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The Seven Ironies of the Tea Party

David Michael Green has a brilliant rant about the Tea Party. Here are (too many) choice quotes, but the whole (fairly short) article is worth a read.

It’s ironic, to begin with, that the ones who are bitching loudest today are precisely the people who created the mess we’re in.

The astonishing irony here is that they’ve had their way with economic policy in this country for thirty years running. And, excuse me, but now they’re pissed off at the results?

Taxes today are a mere hint of what they used to be, just as the right has insisted must be the case. For the rich especially, top marginal income taxes have come down from 91 percent to 35 percent. But, of course, even that doesn’t include earnings on capital gains, a giant portion of their income, which is now at 15 percent. Nor does it include the estate tax, which has now disappeared entirely.

On trade, previously existing barriers and protections for domestic industries have been eviscerated almost completely, so that for much of the world today, it’s a single market for products and capital. Labor? Not so much. What a shock, then, that America’s good jobs – especially in manufacturing – are now all located in Mexico. Or at least they were, until even those became too expensive and got moved to China and India and Vietnam.

The story is the same in the domain of labor relations, where the playing field has been slanted massively in the direction of capital, starting with Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers. The upshot of these rule changes and enforcement laxity has been that the portion of union-protected jobs in America has shrunk from about 35 percent to about 7 percent, with precisely the results for workers that you’d expect.

With deregulation, too, we’ve seen massive changes as well over the same period, across industries far and wide, not least of which includes the repealing of Glass-Steagal and the unleashing of Wall Street. The right insisted – and still does – that this is great news for the economy. History begs to differ.

The result, of course, has been economic devastation far and wide. The rich have gotten massively richer, the rest of us are sinking, the federal debt has skyrocketed, our jobs have been exported to China and India, Wall Street has plunged the global economy into the toilet, corporations like BP do whatever they want without fear of consequence, and the United States is imploding as a great power. These are not coincidences, either. And now here comes the great irony: the same people who have been getting their way on the economy for thirty years now are just absolutely livid about what they themselves have created! They’re just completely enraged at the product of their own politics.

A second great irony is the extent to which the tea party bozos are being manipulated by elites like the Koch Brothers, Rupert Murdoch and the likes of Dick Armey. The very people who created the public’s economic insecurity in order to get rich off of it, are now channeling the resulting rage into support for more of the same.

Another pretty serious irony is that the tea partiers are likely about to gain some substantial power, but have no solutions to the problems they perceive. … Unless, of course, they’re prepared to slash Social Security and Medicare spending. Which they’re not. When the New York Times ran a poll on tea partiers back in April, it found that they tend to favor the generic idea of cutting government programs. Just not the only ones that really matter. Some were unable to reconcile the competing concepts: “‘That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?’ asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. ‘I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.’ She added, ‘I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.'”

The only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: ‘No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.'”

I notice that nobody running for Congress this year is specifying just how they’d kill the deficit. They want to cut spending, and they say they can, but they can’t see any rush in specifying how they’ll do it. That can wait til after the election. Republican duplicity and hypocrisy.

What would it look like if Obama didn’t have to pay for Bush’s wars based on lies, didn’t have to pay for Bush’s prescription drug plan, didn’t have to pay for Bush’s tax cuts, didn’t have to pay for stimulus funds to rescue the country from Bush’s Great Recession, and didn’t have to pay interest (one of the biggest items in the federal budget) on the money that Bush and Reagan borrowed previously? Most likely, it would look like it did on January 20, 2001, the day that Bush came to office, and the United States was running the greatest surplus ever in its history.

So here we stand. The people who created endless disaster as far as the eye can see are now completely beside themselves in outrage that someone is spending a few dollars to clean up the mess these same folks have made by convincing America to follow their policies over the last thirty years. They want big changes, right now, even though they can’t quite specify what they want – other than changes that won’t hurt them, personally – and even though these changes would do absolutely nothing to solve the current problems facing the country, and would in fact probably exacerbate those.



  1. patriotsgt wrote:

    Here’s the “real” big government conundrum, on average only about 15 cents of every dollar makes it to the intended recipient. Meaning if we spend 50 billion on education, only about 7 billion makes it down to actually support students. The rest pays for the multiple layers of bureaucracy that run, oversea, manage, feel important about,set policy,etc.

    DC schools get the most per student in my area, a little over 15,000 per student, Baltimore city gets almost the same. In both cases they are 2 of the worst school systems around. In Baltimore only about 5% of students go onto college and 30% never graduate. Give 1/2 the money to a average private school and college/graduation rates dramaticaly increase. Parents and students are also expected to contribute to the success (and made to attend school meetings many times).

    Instead of complaining, (my state is as blue as they get) about conservative or liberal philosophy why don’t we own up to the fact the gov being too big is a reality in many cases and highly ineffeicient model for delivering many of the services our citizens need. If we rethink how we deliver our services and get away from this notion that government can do everything, then we can look at making things work better. Gov should oversea many things, but run them….i don’t think so (unless you want them to cost 5 times more then they need to).

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink
  2. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Where did you get the statistic that 85 cents on every dollar is wasted?

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  3. Michael wrote:

    “[O]n average only about 15 cents of every dollar makes it to the intended recipient.”

    Citation please. Statistics pulled out of thin air like this are complete BS. It depends on how “intended recipient” is defined. If the “intended recipient” of education is the student, then they get no money on average. The actual money goes to teachers, school administrators, electric companies (you kind of need power for lights), computer manufacturers, etc.

    Regarding the comparison of DC/Baltimore public schools with private schools, you seem to have no understanding of education. Children from wealthy environments (i.e., private school kids) always do better, because their parents tend to be much more active in their education. Also, anyone who has ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy can tell you that basic needs (safety, etc.) MUST be met before higher levels of cognition can develop. So, yes, children from rough and impoverished areas do need SIGNIFICANTLY MORE money spent on their education in order to offer them even a possibility of succeeding. If Baltimore wasn’t spending a crapload per student, that would be 0% going to college.

    Furthermore, it is disingenuous to talk about city education budgets as monolithic entities. School budgets are set and controlled almost exclusively by local property taxes and school districts. So even if Baltimore is spending a large amount per student, if you broke the numbers down further, you would see that the kids from the rich part of town are getting a lot more than those from the ghetto. DC, of course, is a unique case, because its budget is controlled by Congress.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    There are lots of arguments about the efficiency of Medicare, but all of them put it around 95% — meaning that 95 cents of every dollar pays for health care. That’s a far cry from 15 cents of every dollar. Where do you get these crazy “facts” that contain no facts?

    Are you saying that 85 cents of every dollar we spend on the military is wasted? Well, then we have a great way to balance the budget right away!

    And on top of that, what in the world does this have to do with the original article? Absolutely nothing! If we are going to have a discussion, can we please try to stay on the subject, rather than just throwing out random talking points that mean nothing?

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  5. Sammy wrote:

    When I have brilliant thoughts, only 15% of them make it to my written comments. 85% is wasted, usually on visuals of naked body parts.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  6. Jonah wrote:

    PGT probably got the info from a fox channel (that he never watches) or a conservative website (that he never reads) 🙂 JK PGT. Just a bunch of liberals ganging up on you. I for one have great confidence that you will provide a nonpartisan source for the “facts” you just cited.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink
  7. Michael wrote:

    Oh, I get it! Yes, he’s clearly saying that 85% of military spending (which is the biggest part of the budget anyways) fails to make it to the intended recipient. So he’s obviously just stating that our soldiers have really bad aim. 😉

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  8. @Sammy LOL

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  9. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Since I suspect I’ll never see any factual data regarding the 85 cents per dollar wasted, I’ll go ahead and follow up with the rest of my response. I apologize for the length.

    I see a lot of right wingers that love to elevate the corporation to an unreal level of efficiency. Seriously, from the way most of these people talk, you’d think that not even one DIME was wasted in a corporate environment, that there are no lazy people making too much money, no hard working people making too little money, etc. Every corporation is a perfect machine, powered by the indestructible, inerrant force of the free market.

    The only real conclusion I can gather from this is that none of them have ever worked in real corporations.

    But, lets use the corporation analogy for a moment. Intel makes computer chips. Intel is a huge corporation. Let me say that I AGREE with the general premise that the bigger something gets, the more difficult it becomes to control waste. It stands to reason that, in that respect, the larger Intel becomes, the larger portion of the money you pay for a computer chip is going to nothing.

    However, this is an ultra-simplistic and obviously designed way of looking at the corporations. Several other things happen as Intel gets larger. It may waste more money, but because the consumer base is larger the effect per person is lower. As it grows, it is able to afford ways to become more efficient that would be otherwise unavailable to it. I recently toured a company that build an incredible data center for around 50 million dollars. As big data centers go, that is fantastic. However, no startup can afford all that stuff. You will likely be putting servers in a closet somewhere. Highly inefficient, but much cheaper than the 50 million or more dollars you’d need to do it right.

    To reverse the analogy, imagine that you said intel was too big and wasteful, and instead you wanted it broken down into two guys in the shop next door. Could two guys in a shop next door provide the same output that Intel can? Whether we are looking at quality, capacity, or volume, the answer is no.

    Unfortunately around here I often am pulled into a discussion about empowering the states by pulling power from the federal government. The smaller it is, they claim, the easier it is for us to affect it and fix it. The easier it is to control it and stop wasteful spending and embezzlement. The real irony here is that my state is RIFE with corruption. We have had tons of scancals in our state politics, and tons of money wasted. And based on that description, can you tell me what state I’m from? Doubtful, because it happens all over the place.

    As much as it goes against the narrative, the Republicans are the ones who are currently living in fantasy land. They have no sustainable ideas, and are unable to provide moderately coherent explanations for anything. Apart from generic slogans and tag lines.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  10. patriotsgt wrote:

    You guys crack me up. OK I obviously overstated the numbers and misrepresented my point. As expected everyone jacked me up nicely, and now that I have your attention… you can tell i’m tired of the TP rants reenforcing the media money makers, lets talk about something that matters….

    my point about education is valid.

    We spend on avg in our country (as of 2006-07 school yr (latest data available) $10,720.00 per public school pupil in the USA. In Baltimore it’s actually almost $15,000. The dropout rates and college rates are real. Every private school in the area does a better job as far as graduation and clooege rates. Their fees range from 5,000 – 23,000 for the top schools (who have a 100% grad rate and a 99% college rate). Why don’t we (at least in Balt) just give that 15k/ student to the private schools and let them teach? Teachers will still be employed, just not on state dimes, kids will get educated (probably better)and we won’t have to manage it.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  11. patriotsgt wrote:

    1032 – thanks for actually getting my point. Yes there is a balance between big and small and the cost benefits of both systems. Bigger can obviously buy cheaper and afford more because of capital resources, however smaller is easier to manage more efficiently.
    In gov’t as I see it there is no incentive to improve the bottom line as in business. There is the incentive to get better results, so someone (a politcian) can take credit, but it has to be a more encompassing venture.

    Now I like this discussion…:)

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  12. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    My issue wasn’t particularly that you misrepresented anything, it was that you made it up. And then you proceeded to expound on it.

    If smaller is easier to manage more efficiently, why are you unable to tell what state I live in when I tell you that we’ve had a slew of scandals in our state government with money disappearing, backroom dealings, nepotism, cronyism, etc.? Why doesn’t it stick out like a sore thumb amongst the other functional, efficient, non-corrupt small governmental bodies?

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  13. Michael wrote:

    “The only real conclusion I can gather from this is that none of them have ever worked in real corporations.” Exactly! I used to work for IBM. “Efficient corporation” is an oxymoron.

    As for the idea of just paying all students to go to private school, IT DOESN’T SCALE. First, private schools outperform public schools because they can (currently) afford to pay top dollar for the best teaching talent. If all schools are suddenly private, do you really think they would all have teachers that are the same calibre?

    Second, you’re introducing a MAJOR source of cost: applications and admissions. Clearly there is no way that EVERYONE can go to the best schools. So the best schools need to hire more workers in order to deny most applicants. But now those students have to apply to lesser schools, and again, many denials. Even worse, those students have to apply *again* to the schools that used to be public (where admission was automatic). In the end, the student population at the top schools will remain exactly as it is today: Children of wealthy parents who make sizable donations to ensure their kids’ acceptance.

    In addition, you now have profits to deal with. The point of a private school (as a business) is not to break even. It is to make money for its investors. That money comes from the tuition. So now, if every school has investors, that increases the operating cost.

    And, last but certainly not least, schools must now advertise. They want the best and brightest (which improves their graduation/college rates, which improves their reputation), so they spend top dollar on TV time, radio advertisements, billboards, etc. When you introduce competition, you inherently introduce marketing. Because really, it doesn’t matter which school is better. It matters which school people *think* is better.

    Of course, I could also mention that private schools are no longer bound to the same teaching standards. So there would plenty of parochial schools that would teach creationism instead of evolution. Arts courses would be drastically cut, because those classes don’t ultimately help the students get jobs. Etc., etc.

    There are certain fields that government is in a much better position to handle than the private sector. Education is one such field.

    As for the comment that “In gov’t as I see it there is no incentive to improve the bottom line as in business,” please keep in mind that government does not just mean politicians. My father was (and brother is) a firefighter. They have plenty of incentives for doing their jobs as efficiently as possible: It saves lives. I have a friend that works in the White House OMB. He works very diligently to make sure that the budget numbers make sense and are reasonable. To say that there are no incentives is to suggest that many, many people do not have integrity or take pride in their work. Many people who go into the public sector have incentives that are not financial. But at the end of the day, they do their job just as well as anyone doing the same work for profit would. Platitudes like “All government is bad, m’kay,” are trite and overly simplistic.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  14. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Michael, I think your profits point and, in a larger sense, obligation to shareholders is the most damning argument against privitization that I know of.

    Who wants to call the police and have them say, “sorry, we crunched the numbers and performing this service for you would be a loss for us!”??

    In my mind, we will always need that public buffer in place. Heck, just think about how much money you’d have to pay a private corporation to get someone to run into a burning building!

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  15. patriotsgt wrote:

    Thanks for the comments Michael – yes I believe there are alot of good people working in the government system (i’m one of them). I also know there is alot of waste in salary, equipment and other items that could be saved if there was a mechanism by which the entity was not punished for dong so. To explain that i’ll use 2 different gov entities i’ve worked for (DHS, US ARMY). Both get yearly budgets and both are mandated (at least what we at my level are told) to spend all the money allocated to our individual departments. Every year the “budget analyst” (person who counts the beans) comes out in the start of summer and says put together a wishlist of stuff you need or would like to have because there may be money left over that we’ll have to spend. They mean it, they get poor performance ratings if they have unspent funds. This is because if money goes unspent it may get taken away, so no one ever has money left over, and they always ask for more the next year (your supposed to). Now I’m no genious, but I am a fairly good common sense person and that system is not conducive to saving money or managing the precious tax dollars we all give.
    Why can’t we re-engineer the system to not punish saving, but reward it even. I know the Pres has the initiative out there t inovate and come up with ways to save the govt and taxpayers money. Thats good and there’s been alot of good ideas come from it. However, good managers can also save money and reduce costs. Suppose we allowed excess funds to be turned in at the end of the fiscal year and be applied directly to the deficit or debt AND not penalize them and promise to keep their budget the same? We could reward Dept’s that save more (figure out some fair way for competition) or give managers and employees an award and post their name for all America to see. The “Biggest tax dollar savers award” or something. Get invited to the white house, sleep in the lincoln bedroom, something.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  16. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    What you might not know is that budget situation happens all over the place, not just in public entities. Departments are budgeted X amount of dollars. If they come in under budget, the next quarter their budget gets reduced. Sounds crazy right?

    Your plan is a great example of something that makes sense outside of reality. You claim this is “punishing savings”, but what is the alternative? Give the money to the employees? Continue to overbudget the department? Neither of these things are any better.

    Lets say I take XYZ corporation and implement a version of your plan. I say to all departments, whoever comes in under budget the most will have half the money they saved sent back to the department. What person in their right mind would prefer to participate in that competition rather than just spending up to the budget cap? Even if I upped the reward to 100% of the money saved, who would participate? The best you could possibly get would be the same money you’d have if you didn’t come in under budget. Do you see? The “reward” would have to be BIGGER than the budget surplus combined with the risk to achieve the reward to make people want it, inherently making your business LESS efficient.

    Another issue with your stated plan is that you are rewarding tax savings by using tax money. The award, the white house slumber party…these things all cost tax dollars. You’d also generate additional overhead in the administration and oversight of the program, which you have stated you are against. A less obvious one is, when you start rewarding coming in under budget, you inadvertantly start rewarding corner cutting.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  17. Michael wrote:

    I don’t really have another point to make, but I just wanted to say thanks Patriotsgt. I see your comments a lot on this site, and you do a good job of bringing a different side of the political spectrum to the discussion (and without being a troll). And thank you for your service.

    I guess I did have another minor point, which was to support Tenthirtytwo’s observation that the budget waste also happens in the private sector. I’m a researcher, and I’m currently funded by a private company. They’ve told us that we have to spend all the money they gave us, because if we don’t then they might not get funding from the corporate headquarters next year. So, yeah…

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  18. Sammy wrote:

    One thing I didn’t see (or just missed) regarding the public vs. private school argument(s) above is that private schools have an admissions process and can discriminate based on ability. In other words, public schools have to take EVERYBODY, while private schools do not. How many private schools cater to children from poverty? Or from homes where they have no breakfast or lunch provided? Or from homes with a single mom on welfare or close to it? Or children with learning deficiencies? It costs more to teach special ed, kids with social problems, kids from “bad” parents, kids who don’t have access to more than one good meal per day. It costs more to teach kids with none of those problems but who are surrounded by many who do.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  19. patriotsgt wrote:

    1032 – you bring up some good points that would need to be considered in the corporate/gov comparison.

    As far as awards, yes they can be costly if monetary, but we can be inovative. People want to be recognized for their efforts and rewarded. In the Army, we got no monetary reward for outstanding deeds, we would get an award or medal and recognition in front of our peers and this was/has been succesful in motivating others to try harder. The cost is time by the supervisor and the cost of paper and a medal or plaque. The recent Soldier who was awarded the MOH did not risk his life for profit or even glory, he did it because his buddies needed him to. People are not all corporate greedies. That is especially true in Gov. (nobody but the top dogs goes into govt to get rich)

    In business, it can be done to make the entity more profitable. I managed restaurants in my younger years for corps and privately owned. We motivated, achieved, made money for all. It can be done.

    Michael -thanks

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  20. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    It’s hard to take your argument seriously when you say “People want to be recognized for their efforts and rewarded” and then “the recent soldier…did not risk his life for profit or even glory…People are not all corporate greedies.”

    The irony is not lost on me, either, that the soldier is a public servant, and not a private mercenary.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  21. ebdoug wrote:

    Patriotsgt: Just think, had you had a private school education, you would have learned the difference and usage of their and there. I’m just teasing, but it surprises me in your posts because you really do seem educated.

    Another thing not brought up about Privite schools: They can teach creationism, they can teach that Christianity, Judism, etc is the only Religion. I was fortunate enought to go to an Episcopal School (Tower Hill, Wilmington DE) that made a requirement to study all Reigions in our Junior Year. By that time I was an Atheist, but I certainly wanted to study other Religions to see where they were coming from. Now a days, Private Schools don’t have to teach Darwin, etc.
    Our little town of 5000 in NY is spending $16500 per student. The Private school an hour away is spending $16000 in the top four grades. I mentioned this to my opthamologist who says there are extra costs for sports, higher level courses (which there are here also for the AP courses) for his children.
    Oh, and someone was here today fixing things for me. He was ranting and raving about how awful those were that disparaged Obama. That always makes me feel better.

    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  22. Jeff wrote:

    Perhaps my favorite bit of irony from the Tea Party is their complaint that there are no new jobs and that it’s somehow the government’s fault, even when they complain that the government cannot create jobs in the first place. Never mind that companies are posting record profits and sitting on millions in assets again. Never mind that people are refusing jobs that they feel are beneath them (this is going on in my area). Never mind that the government can’t make companies hire more workers. It’s the government’s fault, and we should give businesses yet another break.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 7:21 am | Permalink
  23. Jonah wrote:

    dana gould said it the best more than a year ago. Its at the 1.50 mark.

    WTF indeed.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink
  24. patriotsgt wrote:

    1032 – yea that was kind of oxymoronic of me to use both those examples together. What I mean it’s human nature to want sometimes just a simple pat on the back or “outstanding job, thanks”, it’s not always about money.

    Ebdoug – sometimes i just type slower then i think and my fingers get behind and lose track. There refers to a place, while their denotes possession. See, I do remember 🙂

    On the private schools issue I agreee there are potential pitfalls and some obstacles to overcome. Yes private schools do “screen” their applicants for a good fit within the society of the school. But, thats necessary for good of the whole. 1 disruptive child in a class can lower the learning bar for all. There are some good “public charter” schools that are acheiving some good results, but just too few of them. The real problem in K-12 education, as I see it, is at some point in time parents got the idea that it is the governments responsibility to teach their children everything and be parents as well (the nanny states who want to tell you what you can or can’t eat). Most of our excesses in children, ie weight, behavior, texting, cell phone use, etc are because of poor parenting “NO” is not a dirty word. “Mommy I want a happy meal”, “No Johnny, not today, lets have a salad instead”. Teens texting too much – “hand me your phone please, this texting has become an obsession with you, lets talk”. Good old fashion parenting and showing up at school for conferences and meeting with the teacher and ask, “where does my child need help and what can I do at home to help them improve”.

    These are things you find in private schools and that we need to find more of in public. All the money in the world won’t fix the whole problem unless we properly identify the problem first and call it what it is; a lack of values, parenting and responsibility at the home level. In the worst school, my children would still read, write know math, history and science because I would teach what the school did not as their parent that is my job (and I can’t quit).

    Thats the end of my sermon for today, thanks for reading..

    Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink
  25. patriotsgt wrote:

    Jonah -good post.

    Now lets fix it and fund it corectly without taking 1/2 trillion out of medicare (unless it’s replacing medicare) and food/housing away from the poor to pay for it.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  26. Anonymous wrote:

    Fix it by restoring the taxes to the rich.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 6:07 am | Permalink