Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Tea Party

In the past week or so, I have sent 2 letters, one to my local paper and one to the Phila Inquirer, concerning the tea party movement. The first was in response to a letter in my local paper, the Perkasie News Herald, written by someone in support of the tea party movement. It can be viewed by accessing the website, clicking on the Perkasie News Herald icon and going to the opinion section of the April 28th edition. The second letter was written by two gentlemen, one of whom is Newt Gingrich. It was on the opinion page of the Phila Inquirer on May third. My response letter to the Inquirer was not published while my response letter to the News Herald was published in the May 5th edition. I have included both response letters below.

Of course, I understand the anger of the tea party members. Uncertain economic conditions always result in dissatisfaction with the government in charge. The problem is that the recession began during the previous administration. And while it certainly worsened for the first year of Obama's term, there are now signs that the economy is slowly improving. If you are going to assign blame or praise to the president for our economy's condition then don't you have to now give credit where you previously gave blame?

There is also much talk in the movement about deficit spending. Certainly, yearly deficits cannot continue to top $1 trillion per year. But tax receipts always take a downturn in a recession. Our national deficit doubled during President Bush's eight years in the White House and would most likely be as large regardless of who had won in 2008. I say this with some confidence based on a quick look at how we are spending our tax dollars. If you can imagine federal expenditures as a pie chart, by far the biggest slices are monies spent on national defense, social security and Medicare. Until we are ready to seriously talk about reducing these areas of spending, deficits will continue to mount.

And then there is the link to the original tea party, taxes. Strangely, however, most of the middle class paid less federal taxes in 2009. I know that I did. The fact is, if we want to bridge the gap between receipts and expenses, and we don't want to reduce spending in the 3 biggest areas of expense, then don't we need to consider raising taxes? And if we must move in that direction, don't we need to raise taxes on people who are in the best position to give some more?

I would rather not have to raise taxes at all, but I don't understand a movement allegedly comprised of everyday, middle class working Americans who don't realize that their buying power has been eroded in the last few decades while the rich have seen a net increase in their worth. Am I wrong to wonder how the people with the most have been able to distract the people who are suffering because of the growing inequality of income? Am I delusional to think that perhaps the entire tea party movement is one big distraction engineered by the rich and powerful to keep the real problems off the table? Is the fact that it has been fully eighteen months since the near wall street collapse and we still don't have financial reform enough proof?

(Phila Inquirer) To the editor:

I am glad to hear that the tea party movement is moving towards participation in governance in addition to the oft seen public rallies and boisterous town hall meetings. Perhaps they will inspire the current Republican congressman and senators to do more than just say NO.

But when will the tea party movement present some substance to their protests. I read the column by Messrs Gingrich and Waldeck but all I saw was the same old window dressing; they support limited but effective government, reduced spending, lower taxes and a balanced budget. Without commenting on all these items, I believe that the last balanced budget was during President Clinton's administration.

Mr. Gingrich also makes a nice attempt to pretend that the tea party members won't support any party without results but the celebration over recent Republican political victories proves that the Republican party expects and is counting on the votes of the tea party members in the foreseeable future.

When the tea party movement provides some detailed suggestions to decrease spending in the three biggest (by far) government expenditure categories, defense, social security and Medicare, then perhaps they will have earned some sympathy.

(Perkasie News Herald) To the editor:

As a proud liberal let me offer an apology to James Moyer and all the other white people who feel that the liberal media has declared war on the white majority of this country. When we dismiss each other because we are different, or look for the worst in a group of people and judge that group based on those few individuals, we are wrong. For those who think that the majority of people involved in the Tea Party movement are racist just because they disagree with President Obama's policies, that is misguided. We should encourage all Americans to expresses their first amendment right to free speech and assembly. While I disagree with the target of the Tea Party's anger, I encourage them to participate in the discussion of the topics of the day. In a country where we are lucky to get 60% voting turnout for a presidential election and 35% for primaries, etc, we need more people to exercise their civic responsibilities and participate in our governance.

But respect must flow both ways. Mr. Moyer makes his opinions very clear when he describes the "leftist spoiled youth with daddy's credit card and a molotov cocktail", "hatchet-faced Code Pink-O's" and the "leftist loons on MSNBC". Mr. Moyer, they have every right to their opinions as the tea party movement; the disdain you feel for them is the same some liberals feel for those you support. The point is that neither of us should be using derogatory words to describe the other. It progresses the actual debate on the direction of our country not one iota.

So, when members of the tea party movement hold signs depicting President Obama as Hitler, we all should be offended. But if only members of the "liberal" media point out the horrid nature of these signs, those sign holders will only dismiss them as leftist loons. There needs to be a conservative voice to send the message that those signs are not appropriate.

As for the tea party itself, I have to ask; please define "we want our country back". It is a great applause line, but from whom do you want to take the country back? As far as I know, the current President and the democratic majority in Congress was voted there by the American people in the last few national elections. Are you trying to take it back from your fellow Americans?

Or perhaps the current lean of the country is too left for you. So is it the radical liberal agenda that you want to take it back from? The problem is that many liberals like myself do not consider the Obama Administration all that liberal. No public option in our health care reform legislation, increased off-shore drilling, continued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In our minds, he is governing left of center at best, hardly radical liberal.

Unfortunately, then, some people are left to think that the tea party wants to take the country back from the minority races represented by our first African American President. And, again, while I would like to believe that that is a minority opinion, there is certainly those within the tea party movement who think this way. I saw the results of a recent survey among those calling themselves members of the tea party which indicated that a significant percentage still thought that President Obama was not born in this country. It is too easy to associate this delegitimizing technique with the odious methods used to prevent black americans from voting in the 100 years from the civil war until the Civil Rights Act.

Let me put it this way. The environmental movement is now mainstream. Tens of millions of Americans now think about recycling, conserving energy, protecting the environment. But certainly, within that movement there are fringe elements. If you don't want the liberal media to judge the entire tea party movement based on the "birthers" then you can't judge the environmental movement based on those members who throw buckets of blood on people with whom they do not agree.

So, what are the real issues that the tea party movement wishes to address? If not Mr. Moyer, I hope someone will send in letters in the coming weeks to detail these topics. I look forward to civil discourse and real debate on the issues as we try, hopefully together, to find answers to the problems of the day.

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