A Progressive Response To Tea Party Contract From America
For those who understand the nature of politics, the new Tea Party movement has always been extremely transparent. All of the frustration, anger, and disillusionment stemming from 30 years of failures stemming from conservative policies in every realm was manifesting itself in a mass awakening; a rejection of the messages coming from the levers of power both inside and outside the government was brewing.
This awakening manifested itself into the movement for change, a new progressive political paradigm that rejected the failed conservative dogma and tapped into this rage the public felt. Where conservative foreign policy had brought us massive lies to lead us into a war for oil, secret torture facilities, and some really sinister shit, the new progressive paradigm called for a reset of diplomatic solutions, humanitarian gestures, and shrinking the massive military machine.
Where conservative domestic policy had brought the country widespread domestic spying on the public, an administration that favored loyalty over competence, and a free hand to help multinational corporations exploit both the environment and working men and women, the new progressive paradigm called for protecting the poor and middle class, striving for transparency in government, and protecting our planet for our children’s generation.
Where conservative economic policy brought about rampant deregulation, empowering greed for corporations, massive tax cuts and wealth consolidation for the rich, and the mother of all recessions, the new progressive paradigm called for opportunity for all Americans, strong regulations to ensure ethical practices, and creating jobs.
Harnessing Anger to Double Down on Conservative Policies
These are dangerous notions for the corporations and wealthy that have so consolidated their hold over the political process by controlling and dominating campaign contributions, so an idea was hatched. Corporate front groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity would take over the fledgling grassroots Libertarian movement known as the Tea Parties, which actually began as Ron Paul campaign events in 2007. After initially hiding behind the libertarian banner to avoid blame for the disastrous culmination of their conservative policies, they would then purge real libertarians from the ranks, and slowly shift the message to more of an ultra-conservative, traditional Republican one.
We have seen this in action. Where the first messages were strictly about fiscal responsibility, now the plethora of messages are religious, anti-immigrant, anti-environment, and anti-health care reform. The libertarians who opposed torture, the Iraq War, domestic espionage, imposing one religion on all of society, and legalizing marijuana are no longer welcome at any rally.
Despite this transition, the overall scheme worked: the anger and resentment against conservative policies had been shifted first to the government as a whole, and now to progressive Democrats who are trying to reform the system. The deliberate obstructionism and blatant negative propaganda has convinced many that somehow the reformers are actually to blame for the mess our nation is in, and that they need to be punished at the polls in these November midterm elections.
I know, the Tea Party claims to be non-partisan and their official stance is that “everyone” should be voted out in November, but in reality the movement has turned into the extreme ultra-conservative side of the Republican Party, and the only Republicans they are actually targeting are the center-right ones who actually might compromise once in a while for the sake of the nation. The Tea Party now has one goal: to replace anyone not far right in the government. In this case, that usually means the Democrats.
The New Contract On America
Analysts have recognized this for a year. However, for the public, it has been difficult to characterize the Tea Party movement. It has been a nebulous cloud of anger and resentment bent more on opposing progress than actually proposing working solutions.
Now, just as what happened the last time a Democrat was elected, the right wing extremists have released a Contract On America, giving a bit more form to their shifty nature. In this version from the Tea Partiers, slightly different from the one Republicans released in Hawaii this winter, called the Contract From America, they focus on a few actual issues, among them: the constitution, cap and trade, a balanced budget, tax reform, fiscal responsibility, government spending, repeal health care reform, energy policy, and an end to earmarks.
Below find the expanded version of this new contract, as well as the response from this particular progressive.
1. Protect the Constitution. Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.
The Federal and Supreme courts in the United States are here specifically for this purpose, making this a redundant measure. None the less, it is a principle that is admirable, and Congress should never intentionally draft a bill that would violate the constitution. Unfortunately, many unconstitutional bills have strong support among the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, including the recent bill defunding the community organizing association ACORN.
Further, the Federal courts have been stocked with conservative activist judges since Reagan, and the Supreme Court is the most extreme right wing in the history of the nation. This has allowed an unprecedented violation of the constitution in favor of multinational corporations (including foreign ones) who are now not only granted the rights of an actual person, but can spend unlimited fortunes on political campaigns thanks to a recent decision. I challenge any conservative to show me the passage in the constitution that allows this.
2. Reject Cap & Trade. Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.
Cap and Trade is far too weak to actually force polluters to clean up after themselves. What we need is a system of Hard Caps, where any industry is forced to reduce their emission levels to what they were at in 2005 within a years time. Then, mandate cuts in those emission levels by 20% per year.
The science behind anthropogenic global warming is solid. Millions of scientists in over 140 countries with decades of measurements and research prove this. Anyone that denies that our species is directly responsible for some severely negative impacts on our environment is simply rejecting science, and we cannot allow narrow minded regressives like this to stop us from taking the necessary action to protect our one and only planet. The Tea Party claim that regulations will have no impact in curbing pollution is ludicrous, and only demonstrates why such a tiny fraction of scientists are conservative.
3. Demand a Balanced Budget. Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.
Everyone wants a balanced budget. The reality to the current situation is this though: we are in the worst economic downturn since the 1930’s, and to stop the Great Recession from turning into another Great Depression, we simply need to run temporary deficits to jump start the economy. Mandating a 2/3rds majority for the simplest of new taxes is not only unconstitutional, it will hamstring Congress from adapting to pressing situations like the one our nation currently faces. Further, it has been tried in California and has had disastrous results, forcing severe cuts in education among other things.
Back to a balanced budget. Where were all the howling voices of condemnation when Bush doubled the national debt after being handed a surplus from Bill Clinton? Where were the boisterous complaints when tax cuts for the rich rammed down the throat of America during wartime done by a Republican controlled Congress caused deficits to balloon? This perhaps demonstrates more than anything how partisan the Tea Parties are in reality, because if they truly believed in sound fiscal policy instead of borrow and spend fiscal conservativism, they would have had massive demonstrations starting in 2003. Sort of funny how all of sudden these protests cropped up 2 months after a Democrat became president, isn’t it? Also, why do so many people at the Tea Parties idolize Ronald Reagan as a great American prophet when he tripled the national debt?
4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform. Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution.
Nobody enjoys filling out their tax forms, but it is complicated for a reason: to provide balance to who is allowed deductions. Tax reform is often nothing more than a code phrase for scrapping the progressive income tax in favor of something that will lead to even more devastating wealth consolidation than what has been allowed to take place since Reagan. Class warfare has been waged on the poor for decades, but only when the results of a conservative tax policy that has the top rate at historical lows have come to light recently has the middle class realized that when the rich don’t pay their fair share, everyone suffers.
5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington. Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the US Constitution’s meaning.
Looking for increased efficiency and fiscal responsibility is something we can all stand behind, but somehow I doubt Tea Party conservatives would get behind what really needs to be done. See response to #6.
6. End Runaway Government Spending. Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.
The largest piece of discretionary spending in the budget is the military. Including the interest on the national debt incurred by previous borrowing to fund military projects, as well as things hidden in the budget like Iraq War supplements, corporate welfare for research and development, no-bid civilian contractors, and social protections, military related expenditures are between 40-50% of the annual budget. Nobody will ever be taken seriously when they talk about government spending unless they support massive cuts to the military, and no offense Tea Baggers, but this ain’t you.
Further, the most popular cuts in a recent Economist poll were foreign aid, agriculture, the environment, and housing, things that only account for a tiny portion of the overall annual budget. It’s easy to say you are for cuts, but without specifics, it is just talk.
7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care. Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries.
The Tea Party “solution” to the health care crisis would do nothing to help the 50 million Americans without health insurance, a rate that is rising rapidly in every state. It would not stop 50,000 people from dying every year due to complications stemming from lack of insurance. It would not stop diabolical corporate practices like denying coverage for such pre-existing conditions as domestic violence, being a cop, or taking anti-HIV medications after being raped. It would do nothing to stop the devastating bills that come with a catastrophic illness, the single largest factor in personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures.
As for opening up the insurance system beyond state lines, we all know how well that worked for the credit card companies, who flocked to the states with the least amount of consumer protection, and began raking in record profits at everyones expense. This handicaps individual states from passing laws that are in the interest of their constituents. So much for the illusion of conservatives favoring state’s rights.
Everyone knows Tea Party conservatives don’t like health care reform, but this is the first time I have seen a declaration to end Medicare and Medicaid too. This is a position even too extreme for the Republicans, who have become increasingly extreme the way it is over the years. At least now everyone now understands the official Tea Party stance on this. Perhaps they would like to abolish Social Security as well.
8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy. Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs.
In order to ween our country off of its addiction to foreign oil, we need to develop energy sources at home that are both renewable and has the least environmental impact. To make this happen, we need to invest enormous sums to develop wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal energy, along with upgrading our transmission network. As the government has given a vast fortune in incentives for big oil to develop infrastructure, and to this day continues to invest 2.5 times the amount in expendable energy sources, the best thing for our nation’s future is to develop renewable energy.
Also, since Obama just opened up vast tracts of coastline to offshore drilling, I assume everyone at the Tea Parties strongly and vocally will support that decision, right?
9. Stop the Pork. Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
Earmarks have declined 15.5% this year. Still, rather than speak out in general against earmarks, let the Tea Partiers in the districts who are to receive them be the first to speak out just to prove they are not hypocritical.
- 10. Stop the Tax Hikes. Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.
Although 88% of the people that attend Tea Parties according to a recent poll don’t know this, income taxes have declined for 95% of working Americans. Most of that was $300 billion set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus bill), although other tax deductions have come into play as well. In the end, there will be a very modest tax increase on the very rich, and only for income in excess of $500,000. Hardly the doom and gloom message the propagandists on Fox ‘News’ say.