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Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

The Tea Party doesn’t mince words. In a bold editorial posted at Foxnews.com, the leaders of the Tea Party Patriots, along with Andy Quinlan of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity and a private investor named Steve Baer, make the case for cutting up the government’s credit card.

Reading this column makes me feel wimpy. I’ve been assuming that Congress eventually will raise the debt limit, and my focus has been on getting Obama and the Senate to give up something in exchange – perhaps some sort of reform of the budget process to restrain spending as a trade for more borrowing authority. I’d like to see, for instance, a rejuvenated version of Gramm-Rudman that imposes limits on spending growth.

And I’ve already blogged about Senator Toomey’s legislation, which would prevent the Treasury Secretary from deliberately defaulting on the debt as part of a cynical ploy to force Congress to give Obama a blank check.

But maybe I’ve been aiming too low. Here are some key excerpts from the Tea Party oped.

Nearly all of the 87 freshmen who made Boehner Speaker campaigned against raising the limit on the USA’s public debt, capped for now at a staggering $14.3 trillion. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner calculates that our national credit card will max-out near June. Yet Boehner has already muffed his lines, blurting intent to boost the borrowing limit on Obama’s Mastercard.

…We are eyewitnesses to the troubling fact that Geithner has beguiled some leaders with the patently false notion that House resolve against further borrowing equals default to U.S. bondholders. This, in turn, argues to Boehner that it would be reckless not to raise the ceiling ahead of max-out.

Yet, as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) contend via clarifying legislation, non-borrowed tax revenues are more than ample to cover debt service – just not enough to pay for every nice, silly or evil thing to which Washington has become accustomed.

…[T]he epic, blockbuster feature presentation in the nation’s political theater should be all about House GOP shutdown of the president’s credit card – the outlaw means by which official Washington has confessed to robbing unborn generations of Americans: In 2006, an audacious newcomer told his Senate colleagues that “raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure…. Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.” Playing the centrist, of course, he became president in 2008.

…Strategic inaction on the debt ceiling, plus bold messaging…, represents a GOP WMD (weapon of mass discipline) that can incinerate every obstacle to the bipartisan reforms so desperately needed in our dysfunctional U.S. government. Wielding this awesome weapon without cooperation from the Senate or the president, House Republicans can rescue the American Republic from Washington’s outlaws.

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There’s a lot of attention being paid to yesterday’s landslide vote in the House to prevent a big tax increase next year. If you’re a glass-half-full optimist, you will be celebrating the good news for taxpayers. If you’re a glass-half empty pessimist, you will be angry because the bill also contains provisions to increase the burden of government spending as well as some utterly corrupt tax loopholes added to the legislation so politicians could get campaign cash from special interest groups.

If you want some unambiguously good news, however, ignore the tax deal and celebrate the fact that Senator Harry Reid had to give up his attempt to enact a pork-filled, $1 trillion-plus spending bill. This “omnibus appropriation” not only had an enormous price tag, it also contained about 6,500 earmarks. As I explained in the New York Post yesterday, earmarks are “…special provisions inserted on behalf of lobbyists to benefit special interests. The lobbyists get big fees, the interest groups get handouts and the politicians get rewarded with contributions from both. It’s a win-win-win for everyone — except the taxpayers who finance this carousel of corruption.”

This sleazy process traditionally has enjoyed bipartisan support, and many Republican Senators initially were planning to support the legislation notwithstanding the voter revolt last month. But the insiders in Washington underestimated voter anger at bloated and wasteful government. Thanks to talk radio, the Internet (including sites like this one), and a handful of honest lawmakers, Reid’s corrupt legislation suddenly became toxic.

The resulting protests convinced GOPers, even the big spenders from the Appropriations Committee, that they could no longer play the old game of swapping earmarks for campaign cash. This is a remarkable development and a huge victory for the Tea Party movement. Here’s part of the Washington Post report on this cheerful development.

Senate Democrats on Thursday abandoned their efforts to approve a comprehensive funding bill for the federal government after Republicans rebelled against its $1.2 trillion cost and the inclusion of nearly 7,000 line-item projects for individual lawmakers. …Instead, a slimmed-down resolution that would fund the government mostly at current levels will come before the Senate, and Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it will pass by Saturday. …The majority leader’s surrender on the spending bill marked a final rebuke for this Congress to the old-school system of funding the government, in which the barons of the Appropriations Committee decided which states would receive tens of millions of dollars each year. …Almost every Senate Republican had some favor in the bill, but as voter angst about runaway deficits grew before the midterm elections, Republicans turned against the earmark practice.

This is a very positive development heading into next year, but it is not a permanent victory. Some Republicans are true believers in the cause of limited government, but there are still plenty of corrupt big spenders as well as some Bush-style “compassionate conservatives” who think buying votes with other people’s money somehow makes one a caring person.

In other words, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and Tea Partiers have won an important battle, but this is just one skirmish in a long war. If we want to save America from becoming another Greece, we better make sure that we redouble our efforts next year. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

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Peggy Noonan makes a compelling case in the Wall Street Journal that the Tea Party has rescued the GOP by allowing Republicans to escape the statist legacy of George W. Bush and forcing them to re-focus on the need to restrain big government. I’m not sure that she’s right. After all, the establishment wing of the GOP will try to co-opt and corrupt the new Representatives and Senators elected November 2. But there’s no doubt that the GOP is enjoying a revival (reprieve?) thanks to this spontaneous and organic grassroots movement.

…the tea party is not a “threat” to the Republican Party, the tea party saved the Republican Party. In a broad sense, the tea party rescued it from being the fat, unhappy, querulous creature it had become, a party that didn’t remember anymore why it existed, or what its historical purpose was. The tea party, with its energy and earnestness, restored the GOP to itself.

…The tea party did something the Republican establishment was incapable of doing: It got the party out from under George W. Bush. The tea party rejected his administration’s spending, overreach and immigration proposals, among other items, and has become only too willing to say so. In doing this, the tea party allowed the Republican establishment itself to get out from under Mr. Bush…

[T]he tea party stiffened the GOP’s spine by forcing it to recognize what it had not actually noticed, that we are a nation in crisis. The tea party famously has no party chiefs and no conventions but it does have a theme—stop the spending, stop the sloth, incompetence and unneeded regulation—and has lent it to the GOP.

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Conservatives and libertarians supposedly agree with each other on economic issues, but disagree to some extent on social issues and foreign policy.

This is generally accurate. Principled conservatives (as opposed to the Bush/Rove variety) believe in limited government and free enterprise, so there is agreement on the economic side.

And there is disagreement on social issues, at least in terms of victimless crimes such as drugs, gambling and prostitution (though I actually think the disagreement could be bridged if libertarians went out of their way to explain that legalizing the aforementioned activities is not the same as personally approving of their abuse and if conservatives went out of their way to do a cost-benefit analysis to see whether criminalization makes matters worse rather than better).

But there may be a more fundamental difference between conservatives and libertarians (notice I said difference, which is not the same as disagreement). A column in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal looks at the Tea Party movement and uses survey data to conclude that the protests against big government are driven by moral concerns.

…the passion of the tea-party movement is, in fact, a moral passion. It can be summarized in one word: not liberty, but karma. The notion of karma comes with lots of new-age baggage, but it is an old and very conservative idea. It is the Sanskrit word for “deed” or “action,” and the law of karma says that for every action, there is an equal and morally commensurate reaction. Kindness, honesty and hard work will (eventually) bring good fortune; cruelty, deceit and laziness will (eventually) bring suffering. No divine intervention is required; it’s just a law of the universe, like gravity.

So what does this have to do with libertarians and conservatives? Well, according to this research, there are some big differences between the two groups.

Last year my colleagues and I placed a nearly identical statement on our research site, YourMorals.org: “Everyone should be free to do as they choose, so long as they don’t infringe upon the equal freedom of others.” Responses from 3,600 Americans showed that self-described libertarians agreed with the statement most strongly, but liberals were right behind them. Social conservatives, who, according to national polls, make up the bulk of the tea party, were more tepid in their endorsement.

…In our survey for YourMorals.org, we asked Americans how much they agreed with a variety of statements about fairness and liberty, including this one: “Ideally, everyone in society would end up with roughly the same amount of money.” Liberals were evenly divided on it, but conservatives and libertarians firmly rejected it.

On more karmic notions of fairness, however, conservatives and libertarians begin to split apart. Here’s a statement about the positive side of karma: “Employees who work the hardest should be paid the most.” Everyone agrees, but conservatives agree more enthusiastically than liberals and libertarians, whose responses were identical.

And here’s a statement about the negative side of karma: “Whenever possible, a criminal should be made to suffer in the same way that his victim suffered.” Liberals reject this harsh notion, and libertarians mildly reject it. But conservatives are slightly positive about it.

…Libertarians are closer to conservatives on two of the five main psychological “foundations” of morality that we study—concerns about care and fairness (as described above). But on the other three psychological foundations—group loyalty, respect for authority and spiritual sanctity—libertarians are indistinguishable from liberals and far apart from conservatives. …When you think about morality as a way of binding individuals together, it’s no wonder that libertarians (who prize individual liberty above all else) part company with conservatives.

…The tea-party movement is a blend of libertarians and conservatives, but it is far from an equal blend, and it’s not clear how long it can stay blended.

…The rank-and-file tea partiers think that liberals turned America upside down in the 1960s and 1970s, and they want to reverse many of those changes. …they want to live in a country in which hard work and personal responsibility pay off and laziness, cheating and irresponsibility bring people to ruin. Give them liberty, sure, but more than that: Give them karma.

This is all quite interesting, but I think it overstates the potential for disagreement between libertarians and conservatives. Unless I’m missing something, varying opinions on group loyalty, respect for authority, and spiritual sanctity shouldn’t be a hindrance to a coalition against subsidies, handouts, and bailouts.

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Warren Buffett once said that it wasn’t right for his secretary to have a higher tax rate than he faced, leading me to point out that he didn’t understand tax policy. The 15 percent tax rates on dividends and capital gains to which he presumably was referring represents double taxation, and when added to the tax that already was paid on the income he invested (and the tax that one imagines will be imposed on that same income when he dies), it is quite obvious that his effective marginal tax rates is much higher than anything his secretary pays. Though he is right that his secretary’s tax rate is much too high.

Well, it turns out that Warren Buffett also doesn’t understand much about other areas of fiscal policy. Like a lot of ultra-rich liberals who have lost touch with the lives of regular people, he thinks taxpayer anger is misguided. Not only does he scold people for being upset, but he regurgitates the most simplistic Keynesian talking points to justify Obama’s spending spree. Here’s an excerpt from his hometown paper.

Taxpayer anger against President Barack Obama and Congress is counterproductive because policy makers took measures including deficit spending to stimulate the economy, billionaire investor Warren Buffett told CNBC. …“I hope we get over it pretty soon, because it’s not productive,’’ Buffett said. “We will come back regardless of how people feel about Washington, but it is not helpful to have people as unhappy as they are about what’s going on in Washington.” …“The truth is we’re running a federal deficit that’s 9 percent of gross domestic product,” Buffett said. “That’s stimulative as all get out. It’s more stimulative than any policy we’ve followed since World War II.”
About the only positive thing one can say about Buffett’s fiscal policy track record is that he is nowhere close to being the most inaccurate person in the United States, a title that Mark Zandi surely will own for the indefinite future.

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That’s the title of an insightful column at Thehill.com, which points out that Tea Party activism has succeeded in shifting the debate from making government bigger to making government smaller. The columnist also is correct in explaining how the Tea Party, by dethroning some entrenched incumbents, is forcing the GOP to at least pretend to be on the side of taxpayers.

The Tea Party insurgency will not only cost Democrats dozens of seats in Congress, and likely their majority — it will define the coming GOP presidential nominating process, determine the direction of the GOP for years to come and threaten any remaining plans Obama has for sweeping reforms of education, energy policy or our immigration system.

Last March, Republicans joined Democrats in calling on Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) to end his filibuster against the extension of unemployment benefits paid for by deficit spending, embarrassed he was blocking aid to the jobless. But it took just three months for the grassroots pressure to reach the Capitol — Bunning was a Tea Party hero. By the time the $30 billion expired on June 2, Senate Republicans had united behind a nearly two-month filibuster of the next round of $34 billion in “emergency spending” for unemployment insurance. They were joined by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and some House Democrats warned their own leaders at the time that the days of votes on “emergency spending” would soon have to come to an end.

…The Tea Party candidates themselves — like O’Donnell, whom Karl Rove called “nutty,” — matter little. Only a few will actually get elected this fall. Yet the Tea Party has won without them. There are no tea leaves left to read. Democrats have been spooked and Republicans threatened, cajoled or cleansed. The results are already in.

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Steve Chapman points out that the Tea Party movement (like any other large group of people) has a few odd characters, but he is delighted that there is a growing mass of citizens who think it’s important to restrain government and not impose burdens of future generations.

Here’s my first impression of the tea party movement: It’s a rabidly right-wing phenomenon with a shaky grasp of history, a strain of intolerance and xenophobia, a paranoia about Barack Obama, and an unhealthy reverence for Fox News. Any movement that doesn’t firmly exclude Birchers, birthers, and Islamaphobes is not a movement for me.

Here’s my second impression of the tea party movement: We are lucky to have it.

That’s because the tea partiers, who may not all agree on gay marriage or birthright citizenship, are united behind a couple of sound goals: curtailing the cost of government and refusing to live at the expense of future generations. Those are goals that, for eight years, had many rhetorical supporters in Washington, but few authentic champions.

Blame that on George W. Bush, who arrived billing himself as a compassionate conservative, a description that was accurate except for the adjective and the noun. Whatever his ideology, his policy was to expand federal spending at a rate unseen since President Lyndon Johnson, the architect of the Great Society.

He didn’t do it alone, though. Had Bush been a Democrat, Republicans would have fought his budget plans at every turn. But since he was one of theirs, they joined in the spree with gusto, even as they cut taxes and piled up deficits.

The prevailing attitude was: Live it up now, and let someone else worry about paying for it later. Budget hawks were left wondering what happened to Republican tightwads, who thought every dollar spent by the government was a dollar that had to be justified as a vital necessity.

The tea partiers were dismayed to see these penny-pinchers replaced by poll-driven insiders with an appetite for earmarks. That’s one big reason hard-right candidates have scored so many upsets in recent GOP Senate primaries—including Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.

They didn’t get nominated because they look and sound like the popular image of a savvy, experienced, well-informed, practical-minded U.S. senator. They got nominated because they don’t.

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