Tea Party then and now

There are not just two, but three political parties, or movements in the United States today. Three groups that we hear most about, but of course there are hundreds, thousands of opinions on whatever the subject may be, representing how many additional parties or groups?

One needs only to read the comment section following any article in any major publication, one containing hundreds or more reader comments, most all expressing different takes on whatever may be the article subject. So one might understandably object to grouping all of us into just three camps.

But I’ll stick with these three for the moment. And I’d like to say a few things mostly about the Tea Party, the new kids on the block. And the Tea Partiers in some polls are outnumbering the membership totals of the other two. Perhaps this is because the TP movement is often described as a mix of libertarian, populist, and conservative activists. And these three strains, libertarian, populist, and conservative, certainly run in most all of us. And if you add to these three a fourth, liberal, you would then probably have included all of us. The TP with three of the four, the Republicans and Democrats each with one, or two of the four.

The TP has its own website with the Tea Party Movement Platform. There is to start with a preamble followed by the Party’s “ten core beliefs.” The preamble stresses things we all can agree with, for example, from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,…

The preamble could be just as well a preamble to Republican and Democratic party platforms. Why did the TP write it? Probably to forestall anyone calling them racist, which given their views, especially regarding immigration and the 11 million or more illegals in the country, could and probably does happen.

Probably the entire list shares with the Preamble what I would call a motherhood and apple pie credo. Absolutely nothing controversial. Probably here also we have the TP trying to forestall the attacks of their detractors.

1. Eliminate Excessive Taxes –
2. Eliminate the National Debt –
3. Eliminate Deficit Spending –
4. Protect Free Markets –
5. Abide by the Constitution of the United States –
6. Promote Civic Responsibility –
7. Reduce the Overall Size of Government –
8. Believe in the People –
9. Avoid the Pitfalls of Politics –
10. Maintain Local Independence – 

Four items, 1, 2, 3, and 7 are about taxation, spending, the national debt and the size of government. And their argument, or rather position (because there is no argument) is that there’s too much of all four, taxation, spending, borrowing, and government.

To make their points they refer often to the time of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the Bill of rights. And then, of course, the government was small. But don’t they realize that in 1791, in Jefferson’s, Adams’, and Madison’s time, there were fewer than 4 million people living in the 16 states that made up the Union, and that the vast majority of these people were farmers living on the land.

In 1791 Government was appropriately small. Now some 225 years later there are well over 300 million of us living mostly in the cities of 50 states, and the Federal government is appropriately and necessarily big.

Wouldn’t you think that the Tea Partiers would take into account all that has happened between then and now, between Washington and Obama. The government may be too big, but it’s not too big because in 1790 the government, such as it was, was small. Also our Federal government is not too big because the Tea Partiers say it is.

Our government is our own creation. It’s big most likely because it needs to be big. In any case bigness and smallness are relative terms. Big or small in relation to what? The police department is not big enough if the criminals are not being caught and stopped. Taxes may be excessive but not because they’re too many of them, rather because people under the tax burden may begin to work less, earn less, and then actually pay less tax, resulting in decreased government revenues in spite of increased taxation. And taxes have failed to do their job.

In regard to the size of our government the Tea Party is a maze of contradictions. For example, they allow that for some government departments, the military, the biggest single department, also the department of homeland defense (and within that department the number of guards needed to protect our borders as well as more physical barriers on the borders) …—we’re not doing enough. For is there any way of making our borders more secure by not increasing government expenditures, and therefore the size of government? Perhaps there is but what might be done about that doesn’t seem to interest the Tea Party.

Right from the beginning the Tea Party name was a bad choice. The original tea partiers, those who in Boston on May 19, 1773, boarded the ships of the East India Company and threw chests of tea into the harbor probably have nothing in common with the Tea Partiers of today.

The Tea Partiers of that earlier time, the  Sons of Liberty as they were called, were objecting to the British Parliament’s passage of the Tea Act, which taxed the colonists without their being represented in the Parliament. The Tea Partiers of today are being taxed by their own representatives in the Congress. They need only to vote and to vote their representatives out of office when they disapprove of what they are doing or not doing.

To look a bit more closely at a single item on their list, number 7:

Reduce the Overall Size of Government – A bloated bureaucracy creates wasteful spending that plagues our government. Reducing the overall size, scope and reach of government at both local and national levels will help to eliminate inefficiencies that result in deficit spending which adds to our country’s debt.

The size of government must be reduced, they say. Why? Because it is “bloated and inefficient.” But do they ever say on what evidence their statement is based? They should have begun with the evidence for inefficient and bloated government and then make reasonable suggestions as to how it might be reformed, the bloat and inefficiency reduced.

The incredible thing is that the Tea Party with millions of adherents and as we have seen holding at best banal and at worst unformed, ill-formed, poorly formed beliefs, now seems to have the power to select the Republican candidate for the office of President of the United States.

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