Archive for May, 2010

Back to the future

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Thanks to the Christian Science Monitor for publishing a Tea Party agenda from one of its founders.

His vision is a return to government as it was in 1950 with primarily a Department of Defense.

The promise is that a smaller federal government will reduce the overall tax burden. That is supposed to provide individuals greater opportunity to determine their own future.

It may sound refreshing to some, but it is based on the false premise that eliminating federal programs will also eliminate the demand and cost for those services.

All social programs will end including two of the most popular, Social Security and Medicare.

That means the elderly will have to depend on their own savings and unregulated private health insurance to meet their needs.

What happens to the disabled, poor, and those who for whatever reasons can’t support themselves? Family and friends will have to step up at their own expense. Those that don’t have this resource will becomes responsibility of the states. That means higher taxes.

No disaster recovery programs either. States will have to build recovery funds and replicate the federal infrastructure. Individuals will need more insurance to their cover risks.

There were no environmental, workplace, or consumer protection agencies in 1950. So we ended up with Love Canal, asbestos-poisoned workers, thalidomide-deformed babies, flaming Pintos, and a nearly extinct American Eagle from DDT.

With states in charge in the 1950’s we had institutionalized discrimination even though the Constitution supposedly protected all citizens.  If “Tea Party” government had been in place, the voting rights act would have had to pass as a constitutional amendment.

It took the federal government to build and maintain our interstate highway system. Federal agencies also manage interstate trade, shipping, and immigration. Even if they can figure out how to organize this activities, States are certainly going to have to pay for them.

We just lived through a period of under regulated financial institutions. On their own, they became so large that their collapse nearly drove the world economy into depression. The Libertarian Tea Party’s response is to let it burn. They trust that what would rise from the ashes would somehow run better.  But if you look at the history of financial markets in this country prior to regulation, you see wild boom and bust cycles driven by the same sort of greed and power evidenced in the most recent bust.

Finally, there is this strange contradiction. The Tea Party rejects the government that has been built following the Constitution and 200+ years of judicial review. Instead they want a radical new form of government which better fits with their philosophy of how things should operate by modifying the document they claim to value.

The wonderful thing about our democracy is that every group that thinks they have a better idea has an opportunity to make their case to the American people.  While there is national facination with this group, when their proposed policies become more widely known, they will fade like all previous populist movements before them.

I already lived through the 50’s once. I have no desire to do it again.