Friday, February 05, 2010

Ah, irony...

I was glad to see in this Time article that the Tea Partiers have calmed down a bit. But the incoherence is still there.

According to the article the attendees were "mostly white and older." This probably wouldn't surprise most people who've seen a TP rally. I'm not going to touch the race issue, but there's no doubt the TP movement is popular with seniors. In the paragraph following the description of attendees, the article goes on to quote an attendee saying they "want to take back this country back those who are robbing it blind." The paragraph after that indicates attendees "all support 'first principles' of small government".

Looking at the most recent federal budgets, I wonder who exactly is robbing the country blind? About $1.2 Trillion, over 1/3 of the budget, is going directly to seniors in the form of SS payments and Medicare. Seniors represent the single largest recipient of federal government money. Do the seniors at this convention intend to take the country back from themselves? If they want smaller government, the most effective way to reduce the government's size is lobbying for cuts to SS payments and Medicare benefits. Somehow I don't see that happening.

But maybe somebody else is robbing the country blind in the rest of the budget. Let's see, the next biggest recipient of government dollars is members of the defense community. Maybe the TPers think that our troops are robbing us blind? Haven't seen that on any of their posters yet.

(Of course, a good argument could be made that defense contractors are getting rich off bad policy...but any time cuts to defense spending are proposed, it's always politicized as a swipe at the troops.)

Then you've got those other nasty entitlement programs for children, the very poor, and the disabled. A lot of money goes there (not as much as to seniors or the defense community, but still it's a lot). Maybe the TPers should start marching into the homes of the disabled and impoverished children and demand their money back.

And then there's the interest on the national debt. That's where those evil thieves are robbing us blind, right? Problem is, over half the national debt is held by Social Security, meaning that interest is going to SS recipients. So we're right back at giving government money to seniors. And even though a large portion of that interest does indeed go to private and overseas investors, we're talking about 2-3% of the entire federal budget. Not chump change, but hardly enough to say we're being robbed blind.

And finally there's the EVERYTHING ELSE category. Yep, everything else the government does besides what I mentioned above, when added together, comes to a total of about $500 billion. Highways, food inspections, environmental protection, national parks and public lands, payments to farmers (and ag corporations), education, NASA, judicial system, etc. etc. all added together comes to a grand total of significantly less than half of what seniors receive in direct support from the government.

So again I ask, *who* exactly is robbing the country blind??

I have no problem with seniors receiving substantial subsidies from the government. I believe one of the major roles of government is to protect society's weakest members. And when people reach an age where they are no longer able to work, when their health may be failing, when biology and the demands of our modern society make it impossible for people to support themselves, then I think it's important and admirable that society as whole, acting through government, is willing to offer support.

But what infuriates me to no end is when those who are receiving the lion's share of government resources rail against "big government" and demand that government spending on everybody else be cut. Until seniors who claim to favor "smaller government" start rallying against their SS & Medicare benefits, their cause is nothing but hypocrisy.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

My take on the Tea Party movement

My take on a blog post I recently ran across trying to make sense of the Tea Party movements...

I've tried really hard to understand the message of the Tea Partiers, and finally concluded there is no message. It's just a bunch of people who are angry about the way they perceive the world.

Some TPers are angry that Medicare exists, others are angry that at some point in the distant future government plans to cut benefits in some small unknown way. Some TPers are angry about government getting involved in markets, others are angry that government isn't stepping in to "fix" their underwater mortgage. Often the same TPer holds both mutually exclusive views.

Your mistake, Bruce, is attempting to find some sort of logic to the TP movement, and there is none. It's an emotional outpouring and it's open to anybody who shares their misery and anger with "the government." It doesn't matter if what they're angry with is nothing the government did, it doesn't matter if what they're angry with is the government doing (or proposing) exactly what they say they want the government to do. It doesn't matter if Tim Pawlenty's ideas are utterly illogical and incoherent. All that matters is that he's very upset that society isn't working *exactly* the way he wants it to, and he blames "government" for that. That's the only thing that unites TPers, anger with government.

That's why this movement should be so scary to rational, thinking people. It is an entirely destructive movement. They propose no coherent alternative to the way things are now, they simply want to end the system as it exists now. End taxes, destroy government, and hope that all the problems of human beings living together in large groups suddenly resolve themselves. That's the future if the TPers get their way.

Any rational person could simply look at Somalia or tribal regions of Pakistan and conclude this is a terrible idea. But while the TPers may be perfectly rational people in many areas of life, the logical part of their brain has simply turned off with respect to government. Despite the fact America is near the top of nations by just about any standard of living, they seem ready to destroy it all over the (relatively few, by global standards) problems that exist.