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On the Tea Party... [Sep. 27th, 2010|03:12 pm]
Where I agree with the Tea Party is their skepticism about how the government is not acting in the best interests of the American citizenry. But I guess we disagree very strongly that the solution is just to get further out of the way and open the floodgates to a free-for-all where those already really in power (the largest banks, corporations, and moneyed interests) can operate even more freely of any reasonable oversight.

I reject the new post-Reagan paradigm (so often just accepted by the media and many Americans) that the government should play no role in the administrating of services for the public good. From my standpoint the biggest obstacle to working out a good balance of what government should and shouldn't do is this knee-jerk, reflexive conviction that they just shouldn't do anything. And sadly, too many Republicans and Tea Partiers just stampede in that direction. I say "sadly" because many Tea Partiers not only already use certain government programs (i.e.: Medicare, etc.), but they'd be better served by a government which DID create safety nets and services for those who struggle to get by in this country. So voting for Republicans is ironically voting for those who will continue to let the lower and middle classes dangle while ensuring that the richest and wealthiest continue to get every break and every opportunity to hoard and send that wealth overseas. Trickle-down economics is a myth at that level, because the way to keep the money of the super-rich in our economy is to impose a reasonable tax rate and then give them big and generous tax incentives to re-invest in their own companies and their communities.

The other sad problem, of course, is that Democrats keep proving they can't really pull their shit together and come up with no-nonsense, citizen-centric policies and programs, because the Dems are obviously nearly as bought-and-paid-for as the Republicans are. The only real difference is that Democrats will occasionally do some legislation that helps the middle-and-lower-classes, as long as it doesn't gore the ox of any monied or corporate interest who are their real bosses. Republicans, by contrast, don't have any such checks on their stampede to "service" the wealthiest interests in the country.

The scam, though, is that by hiding their refusal to help the average American citizen behind a rallying cry of "smaller government!," Republicans wind up duping a lot of people with genuine concerns about the direction of this country. It is 100% clear to me that if "the Average Joe" in America votes Republicans back into power, they are just accelerating the runaway truck of this nation in the wrong direction for any of us who are not millionaires.

But, sadly, if the Democrats had grown a set of balls, or principles, or pulled themselves into any clear delineation of what they USED to stand for (or in Obama's case, campaigned on), they might have convinced more everyday people in them middle that government in fact CAN operate in the benefit of its citizenry. But they hemmed and hawed and dumbed down good ideas and passed crappy, half-assed legislation until even those of us who supported them feel that they have been totally ineffective.

The bottom line is this: there IS a positive role for government in protecting the rights and the essential dignities of individual citizens. Just how much of that is appropriate, and how it should be administrated, is open to serious and honest debate. But we never have that debate, because this country seems to now operate on a principle of "government=bad" which has prevented serious and constructive debate about the real role of government. And clearly Democrats don't believe in the basic tenets of their role in that debate, because they don't make their case and they don't champion intelligent, citizen-friendly legislation. If they did, many of these Tea Partiers, and plenty of independents and centrists, would have been persuaded.

In another core irony, for those conservatives who look back longingly at the way this country was in the 50s or 60s, the tax rate for the wealthy was astronomically high back then. It’s odd how when something like “ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest in America” comes up, conservatives (and many Democrats) wail about how damaging it would be. Even if we just restored the tax rate to the moderate pre-Bush rates in place during the Clinton administration, we’d potentially move in the direction of the kind of greater deficit reduction, a much better economy and an overall national solvency and ability to act responsibly on a national level that we had during that era. But Republicans act like any restoration of the reasonable tax rates of 15 years ago on the wealthiest Americans is like some kind of recipe for disaster. No, the disaster is what happened to this country economically during the Bush administration, ending in a total international economic train-wreck in Bush’s final year in office. I’d be happy to see further refining and gradation of tax rates for various levels of annual income above $250,000. Should someone making $250,000 get a somewhat better rate than a person making $500,000 or $1,000,000? Arguably yes. That would be a reasonable thing to discuss.

(Another huge factor in our fiscal crisis is the amount of money we’re spending on wars which were unnecessary in the first place, still pointless nearly a decade later and which are essentially a bottomless pit of expenditure which cannot do our national interest any good. So our D.C. legislatures bicker about whether to extend unemployment insurance or allow regional stimulus packages while they throw away 4 billion dollars a month on two wars which are doing us no good at all. But that’s another issue, so let’s leave that aside.)

I have a certain sympathy for Tea Partiers, because there are certainly many reasons to be angry about the way this country is headed, and how Washington does “business.” But I believe that Dick Armey, the Koch brothers and FreedomWorks are dedicated to spear-heading a large effort to deceive decent and hard-working people into supporting a Republican movement to restore their party's ability to keep funneling all advantage to the wealthiest and most powerful interests in this country. If Tea Partiers, with their legitimate anger, are duped into this, they will only have the sad experience of waking up to realize a few years down the line that they voted against their own best interests. Democrats don't seem to be giving them much of an alternative, obviously, even if the Tea Partiers hadn’t already ruled them out as some kind of “tax-and-spend” demons, but the "danger" Dems represent is a lot less ominous than what the Republicans will instantly do as soon as they regain their foothold. Democrats appear to be somewhat incompetent in organized policy development and societal leadership, and paralyzed by having two masters: Wealthy Interests with the money to help them stay in power vs. some residual nagging ideas about helping average Americans who are ostensibly the constituency. But Republicans, by contrast, are very organized in their zeal to steal this country away from its citizenry and make sure those same Wealthy Interests get whatever they want, as readily as possible, and no matter how many individual citizens get thrown under the bus as a result.

Systematically, our supposed "representatives" are bought and paid for by a small percentage of people and entities in this country who have absolutely NO interest in ever giving you or I a better life, or a fairer break, or a better interest rate, or a more secure existence. What people should be fearing is a government that takes away their RIGHTS and whittles away at the various safety nets of society which will prevent them from personal disaster if they get sick, or lose their house, etc. Instead, too many seem to be choosing to endorse people who want to just let government allow high-level economic chicanery to go on in as unchecked and untrammeled a way as possible, even while this country collapses under the weight of our collective inertia, confusion, inaction about infrastructure, inability to conceive of a common good that comes from reasonably administrated collective social policies at the Federal level and a relatively fair marketplace, potential for opportunity and quality-of-life for every American, not just the really wealthy ones. The system’s already broken – the question is if we’re ready to try to fix it, which is difficult and requires serious debate, or to just concede the reins back to those who are dedicated to leaving us dangling in the wind while the wealthiest 2 to 10% continue to actually “run” America.