative tone: just what is The Tea Party? Is it presided over by the Mad Hatter, does it represent the modern-day avatars of the Sons of Liberty, is it a Support Group for Political Lunatics? Does it exist just to give people who are over 50, and white, and broke, an excuse to leave their trailers and get together in the rec room?

No, it's none of these things, actually. Lewis Carroll did not write the platform, the "Contract from America." The Tea Party might best be described as the Libertarian Wing of the Republican Party, and it's coming on strong. The party had the muscle to get rid of Robert Bennett of Utah, for example. It has nominated Rand Paul and Sharron Angle, it assisted Scott Brown in Massachusetts. It seems, really, never to lose any race it enters, and it did not really exist before 2009. It has the Big Mo', and it's for real. The Establishment Parties are scared shitless, as are their Mainstream Media sponsors. The MSM do not necessarily have any kind of foothold with the Tea Party, which means they don't know how to "access" them, and tap into them for "sources" and remarks made "on background" and "off the record." Thus, it is in the interests of the MSM to marginalize the Tea Party, because the fate of the existing media depends on maintenance of the status quo, which is a world inhabited solely by the Usual Democrats and the Usual Republicans. Whom, increasingly, absolutely everybody hates.

For these reasons alone, you kinda gotta like the Tea Party.

Let us drop the relentless snark, then, and actually look at a prototypical representation of the Tea Party platform, this one from Wikipedia, and not dissimilar from the Maine GOP platform which officially and explicitly adopts the Tea Party agenda. So here we go, with comments by your faithful blogger, a man sorta trained in Constitutional law, just as our President is sorta trained.

1. Identify constitutionality of every new law: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does (82.03%).

WS: Okay. What's wrong with that? Even if Congress just says, "Article I." Although I know what the TP is driving at. It's the absurd expansion of the Commerce Clause and the Ninth Amendment to allow any damn thing that Congress wants to do, even if the 10th Amendment suggests the states should have the primary right. Score: TP 1, Congress 0.

Reject emissions trading: Stop the "cap and trade" administrative approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants. (72.20%).

WS: Well, see - they didn't want to say "carbon dioxide," because they don't believe in the theory (the "theory" in this case being "Science.") It doesn't have to be cap and trade, but we have to do something, and if you think the extractive and polluting industries are going to do so on their own, I have two letters for you: BP. Score: Push, because Congress sucks on this issue too.

Demand a balanced federal budget: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax modification. (69.69%)

Well, I don't think you need the 2/3rds requirement if you just enforce the first part. California has used that 2/3rds thing for a long time, and we're about to file B/K. But yeah - why shouldn't the federal government live within its means? Curiously, however, where is the mention of Pentagon spending? TP 1.5, Congress 0.

Simplify the tax system: Adopt a single-rate tax system; eliminate the internal revenue code and replace it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words. (64.90%).

Personally, I believe the correct number is 4,527 words. If there is no Internal Revenue Code, however, where do we put the 4,543 words? In the D.C. phone book? Much depends also on the "single rate." Talk about a blank check.
Unable to score.

5. Audit federal government agencies for constitutionality: Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in an audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities. (63.37%)

Let's be honest, people, if we're going to start fresh. Just come out and say you want to get rid of the Department of Education, Health & Human Services and the EPA. Score: subtract one point for disingenuousness. And please - no more Blue Ribbon Committees. That's why we never do anything. We "study" it to death. Score: TP 1/2, Congress 0.

6. Limit annual growth in federal spending: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (56.57%).

Not a good idea. What if there's a true emergency? The balanced budget plank covers this. Penalty of 1/2 point for missing the obvious. Score: TP 0, Congress 0.

7. Repeal the health care legislation passed on March 23, 2010: Defund, repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (56.39%).

Fine with me. It's a piece of sell-out junk, and by the time it takes effect, doctors will get paid with cows. No credit, though, because the system if still completely broken.

8. Pass an 'All-of-the-Above' Energy Policy: Authorize the exploration of additional energy reserves to reduce American dependence on foreign energy sources and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation. (55%).

This is the "burn coal," drill-baby-drill & build nukes plank. TP: -1, Congress, irrelevant.

9. Reduce Earmarks: Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark. (55.47%).

Just eliminate earmarks. If a Congress member wants a pork deal for his state or district, don't allow it as an attachment to a general bill. Make him/her/it introduce it as a free-standing pander.. Swing and a miss.

Reduce Taxes: Permanently repeal all recent tax increases, and extend permanently the George W. Bush temporary reductions in income tax, capital gains tax and estate taxes, currently scheduled to end in 2011. (53.38%).

Oh hell, there's your dead giveaway. I thought we were going to have a brand new tax code. Why include a plank just to help "Bush's Base"? This plank betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what's going on. Minus 2 points for overt pro-Republican sloganeering.. Score: -3.5.

As noted, there's nothing in the platform about out-of-control defense spending, illegal surveillance by the government, the abridgement of due process, or anything else that might offend Sean Hannity. Thus, the Tea Party platform lacks a coherent philosophy. It fails to address the problem of a huge military-industrial-security complex which drains $1 trillion per year from the national treasury, leads to a militarized, perpetual-war foreign policy, and infringes liberties at home. How do the Tea Party people miss this?

Not very encouraging. An aggressive, belligerent, militarized federal government which is simultaneously "small" and "limited." These conditions do not coexist in the Real Universe. As Eisenhower warned, if you persist in maintaining a huge MIC, you have to have a large federal bureaucracy to protect the citizenry from it. Otherwise, you wind up with a society as once existed in Germany between 1932 and 1945. Of course, Eisenhower was a fluoride-loving Communist.

1 comment:

  1. hammerud12:28 PM

    I agree with much of what you write. I think a big factor for the Tea Party in the last year is the in-your-face blatant corruption involved in getting legislation passed. People have had it with what they see.
    BTW, my grandfather was a veterinarian in North Dakota during the Great Depression and he occasionally got paid with cows.