Saturday, May 8, 2010

What's Right & Wrong About The Tea Party, Part 2

...continued from Part 1.

Just as I can pile on my personal beefs with many aspects of Democratic Party/liberal ideology, I can do the same with Republican Party/Conservative mantra…more so because of its self-crafted perception that it’s the party of all things unquestionably moral, patriotic, and good (and while yes, I’m very much an adherent of morality in policy, I draw the line at sanctimony). Take for example the phenomenon of the Tea Party movement making headlines almost daily for the last year or so.
It has been self-billed as a movement of “ordinary Americans” who are concerned about the welfare of the country’s future, mostly as it relates to the federal government’s current fiscal policies. And based on these surface perceptions, I listed in the first part of this posting what was admirable about the movement. But given what I have seen in the media, what has actually come from the mouths of the movement’s organizers and supporters, and how those within the movement portray their cause, there is just as much to dislike about the Tea Party movement. Among what is wrong with (i.e., questionable) the Tea Party is

· …the timing of the “movement’s” current activist activities. In a world where timing is everything, this calls into question whether the movement is truly a grassroots mobilization of ordinary Americans against out-of-control government spending, or just another ideological vehicle for one of the two major political parties to gain (or regain) control of Washington (and by extension become patsies of interests who desire a more business first, people-be-damned Free Market at-any-costs atmosphere). Yes, the Tea Party movement has been around for a few years, but it was given a shot in the arm in recent times by its support of former presidential candidate Ron Paul’s failed bid for the 2008 Republican Party nomination. Paul’s populist beliefs struck a resonate chord with many conservative Americans, who gave tepid opposition to President George Bush’s plan to help bailout Wall Street financial institutions (TARP loans) to stave off a wholesale financial meltdown, but has given opposition with both barrels to President Obama’s policy of continuing TARP loans and extending loans (ie., bailouts) to America’s failing auto industry. More to the point, this organized opposition to Obama’s policy proposals was gaining steam even before he took office. So to say that “runaway government spending” is the movement’s motivation can be looked at—cynically so—as being an ostensive opportunity for what many on the Conservative Right in general, and the movement in particular to irrationally view and/or paint the Obama Adminstration as a “threat” to American Free Market values in the form of being a harbinger of a “Socialist form of government” (via his drive to reform health care insurance to cover more
Americans).

· …how the Tea Party misrepresents and allows itself to be misrepresented. Many within the movement assert that runaway government spending and exorbitant taxes are the reason for its activism and opposition to the current administration’s policies. Furthermore, they declare that they are against and will work to unseat any elected official (mostly at the federal level) whose voting record adds to government spending. But again, timing and perception are everything. With the extremely rare exception, most of those whom the movement oppose for re-election are Democrats and/or Liberals, so one has to ask where was the movement’s current level of organization and opposition when the previous administration’s policies ran the national deficit up from $5.7 trillion to some $10 trillion under a Republican-controlled White House and Congress for the previous 8 years?
In addition to seeming to represent more of an effort to influence partisan party politics rather than a true representative grassroots efforts, the movement’s overall message of being “Taxed Enough Already” (its acronym) seems to be at odds with reality. A highly-publicized recent CBS/New York Times poll indicated that most Americans consider the current income tax level they pay to be fair, regardless of political persuasion or income level (
www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20002487-503544.html).
The poll was criticized in some conservative circles—predictably so since the Tea Party seems to represent their ideological views—as being inaccurate since most other research indicates that between 45% and 48% of Americans don’t even pay income taxes when refunds and various tax credits are factored in. A valid point under most other circumstances, but what the criticism fails to acknowledge is that the poll included many professed Tea Party supporters, whom were “oversampled…and then weighted back to their proper proportion in the poll. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for both all adults and Tea Party supporters.” What’s more is that “forty-five percent of self-identified "Tea Partiers" make less than $50,000 per year, according to a
USA Today/Gallup poll.



Click on graphic to enlarge (Courtesy CBS News/New York Times)

Similarly, 50% of the total population makes less than $50,000 in the same poll. Based on reason alone, it seems safe to assume that if about half the country avoids federal income taxes, a similar percentage of the Tea Party movement doesn’t pay taxes as well, even as they protest about their tax “burden.”


To Be Concluded...

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