As a blogger at Good Business (Good-B), I usually write about money, not politics. This year, however, the two are indistinguishable. Make no mistake, American politics in 2010 are all about money—who has it, who doesn’t and who wants it at any cost.
The economy continues to teeter on disaster two years after the Fall of the Great Lehman Empire. The crash was heard around the world and reverberates in our lives to this day. Massive unemployment, foreclosure nightmares and millions of businesses closing their doors are changing the fabric of American middle class life.
People (those ordinary folks who did not cause the crash yet are paying for it) are mad as hell at the injustice of the bailouts and the economic fallout they inherited. The Wall Street mortgage machine used money as a weapon of mass destruction. Those responsible for the greatest bank robbery in our history have made away with the vault and their freedom too. It’s enough to make the citizenry rise up and turn the boats of taxpayer money over. And so they have in the form of the “Tea Party,” a well-funded upheaval of the status quo. Or is it?
The hyped-up hyperventilating media has convinced us that the amorphous body of angry and contradictory views dubbed the “Tea Party” is a revolution of the “people.” But who are these people? Nobody I know. Despite Peggy Noonan’s passionate defense of Tea Party dogma on Fareed Zakaria GPS recently, the tea drinkers are attracting all varieties of fringe extremists who want among other things to abolish public education
, Social Security and Medicare and further deregulate the financial markets. Ouch!
This is not a revolution—it is a throwback to the dark days of yesteryear. Tea Partiers hope to recapture American life when only the wealthy were educated, fed and housed. A pre-FDR world where the forgotten elderly were literally dying of starvation, disease and homelessness…Teeming tenements with 20 people to a single room, filth, squalor, abject poverty…Rural life where folks worked until they dropped from sheer exhaustion, illness and misery… Is this the picture of a robust and free America we would all like to see? It would certainly help with population control and rising medical costs.
Freedom is only preserved through checks and balances. As we have seen these past few years, unfettered financial markets lead to economic anarchy. A small group of the most aggressive, greedy and self-serving rises to the top and keeps everyone else financially enslaved. The bailouts of 2008 and 2009 have stoked the national anger. Our government created a two tier economic system
—one for the bailed-out banks who perpetrated the financial chaos, and the other for the rest of us folks who actually have laws to follow and morals to protect.
The Tea Party is a reaction to this sorry state of economic injustice. Their outrage is well-founded and shared by most of us. Yet their solutions are destructive and hypocritical. It’s the original “what’s-in-it-for me” crowd made up mostly of what appears to be self-absorbed boomers (Glenn Beck for one). It should be no surprise to anyone that the “greed-is-good” generation has put its stamp of approval on abandoning social responsibility.
Contrary to the dogma that this is a new idea, it is precisely the same belief system that brought us here. In America, we have increasingly ignored our social responsibility to one another over the past thirty years.
Abolish the Fed
Libertarian ideals of ultimate freedom seemed a good idea once-upon-a-time. Yet in post financial crisis America, this concept of freedom is not only unrealistic, it is downright dangerous to the health and welfare of the American people. Tea Partier Rand Paul would never be viewed as anything other than extreme in better times. Paul, like his anarchy-loving daddy, supports abolishing the Federal Reserve and the IRS
. (Come to think of it, not such bad ideas—especially when you think about how abusive these two agencies have become.)
Papa Paul claims
that the central bank is unconstitutional. This 200 year old argument was debated by no less than Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. The “father” of our nation, George Washington settled the question by endorsing the First Bank of the United States. Yet the issue continues to be contentious. Both Pauls are right however by suggesting the Federal Reserve should be open to audit. After all it is our
money isn’t it?
Abandon Social Security and Medicare
Other tea drinkers include debunkers of established social programs. “We need to phase Medicare and Social Security out,” said Sharron Angle, Republican Senate candidate (opposing Harry Reid in Nevada). Despite the fact that 61 year-old Angle was educated at public schools and supported by taxpayer jobs, the Scientology-loving Baptist wants government out of her life. In the ultimate irony, Angle is receiving full benefits of a U.S. federal government pension and healthcare plan through her husband’s long employ with the Federal Bureau of Land Management
Such is the distorted hypocrisy typical of many Tea Party “activists.” Their mantra might be: I’m okay and you’re not.
Or as Angle would say with characteristic sensitivity, “Man up!”
So much of Tea Party jargon is about selfish indifference. The “NJ Tea Party Patriots
” motto “Don’t Tread on Me” is a paranoid defensive display of anti-immigration, anti-health care reform, anti-economic reform and anti-cap-and-trade. What are they for
you may wonder? Maintaining the Bush tax cuts.
Free-for-all Market Capitalism
How do you keep a market free? The same way you keep a society free—with laws and regulation.
One of the most galling revelations of the financial crisis was the discovery that the subprime mortgage securities market in the mid-2000s was almost entirely based on fraud. For a “free market” capitalist and former Libertarian like myself, the naiveté of capitalist god Alan Greenspan, whose belief in self-interest as the ultimate preserver of the social order, looks absurd in hindsight. Yet many of us otherwise smart folks believed its fantastical logic.
Despite the massive devastation caused by raw unrestrained capitalism, there are still hold-outs of the Old World Order. Dick Armey, commander in chief of the Freedom Works
Tea Party army among them. Armey writes
that all he wants to be is, “Free to lead our lives as we please, so long as we do not infringe on the same freedom of others.”
Without a doubt, hiding defaulting loan pools in complex CDO packages and hedging these with unregulated insurance policies called CDS would constitute infringing on the rights of an entire free market society. Freedom does not mean you have the right to hustle, torture or kill your neighbor economically anymore than it does socially. At least it shouldn’t.
The NJ Tea Party Coalition
supports unfettered free markets and states, “We support Capitalism and its free market as being the only financial system viable under our Constitution.” Have they read a newspaper in the past three years??? Herbert Hoover—been there, done that.
(FYI—the Founders did not endorse “capitalism.” This was a radical economic idea introduced to the world by Scotsman Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations), the same year the Declaration of Independence was signed.)
Capitalism evolved and continues to evolve along with other democratic principles. As Al Gore said recently at the World Business Forum
in New York,
capitalism is the best economic system human beings have developed to date. Yet, the unrestrained savage capitalism of the early 21st
century must adapt to modern society. Gore called for “sustainable capitalism”—pursuing profit in socially and environmentally sustainable ways that honor planet and people.
A Platform of Hate
under nominal self-appointed “leader” Glenn Beck espouse lower taxes, unfettered financial markets, repeal of the new healthcare reform bill, unregulated insurance markets (uh oh), and dismantling Social Security and Medicare. Beck offers a manual entitled “Patriots” for Tea Party organizers who wish to fight “Progressives.”
Who says right wing radicals have the corner on patriotism? Hey Glenn, read your history. The ultimate progressives were our Founders. You can’t get more “liberal” than Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Hamilton, or George Washington. They fought a revolution against the status quo—that’s the opposite of conservatism.
The Tea Party’s vitriolic mumbo jumbo has an unmistakable undercurrent of racism and intolerance
. They seem to hate Hispanics
, Muslims, immigrants, the sick, the uninsured…in general any and all of the poor and huddled masses yearning to be free. Oh yes and liberals, progressives and your ordinary run-of-the-mill Democrats too.
Hate is one of the easiest emotions for human beings to access. It emanates from our lower levels of consciousness, the irrational fear part of our brains that views human differences as threats to personal security.
This could be the current mantra for newly evolved Tea Party America: “I am afraid.” Higher taxes, universal healthcare, increased government spending, federal regulation, gun control, illegal aliens, gay marriage…all represent threats to the status quo.
American Values Redux
We hear a lot of Fear Talk lately about the growing federal deficit. Yet world-renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz
points out that our liabilities are only one side of the balance sheet. These need to be measured against our assets and future earnings. If you jumpstart the economy with stimulus or available credit, earnings potential increases. If you keep the economy anemic, you severely inhibit growth. Now that banks have received their bailouts – there is no choice but to even the odds by bailing out the public too.
This includes reducing payroll taxes, direct federal lending to small and medium sized business (a Fed Discount Window for the little guy), government supported job creation and stopping foreclosures on taxpayers from taxpayer rescued banks.
The entrepreneurial spirit of America has been damaged in the wake of the financial crisis. Yes we are individualists. Yes we follow a “pull yourself up from the bootstrap” philosophy. Our country was founded on perseverance, ingenuity, and sheer will. Yet with the on-going economic inertia, more is required in the New America. Healthcare, access to credit, employment opportunity, decent housing and food for the belly and the soul are basic staples of civilized life. None among us in the land of plenty should be without.
There is a tremendous need for spiritual rebirth in America. We have lost our way; we value money above people; we spread hate more than love.
In order to change the status quo and rid ourselves of the growing cancer of hate, we need to reclaim our innate goodness. Many Tea Partiers claim Christian principles
of faith. For Christians, there is no stronger ethic than to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This simple statement acknowledges that one of the greatest states of consciousness we can achieve is a deep and abiding empathy for those who suffer.
No matter what faith we ascribe to, in the New America weare our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. The self-reliance of our forbearers is incorporated with genuine compassion for humankind. We are blessed on this side of the globe with resources, abundance and freedoms that many others don’t enjoy.
What do we hope for as Americans? The freedom to pursue our dreams in a world of infinite possibilities.
Mutual concern for our neighbors is our ticket out of the current hell. If you fail, I fail too. Prosperity is not just for a chosen few; it is the promise for us all. We help ourselves, by helping each other.
In the real America, we are not jealous, narcissistic, petty or unjust. These are not values worthy of us or those who came before. We are innately kind, visionary and fair.
This is theAmerica that I know—the one that loves its neighbors, no matter how different they are, just as we love ourselves.