Conservative Political Commentary

[Under the Radar?] Anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-globalist, pro-Constitution, and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context (This blog was given its name before I decided it was going to be a political blog.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Tea Party Movement Is a Force To Be Reckoned With

In spite of all the elitists’ dismissing of the Tea Party Movement, the liberals are going to awake to find that this movement has changed the political landscape of America. America is not Europe. Americans don’t accept European-style socialism, which is visibly failing, and they do not accept would-be dictators. President Barack Obama is likely to find his next three years fraught with political difficulty.

So far, the president has resisted public protests against his policies, which consist largely of liberty-destroying programs, massive spending, and vague talk of future deficit cutting, while planning even more big spending. The unemployment, deficit, or inflation figures will not stay this administration from their micro-managing, tax-and-spend, socialist-fascist agenda.

Congressional Democrats are beginning to get the message that Obama wants them to support all this despite their likely loss of reelection in many instances. He thinks they should sacrifice their political careers and the representation of their constituents in favor of his radical “change” projects. Some are retiring (Bayh, Dorgan, Kennedy and Dodd), and others will soon have decisions to make. Republicans are seeing a great opportunity to expand their numbers in Congress, but it remains to be seen whether they will be able to govern accordingly if they win more seats.

That’s where the Tea Party Movement becomes critical. Their strategy should involve moving the Republican Party closer to their constitutional and libertarian principles and away from big-government, big-spending, and high-tax policies. They need to strongly oppose further government takeovers in the private sector and more government supervision of Americans’ daily lives and major decisions. Republicans who won’t support conservatism should expect to be replaced by some who will. The Tea Party movement finds problems in both major parties, but a third party is not the answer.

The New York Times reports that Obama is preparing to use more executive power to get around frustrating difficulties with Congress. The newspaper reports, for example, “Mr. Obama has already decided to create a bipartisan budget commission under his own authority after Congress refused to do so.…” Also, the Administration seeks to affect gays-in-the-military cases without waiting for Congress to act. “And the Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with possible regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change, while a bill to cap such emissions languishes in the Senate.” [1]

If Obama can’t get his way on “health care reform,” what executive actions is he prepared to take? On this and other items, he is seeking to override not only Congress, but the American people. His “summit” on health care with Republicans participating shows he has not given up trying to enact a plan that is opposed by the American people. It’s a cornerstone of his “change” agenda. Unconstitutional, too.

Tea Partiers in various states will probably encourage lawmakers to pass “nullification” laws over Federal legislation and executive orders they view as unconstitutional. This may bring on a constitutional crisis, but maybe it’s time to have this fight. Government officials who try to overpower states on this type of law can probably forget ever getting many votes in these states. The people hold the ultimate power under our system, and they can’t be continuously ignored.

The Democratic leadership has unveiled their radicalism and conspicuously failed to deal with the economic woes of the unemployed to the extent that their policies are very unpopular. Their policies are heading over the cliff. The next “bailouts” we see will likely be more Democrats bailing out on Obama’s ill-advised program. They can cite “gridlock” and “ideology” as their objections, but gridlock is greatly preferable to the Obama agenda, and ideology is what guides Obama. The “pragmatism” he practices is to find what will work to get his radical ideological program installed, not what will work best for the economy, etc.

My caution to the Tea Party Movement is three-fold: (1) Forget a third party; transform the GOP; (2) Emphasize the positive aspects of conservatism (freedom, prosperity, strong defense, limited government, low taxes), well articulated. Anger may temporarily unite, but it doesn’t inspire; and (3) Don’t associate with any groups that sanction any kind of violence or anything that smacks of racism. The Tea Party Movement is about policy. It is already strongly influencing American politics. It is a mainstream movement, not a fringe effort. Its weapons are true and persuasive arguments and the ballot.

[1] Peter Baker, “Obama Making Plans to Use Executive Power,” 02/12/2010, The New York Times.

Further reading: David Barstow, “Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right,” 02/15/2010, The New York Times. I’m surprised to be referring to NYT this much.



Hamster said...

The Tea Party movement is the Republican party in sheepskin clothing.
They say they want smaller government except "Don't touch money for defense".
There's nothing new there. Everyone is for cutting everything except their own pet projects.
It's a myth that you can call for fiscal responsibility without making deep cuts in the defense budget. The defense budget overshadows all other discretionary programs. Welfare is a drop in the bucket compared to defense. You don't balance the budget unless you can attack a program that soaks up 600 billion dollars each year.

China, which is second in defense spending worldwide, estimates their defense budget is 70 billion dollars. So they spend 9 times LESS than we do and have 3 times the population.

I'm not sure how much the Taliban spends on defense. They have no navy, no air force, no missiles, no fancy armored vehicles.
In fact when you see them in their training videos, they don't even wear combat boots.
Yet for 9 years now they have been able to tie up our superior forces in a war where there is no light at the end of the tunnel...despite the fact that Allied forces outnumber them by 4 to 1 (and that doesn't include the Afghan forces or the 100,000 military contractors)

Tea Baggers, get serious.

If you really want credibility you need to say "Less government. Period"...and that includes in defense.

Otherwise you are just repackaging a failed Republican platform: Less spending when the other guy is in power. And Back to business as usual when we hold the white house.

Our government spends more each year than it collects in taxes. This is a recipe for disaster. Each year more and more of our budget is taken up paying debt service.

What we need is not just a freeze but an across the board cut in ALL expenses...including defense.

Otherwise, tea baggers, you are just NOT serious about smaller government and bloated spending.

You are just the same as Republicans who say : Less spending and smaller government...only when the other guy is in the White House.

Eddie said...

Obama plans to spend more on welfare in a single year than Bush spent on the entire Iraq war. The Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs represent tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities that are not included in published national debt figures. The Social Security "Trust Fund" is worthless. Defense spending is not the problem.

G.W. Bush led the war on terror in an admirable way, but his administration was too free-spending on education and entitlement programs. The Obama Administration proposes to make Bush look like a cheapskate with their endless spending and deficits that are out of control and getting worse.

The Tea Party movement is characterized by liberals as a fringe effort, but it is a movement that has significant support from a majority of Americans. It represents common sense and America's founding principles. The GOP and others would like to enhance their political positions through the movement, but support for them depends on their following these principles.

Republicans who have been elected only to abandon their conservative promises will not have Tea Party support even if establishment Republicans support them.

People are starting to recognize that, as you mention, constant deficits cannot be sustained indefinitely without a collapse.

But it's not simply a question of economics. America represents liberty. Socialism is the opposite of liberty. As for defense spending, one can argue whether this or that program is preferable to another, but disarmament is not an option if we plan to survive, let alone remain free.

The Conservative Leftist said...

You make fair points in this post, but I think you seriously overestimate the ability of the Tea Party Movement to influence American politics on its own. Without the media attention that supplies a public pedestal, the Tea Party movement really isn't a force to be reckoned with. Just as many Americans are pro-socialism as pro-Tea Party (I'm neither).

Additionally, the Tea Party Movement is disproportionally Christian, white, male, and old. Did we really not know that old Christian white guys generally dislike Obama before the Tea Party movements sprung up? I'd say we knew this since election day.

And as far as Obama's "spending sprees" or whatever they're being called, do you seriously not see the difference between dwindling away national resources during our fat days (Bush) and injecting capital into the U.S. economy during a severe recession in order to create demand (Obama)? Obama's economic policies are leading to real results in the form of a growing economy, which will do a hell of a lot more to reduce the deficit (through increased government revenue) than a spending freeze ever could.

Just because citizens are tightening their belts doesn't mean the government should. In fact, when citizens tighten their belts the government definitely shouldn't, because when the government spends money it is the citizens who benefit, not the politicians. And as far as Obama's welfare spending, this has a hell of a lot more to do with the fact that when Bush left office a lot more people were poor than when Bush was inaugurated than it does with any sort of leftist agenda Obama is pushing.

Sometimes you make good points, but for the most part your blog is the most unintentionally misleading one I think I've ever come across. If you want to be taken seriously by people on the other side of the political spectrum, you're going to have to seriously grapple with the fact that Obama's economic policies are leading America out of a recession that Republican policies caused.

The Conservative Leftist said...

And by the way, I would like to apologize to you for insinuating a while back that racism was animating your view of Obama's administration as being some sort of "gangster government." I don't believe that's the case, and I didn't then either. You've never said anything on this blog I agree with, but your reasons for thinking differently than me have nothing to do with you being a racist/sexist/fascist or anything of the sort.

Eddie said...

Conservative Leftist,

Thanks for the comments. Apology accepted. As for federal spending, yes, Bush did too much spending and allowed the deficit to go higher than it should have. However, under Obama, we're getting into uncharted territory with deficits at $1.5 trillion and rising.

All the spending, that supposedly benefits the citizens, has to be paid for by the citizens, whether through higher taxes, or, very likely, high inflation. And rather than focusing on jobs, the Administration is mainly interested in their "health care reform," which is a job killer.

The Obama Administration has not improved an environment that is hostile to job creation because of credit difficulties and uncertainty concerning health care and cap and trade. Banks are reluctant to loan a lot of money because of the prospect of inflation, and because regulators warn them about making bad loans. They have many billions that instead of loaning out, they keep in excess reserves.

Private sector economic activity leading to job growth is what's needed and government could improve things fairly quickly, and enjoy higher revenues, if they left the Bush tax cuts alone long term, and scrapped Obamacare and cap and trade. Just those steps would increase employment and lower the deficit. Then they could ponder the unsustainable entitlements and their massive unfunded liabilities.

As for the Tea Party movement, of course, time will tell, but I'm sure it has greater depth than many think, and should have a strong influence on elections and policy if they don't get bogged down with infighting and and a third party movement. The media in general has not wanted to give attention to the Tea Party phenomenon, but so far, this hasn't slowed them down much.

Sorry, a minor illness delayed my reply, but I'm OK now.

The Conservative Leftist said...

Interesting points. And I hope all is well. I do have to ask though: 1) What is the mechanism by which a public option or insurance company regulations decreases employment and 2) what would you do about skyrocketing health care costs?

Republicans had a generation to reform health care in ways that they found agreeable. They balked. Bush's prescription drug plan added to the trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities he handed over to the Obama administration, along with an economy that produced less revenue for the government to take in, and more poor people for the government to give aid.

"Obamacare" is a quite misleading term. Obama's plan is pretty similar to the plan Republicans proposed during the Clinton administration. As far as inflation and higher taxes. Inflation is low right now, despite what people's perceptions of rising costs might be, and Obama most likely cut your taxes. That "spending bill" people talk about included quite a lot of tax cuts actually.

Will taxes be raised eventually? Of course. We're going to have to get the debt under control eventually, preferably after taking care of the employment situation. And though Obama isn't quite as ambitious as I had hoped, the steps he has taken are reversing America's economic situation (see below).

Eddie said...

The proposed health care legislation will will reduce employment mainly through the new taxes and fees associated with it, and will probably discourage health care providers from serving Medicare and Medicaid patients due to reimbursement cuts. (New unfunded mandates on states may draw some serious resistance. This whole plan is unconstitutional.)

To lower health care costs in general, start by removing state-line restrictions on insurance coverage, thus encouraging competition. Do some serious tort reform. Encourage medical savings accounts and high-deductible coverage where appropriate.

True, Republicans haven't solved the problem, and even created new costly entitlements, but doing nothing on health care would be much better than what the President is proposing. As for unfunded liabilities, there should be a bipartisan plan for phasing out Social Security and Medicare over a 25-30 year period to avoid a financial disaster.

The rate of job losses seems to have been reduced, but without government's misguided bailouts, takeovers, "stimulus," threats of health care "reform" and cap and trade, I think we would have been seeing job gains, and the economy would be looking about normal by now.

In other words, the market is better at self correcting than the government is at correcting it.

Eddie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Conservative Leftist said...

I really don't understand how businesses will be hurt by a tax increase if that tax increase is used to fund a health care plan that will greatly reduce the burden of health care costs on businesses, while insuring millions of Americans who are without health insurance.

The idea that we should remove state lines restrictions is, in my honest best judgment, an absolutely terrible idea. Insurance companies will simply flock to the states with the weakest consumer protection laws, which would further increase the cost for those Americans who become sick. CBO evaluated this idea in 2005, I can find and link to it if you like.

Obama offered tort reform to the Republicans, in exchange for some compromise on their part as well. As usual they refused. Bi-partisanship works two ways, but the Republicans have nothing they are willing to compromise on, which is why Obama should give up on Republican cooperation. And anyways, even "serious" tort reform is not going to have a big impact on the deficit situation or cost of health care.

I don't know where your evidence is for the idea that the market would have fixed itself faster and more efficiently during this crisis then the government was able to. It's a nice, easy belief that doesn't challenge any of our shared pro-capitalism assumptions, but our ideologies really need not be so rigid.

I guess you can argue that the demand created by the government will be short-lived and wasn't worth the money used to create it, but surely you agree that stimulus spending and the huge Obama tax cuts created aggregate demand. And were government "bailouts" really unsuccessful? As far as I can tell TARP accomplished everything it set out to do: credit spreads have declined, the government has made money back, etc.

And last but not least, the Democratic health care proposals are simply not radical, not socialistic, and not anti-business. And neither is President Obama.

Eddie said...

Conservative Leftist,

Thanks for the comments. I will address these issues in my next article.