Tag: Tea Party

GOP’s Pledge to America

The House Republicans’ release of its “Pledge to America” has been met with criticism from across the ideological spectrum. While excoriation from the left was inevitable, those who were hoping that the GOP would set out a detailed agenda for limiting government were also not satisfied.

The 48-page document contains more pictures of Republican members of Congress than it does evidence that the GOP is seriously prepared to cut spending. While the introductory commentary is designed to appeal to the tea party movement, the actual “plan” to return budgetary sanity to Washington is both timid and incomplete.

The following are some thoughts on the pledge’s “plan to stop out of control spending and reduce the size of government”:

  • The document immediately notes that the “lack of a credible plan” to tackle the mounting federal debt causes uncertainty for employers and investors. The problem is the GOP leadership doesn’t have a credible plan to address the debt, or at least this document doesn’t offer one.
  • It disingenuously promises to “cut government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels” when in fact it only intends to do so for a small portion of the overall federal budget. The reduction would apply to discretionary, non-security spending, which only accounts for about 15 percent of total federal spending.
  • Not only does the GOP punt on the big-ticket programs like Social Security and Medicare, the document devotes an entire section to maintaining the interventionist foreign policy that is helping to bankrupt the country. The GOP doesn’t appear to understand that the American people are having an increasingly difficult time understanding why the government continues to take bricks out of our own economy in order to build nations around the globe.
  • The document says that the GOP will “root out government waste.” Waste goes with government the way peanut butter goes with jelly. Nancy Pelosi has made the same promise, which demonstrates the vacuous nature of the proposal.
  • The GOP says it will cut the operations budget of Congress. That’s fine, but the legislative branch’s budget is only about $5 billion.
  • Calling for an end to the federal government’s control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is a good idea. But that’s an easy position. They should instead be calling for an end to the government’s entire disastrous role in subsidizing homeownership.
  • The document calls for a freeze in federal non-security hiring. One would have thought the GOP would at least address exorbitant federal civilian employee pay. Freezing (or reducing) federal employment would take care of itself by eliminating agencies and programs, which is something the document doesn’t lay out a plan to do.
  • The GOP proposes to continue holding weekly votes to cut spending via its YouCut initiative. It’s a fine idea, but most of the cuts offered for consideration thus far have been relatively insignificant. For example, one of the cuts being proposed this week would “reduce funding for the wild horse and burro program to previously projected levels.” Not only would this only save $280 million over ten years, the GOP couldn’t even find the nerve to call for its outright abolition.
  • One piece of good news is that the GOP explicitly calls for the repeal of Obamacare.

With the Democrats content to irresponsibly promise more free lunches in the face of an unsustainable fiscal situation, it would have been refreshing for the House Republicans to square with the American people. However, with this document the GOP largely fell back on limited government platitudes.

GOP Sore-Loser Syndrome

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Does the Republican Party have a sore-loser problem?

My response:

Lisa Murkowski is Exhibit A of the GOP sore-loser syndrome. Poor little thing: She thought she was entitled to the seat. After all, Daddy gave it to her.

But she’s not alone: Charlie Crist, Bill McCollum, Bob Bennett, Bob Inglis, Mike Castle, Dede Scozzafava – all sitting on the sidelines, running against the primary opponents who beat them, or even endorsing the Democrat in the race. They confirm the Tea Party contention: They have no clue about the changes taking place beneath their feet. Lisa Murkowski talks about the bacon she’s brought back to Alaska. But unlike the people marching in Paris to protest moving the retirement age from 60 to 62, the growing Tea Party movement is marching across America with signs that say “We Want Less!” In other words, get out of the way so we can be free to plan and live our own lives.

Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, co-author with Dick Armey of the new book Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto, has it exactly right when he says: “What you’re seeing in the Republican primaries amounts to a hostile takeover of the Republican Party – and I mean that in the technical sense of replacing a failed management and tired ideas.” It began, one could say, with slowly growing opposition to the two Bushes, who squandered the Reagan Revolution. It continued with the rejection, ultimately, of the Republican Congress that came to office in 1995, which in time forgot why it was elected as members grew far too comfortable in office. Today, the opposition to “business as usual” – to Republicans as “Democrat Lite” – has a full head of steam. A two-party system works only if the parties are distinct, standing on different principles. It’s taken a long time – since the New Deal – but that’s what we’re moving toward, and that’s good, because it gives voters a real choice.

The ‘Tea Party’ Smear

One sign of the tea party movement’s success is that the term “tea party” is becoming an all-purpose smear term for any more-or-less right-wing person or activity that the writer doesn’t like. In fact, I think “Tea Party” is replacing “neocon” as an all-purpose word for “the people I hate.”

Take a look at this article, teased on the cover of Newsweek as “France’s Tea Party” and online as “What a Tea Party Looks Like in Europe.” When I saw the cover on the newsstand, I thought, “A tax revolt in France? Cool! And about time!” But what is the article actually about? It’s about the National Front party of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who

for decades has played on the inchoate fears, xenophobia, knee-jerk racism, and ill-disguised anti-Semitism of many of his supporters.

Is that Newsweek’s view of the “tea party”? The article went on to explain that at 82 Le Pen is yielding party leadership to his daughter, who is “a passionate advocate of its core message: strong French nationalism, relentless Euro-skepticism, and a lot of hard-nosed talk about fighting crime and immigration.” And lest that you think that such culturally conservative and unsavory attitudes simply go hand in hand with a belief in lower taxes and smaller government, the authors point out that

she’s also a big believer in the state’s ability and obligation to help its people. “We feel the state should have the means to intervene,” she says. “We are very attached to public services à la française as a way to limit the inequalities among regions and among the French,” including “access for all to the same level of health care.”

That combination of nativism and welfare statism seems very different from the mission of the tea party movement. The Tea Party Patriots website, the closest thing to a central focus for tea party activists, lists their values as “Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, Free Market.”  In fact, I note that writers Tracy McNicoll, Christopher Dickey, and Barbie Nadeau never use the term “tea party” in the body of the article. So maybe we should only blame Newsweek’s headline writers and front-page editor.

In another example, the Guardian newspaper of London wrote sensationally about “Lobbyists behind the rightwing Tea Party group in the US” arriving in London for “an event organised by the UK’s controversial Taxpayers’ Alliance.” (Why is it controversial? Apparently because it agitates for lower taxes.) These groups, it is said, have “close links to the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch” and “have lobbied … to maintain tax breaks for the rich” – and for everyone else, a point that author Phillip Inman inadvertently omitted. And, contrary to the article, Cato didn’t sponsor a taxpayers’ conference in London; we cosponsored the venerable European Resource Bank, a networking conference for free-market think tanks across Europe.

Inman writes, “The Cato Institute, which promotes its views on Fox News and other rightwing media, is one of the Tea Party’s main backers.” That’s sort of true, except for the point that our scholars have appeared more often on CNBC than on Fox. And that we don’t back any political or grass-roots movements, though many of our scholars have written generous – and sometimes more cautious – articles about the tea party movement.

My colleague Aaron Powell suggests that that many left-liberals, including many journalists, have a Manichean worldview that posits a fundamental conflict between corporations and government. And so if you dislike corporations, you perforce stand on the side of government. And when it’s energy corporations, like the Kochs, then anything they touch becomes The Enemy. And “Tea Party” is now, to some people, the generic name for The Enemy.

For more sensible views of the tea party movement from journalists, see this John Judis article that I praised before and a new analysis from Jonathan Rauch in National Journal.

More Surprises from the Kentucky Senate Survey

You may have heard about the new survey in the Kentucky Senate race that shows Rand Paul up by 15 points. The disaggregated data from the survey are almost as surprising as the overall result.

About one-third of likely African-American and Democratic voters support Paul. He attracts solid majorities of young people, of college graduates, and of people who “almost never” attend religious services. Among the one-quarter of voters neutral toward the Tea Party movement, Paul receives 60 percent of the vote. He gets majority support from every region of the state. Paul’s support is the same from voters who make more or less than $50,000 a year. Paul’s weaknesses? People over 65 and women, both coming in around 45 percent.

Pretty amazing stuff, but there’s a caveat (there’s always a caveat).

One time in twenty, a well-done poll will return a misleading result. The 15 percent number may be wrong because of sampling error.

If not, Rand Paul might want to think about whether he really wants to keep his practice open on Mondays considering all that stuff he will be doing in DC. But maybe he’s not looking to make a career in the capital.

Are the Anti-War Left and the Tea Party Just Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Responding to my POLITICO Arena post this morning about the Tea Party’s potency as a notional political force, David Biespiel, poet, editor, writer, and founding executive director of the Attic Writers’ Workshop in Portland, Oregon, points to opposition to the Iraq War as he argues that “the anti-war left were tea partiers before being tea partiers was cool!” Look here and scroll down a bit for Biespiel’s argument and my response.

The Tea Party Is About More than Government

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Is Joe Miller’s win in Alaska a sign of the tea party’s potency as a national political force?

My response:

Joe Miller’s win in Alaska isn’t simply a sign, but one more in a long string of signs of the Tea Party’s potency as a national political force. From Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts to the massive Beck rally on the National Mall on Saturday, forces are stirring in the nation as they haven’t for years. And as that rally showed, they aren’t entirely or even mainly political forces. Nor are they mainly religious in any narrow sense, as the mainstream media seem to be saying, once again missing the point.

Rather, the Tea Party movement, like the original Tea Party over two centuries ago, is a rebellion against overweening government and a call for the restoration of individual liberty, individual responsibility, and limited constitutional government. That there should be a religious element in this should not surprise. After all, America’s three great revolutions – the first whereby we declared ourselves free and independent, the second that ended slavery, and the third that ended legal segregation – were all supported and inspired by religious beliefs and institutions.

And for good reason: In America, at least, religion is a private affair, free from government coercion, a domain where individuals can and must assume responsibility for themselves – the very virtue that is crippled by dependence on government. Alaskans and Americans more broadly are increasingly rejecting the Murkowski view that government is instituted to provide goods and services. It’s instituted to ensure our freedom, including freedom from forced dependence on government.