Friday, 11 February 2011


On 11 February 2011, House Republicans led by Tea Party fanatics voted spending cuts of $61 billion, all in the name of fiscal responsibility. Leaving defense untouched, they proposed cuts in most domestic programs that impact job training, the environment, and nutritional programs for children and women. These cuts must be carried out according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to restore confidence in government 'so people can get back to work' - as though it is their fault that Wall Street caused the 2008-2011 global recession and 10% unemployment. Why stop with cuts of nutritional programs for children and their mothers, why not forcibly put them work, so they earn their meager meals instead of burdening the taxpayer? After all, women and children are not essential to the economy like AIG, CITI and other financial institutions collecting hundreds of billions in corporate welfare.

If only Tea Party fanatics stopped with cuts for children and their mothers perhaps one could argue that the tax-fearing, corporate welfare-and more defense spending-supporting Republicans could justify their 'honest' endeavors to restore fiscal confidence. They also proposed that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission restart the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned from regulating greenhouse gases, emanating from factories. Why not dump nuclear waste in working class neighborhoods of all major urban centers so that way we eliminate the problem of where to store the waste while getting rid of welfare mothers and their children? Tea Party Republicans want no 'needle exchange program' for drug users; just let them die of contagious diseases in the back alleys, meanwhile costing the health care system much more. Nor do they want to clean up the Great Lakes; just leave the polluters untouched because everyone knows polluters are the ones who create jobs for the lazy single mothers to receive minimum wage instead of collecting welfare.

When the Tea Party proposal hits the Senate, it will die but the Tea Party has made its point about its 'family values'. It seems that the Giffords shooting and the Arizona massacre had no impact in moderating the fanaticism of the Tea Party which is rapidly moving to the core of the Republican party. Having joined forced with the American Conservative Union, the Tea Party has its eye on 2012 elections and control of the Republican party. Outgoing chairman of conference sponsor American Conservative Union David Keen noted that in the last two years America has experienced "a political and ideological awakening", while Tea Party leaders stress they are not interested in sending Republicans to Washington, but conservatives. This means that moderate Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan are targeted as 'dishonorable' Republicans, 'almost as bad as Obama'!

All of this is made possible because large amounts of money from individuals and corporations is pouring into the treasury of this movement - a segment of America's wealthy individuals and corporations wants an ultra-right voice in congress, if not the White House - and if society becomes as polarized as it was just before the Civil War, it is a price worth paying for strengthening corporate America. An important question regarding the Tea Party is if it has been trying to copy a "Reagan-style" conservative revolution and the bogus 'Contract with America' that Gingrich brought as America's salvation in 1994. With its Libertarian orientation on select fiscal issues, and extreme social and cultural conservatism on others, which when examined deeper one exposes Tea Party hypocrisy, especially at this juncture of American history when it is losing its economic, political and military leadership role in the world after the recent global recession and the loss of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Tea Party is a 'top-down' organization projecting itself as a grass roots popular insurgent movement.

By desperately trying to revive patriotism, conservative social values and Libertarian fiscal policies, the Tea Party is trying to offer hope to the Republican popular base, while in reality serving the exact same corporate interests as the mainstream Republicans and Democrats. But is the Tea Party's popular base as popular as FOX news and right wing radio programs project? According to an opinion poll, only 11% of those polled claimed they supported the Tea Party movement, and only 5% had attended its rallies. Other polls indicate that a larger percentage of Americans have a favorable view Socialism than they do of the Tea Party. More significant than polls that are subject to manipulation by pollsters, was the Tea Party ever a grass roots movement as the right wing fanatics portray it, or was it a top down elite-led, elite-financed elite-propagated movement designed to bring along followers from the grass roots? 

Given that Obama has moved increasingly to the right on economic policy and he is now openly embracing proposals by the same financial institutions that caused the 2008-2010 global recession, the Tea Party movement as the genuine conservative alternative may force some voters on the center and center-left to stay home while those on the right will come out to vote. Above all, the jobless recovery under Obama will strengthen the Tea Party. Who is better off under Obama so far? Bankers, securities (stocks and bonds) investors, corporations, home buyers with capital to invest. Who is worse off? Low-income and middle-income American homeowners, job seekers from manual laborers to college graduates, the under-educated earning minimum wage, working class women and children dependent on government-supported programs. 

In a society where the middle class is weakening and shrinking, while the working class is hit on all sides with lower living standards and historically-high unemployment, with college graduates unable to find good paying jobs, the Tea Party best serves the goal of mass distraction from the real problems to phantom ideological issues about gay rights, women and children on welfare, lack of law and order, lack of vigilance on terrorism, etc. The dangers of the Tea Party are that it has emboldened extreme right wing groups (white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and varieties of hate groups), including Christian fundamentalists awaiting Armageddon. There is something seriously wrong when Homeland Security warns that right-wing extremism is on the rise, against the background of high unemployment, economic recession, and a politically polarizing climate. There is something seriously wrong when individuals inspired by the Tea Party hate rhetoric commit brutal crimes, but the movement remains politically strong.

The sharp divisions that the Tea Party is creating in American society that is structurally pluralistic and multicultural will be damaging to the entire social fabric and move the country toward more law-and-order mode, toward a more police-state mode than it is already, despite hollow protestations by its apologists that it is a free and democratic country interested in spreading those values to the rest of the world - through commerce and when necessary using gunboat diplomacy. Given that America has been operating under the Patriot Act that both political parties support and are looking for ways to make a permanent feature of society, is the Tea Party so far off the political mainstream? Was Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, wrong to ask the Tea Party to prove that it opposed big government by joining Democrats in opposing extension of the Patriot Act, adding. "How about the Patriot Act, which has the broadest reach and the deepest reach of government to our daily lives?"

The Tea Party ascendancy is not owed to propagandists who are paid to do a job, nor the naive followers who are hurting and desperate during this recession, but rather the billionaires like David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, and corporations like FOX news, Sarah Scaife Foundation, and a host of corporate lobbies using their money to fund division in American society.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As evidenced by the votes on the Patriot Act, it appears that the Tea Party could be inundated with Republicans, who some ask: are they the catalyst to a civil uprising?

Real Tea Party founders are still dressed in Native garb biting the arrow between their teeth.