Tag: Tea Party

Still Looking for the Anti-Tea Party

Covering the budget fight and President Obama’s tepid and misleading budget proposal, NPR’s Scott Horsley reported this morning on opposition from the left:

We saw sort of the counterweight to the Tea Party on the right yesterday … protesting  outside the White House.

Big rally against budget constraints, eh? Like the Tea Party rallies such as this one?

Tea Party rally

Well, not exactly like the Tea Party rallies. According to various news stories, the rally was supported by numerous groups, including the AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org, the National Organization for Women, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Speakers included Sen. Bernie Sanders, liberal activist (and brother of former presidential candidate Howard Dean) Jim Dean, and at least two members of Congress. 

And here’s how the AP reported the results:

Liberal lawmakers from Congress and a coalition of like-minded groups rallied outside the White House on Tuesday, voicing frustration at the Democratic president they say has let them down by proposing cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

“If they vote to cut Social Security, they may not be returning to Washington,” Sanders told about 100 people who gathered with signs that read “No Chained CPI” and “We earned our Social Security.”

I’m not sure the president should have too much confidence in this “counterweight to the Tea Party.”

With Purge, House GOP Leadership Reaches New Low

In December 2010, I wrote that “An indicator of the incoming House Republican majority’s seriousness about cutting spending will be which members the party selects to head the various committees.” The final roster ended up leaving a lot to be desired from a limited government perspective. For example, the House Republican leadership and its allies went with Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), aka “The Prince of Pork,” to head up the Appropriations Committee.

Two years later, the committee situation is about to get even worse now that the House Republican leadership has decided to send a message that casting a vote according to one’s beliefs instead of one’s instructions is a punishable offense. On Monday, four congressmen were booted from “plum” committee assignments for failing to sufficiently toe the leadership line. I suspect that the purge was motivated, at least in part, by Team Boehner’s desire to have the rest of the rank and file think twice before casting a “no” vote on whatever lousy deal is struck with the White House to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

Three of the purged Republicans are returning members of the 2010 freshmen “Tea Party Class”: Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ), Justin Amash (R-MI), and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS). Over the past year, I have been keeping a loose record of how the freshmen voted on opportunities to eliminate programs and prevent spending increases. On seven particularly telling votes*, Schweikert and Amash voted in favor of limited government every time. Out of 87 freshmen, only Schweikert, Amash, and five others had a perfect record. Huelskamp was six for seven. He also was one of only four Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee to vote against the bloated farm bill that passed out of the committee in July. The fourth outcast, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), had become an irritant to the Republican establishment after turning against the Iraq War and associating himself with more libertarian Republicans like Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

The best that can be said for Team Boehner thus far is that it isn’t Team Pelosi. A common excuse is that House Republicans have been constrained by Democratic control of the Senate and White House. While there is an element of truth to that claim, we’re talking about a House Republican majority that wouldn’t even vote to get rid of the loan guarantee program that led to the Solyndra debacle. The reality is that most Republicans were only ever interested in using Solyndra to score political points against the White House. Ditto pretty much every other White House spending endeavor that House Republicans claim to oppose.

*Votes were to terminate the Economic Development Administration, Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia, Essential Air Service program, Title 17 Energy Loan Guarantees, Community Block Development Grant program, against reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, and against the Continuing Appropriations Act in September.

Republican Freshmen Protect Big Government

The Community Development Block Grant program is a perfect example of the blurring of responsibility between the federal government and the states. The program’s roots go back to the Great Society and the wishful belief that the problems of urban Americans could be solved with handouts from Washington. Instead, the program “has degenerated into a federal slush fund for pet projects of local politicians and politically connected businesses.”

That quote comes from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) who introduced an amendment this week to terminate CDBGs. As McClintock explained to his House colleagues, it is not the federal government’s responsibility to fund purely parochial activities:

Even in the best of circumstances, these are all projects that exclusively benefit local communities or private interests and ought to be paid for exclusively by those local communities or private interests. They are of such questionable merit that no city council is willing to face its constituents and say, this is how we’ve spent your local taxes.  But they are more than happy to spend somebody else’s federal taxes.

Unfortunately, McClintock’s words fell upon deaf ears as his amendment was voted down 80 to 342.  Not a single Democrat supported the amendment. But it was the 156 Republicans who voted against the amendment that doomed it. Among those Republicans voting “no” was House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Worse, only 33 percent of the GOP “Tea Party Freshmen” voted to terminate a program that is completely at odds with the principles of limited government.

As I noted back in May, many of the GOP freshmen have switched from tea to Beltway Kool-Aid. Take, for example, tea party favorite Allen West of Florida. On West’s congressional website, he states that “As your Congressman, I will curb out of control Government spending.” He also says that “we need to challenge the status quo in Washington and stop the floodgates of government spending” and that he will “carry the torch of conservative, small government principles with me to Washington.” West, however, voted to save the CDBG program and he also voted back in May to save the Economic Development Administration, which is another parochial slush fund. In April, he accused Democrats of being communists. That’s pretty rich given that he proceeded to vote to protect programs that engage in central planning.

Tea Party, Meet Occupy Wall Street. OWS, Tea Party.

Broad political movements are going to have none of the coherence that we demand of ourselves in ideological movements like libertarianism. The Tea Party has some people with views that libertarians reject and many that we embrace. Occupy Wall Street has a lot of people with views that libertarians reject and some that libertarians embrace—freedom from police abuse being one. (Such a favor the NYPD officer who pepper-sprayed female protesters did to OWS by driving attention and sympathy its way.)

That’s all caveat to sharing an image created by James Sinclair that’s making waves on the Facebook. It makes a hopeful statement, I think, about the Occupy Wall Street movement and its potential or actual kinship with Tea Partyism. There’s something wrong in the country, and this image suggests that there might be consensus on the framing of what’s wrong: the unity of government and corporate power against people’s freedom and prosperity.

There are plenty of reasons to reject the possibility of alliance between Tea Partyism and OWS, but not necessarily good ones. The easiest out is to pour this new wine into old bottles and characterize OWS as dirty hippies using retrograde protest tactics. Many are kinda like that. But that stuff was a couple of decades ago. No, wait—four decades ago. These kids have no direct knowledge or experience of, say, Kent State, and older observers might be too prone to fitting them into a pattern that doesn’t exist for them.

To the extent the substance of their grievance is, or can be turned to, corporations’ use of government power to win unjust power and profits for themselves, that’s a grievance I can sit in a drum circle for.

Slate.com vs. Tea-Party/Christians/Bachmann

Slate worked itself into a lather yesterday over the insidious education policy implications of Michele Bachmann’s Iowa Straw Poll victory:

As recently as a decade ago, Republicans like George W. Bush, John McCain, and John Boehner embraced bipartisan, standards-and-accountability education reform…. Now we are seeing the GOP acquiesce to the anti-government, Christian-right view of education epitomized by Bachmann…. Against a backdrop of Tea Party calls to abolish the Department of Education and drastically cut the federal government’s role in local public schools….”

To support this narrative, Slate asked Bachmann what the federal government’s role was in education, to which she replied, “There is none; Education is a matter reserved for the states.”

Oh, whoops, sorry. Got that last quote wrong. That wasn’t Bachmann’s answer, it was the answer of the FDR administration.

This answer rests squarely on the Tenth Amendment, which reserves to the states and the people powers not expressly enumerated and delegated to Congress by the Constitution. It was published by the federal government in 1943, under the oversight of the president, the vice president, and the speaker of the House.

Though it might come as a surprise to Slate’s writers, our nation was not founded on state-run schooling. And, until very recently in historical terms, the idea that the federal government had a role to play in the classroom was unthinkable. It may have required some theorizing to evaluate the merits of Congress-as-schoolmarm prior to the feds getting involved in a big way in 1965, but now… now we can just look in the rear-view mirror (see chart below).

With nearly half a century of hindsight, advocating a federal withdrawal from America’s schools does not seem “anti-government.” Just anti-crazy.

 

We’re In This for the Long Haul

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Is it the Senate’s turn to take a crack at the debt ceiling?

My response:

Speaker Boehner has both the Constitution and convention on his side — “money bills” arise in the House. In fact, the Constitution is his strongest ally in his struggle to win the support of recalcitrant Tea Party members. They revere the document, after all, and no one has put the point better than Charles Krauthammer in this morning’s Washington Post.

Boehner’s bill, just to be clear, is a far cry from what this debt-ridden nation needs. As my colleague Chris Edwards put it yesterday, even the revised plan “doesn’t cut spending at all.” It “cuts” only from the CBO baseline, which assumes constantly rising spending. If Congress were serious about addressing our deficit and debt problems, Edwards says, it would have “to start abolishing programs, privatizing activities, and making other lasting reforms.”

Absolutely. But now step back and look at the larger context at the moment. As Krauthammer says,

We’re in the midst of a great four-year national debate on the size and reach of government, the future of the welfare state, indeed, the nature of the social contract between citizen and state. The distinctive visions of the two parties — social-democratic vs. limited-government — have underlain every debate on every issue since Barack Obama’s inauguration.

And the terms of that debate have shifted radically since the Tea Party came on to the scene. The “cuts” in the Boehner plan are modest, to be charitable, but there are no new taxes, which in an earlier day would have been taken as essential. And the focus in Congress and in the nation, as long as the Tea Party keeps up the pressure, is not on new programs but on eliminating old ones — when that is possible.

But right there we bump up against constitutional realty. As Krauthammer puts it, “you cannot govern from one house alone.” We’re light years beyond living under the substantive Constitution, which authorizes only limited government, not the out-of-control welfare state that got us into this mess. But we still live under the procedural Constitution, which means that Reid and Obama can block Boehner’s modest plan. Posturing aside, that’s not likely at this late date. Yet if Tea Party members overplay their hand, they play right into Obama’s hand, politically, going into 2012, when the battle over real change will be waged.

No war — and that’s what we’re in — was won in a day. It took 80 years for John Locke’s ideas about liberty to find their way into the Declaration of Independence. It took another 90 years for those ideas to bring an end to slavery. The limited-government ideas that the Tea Party has brought back to the surface are just now being felt in Congress. This is no time to abandon them. But neither is it a time to set the course of events back, perhaps irretrievably, by employing them unwisely. Take what you can, and live to fight another day, on the battlefield that lies just ahead.

Parallels to 1995 in Spending Fight

The American welfare state has been in crisis for decades. Many of the problems faced in 1995 fight have become less tractable problems today. John Samples comments in yesterday’s Cato Daily Podcast.

One notable difference between 1995 and today, Samples says, is that the GOP of 1995 kept Social Security off the chopping block for spending cuts.

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