TEA PARTY POLITICS - Question: What’s the difference between the European Barbarians like the Goths and Vandals (you know, the folks who looted and pillaged Europe and finished off the Western Roman Empire) and the Tea Party Politicians?
Answer: The Tea Partiers bathe more often.
Like their Iron Age counterparts, who tore up every vestige of Roman civilization they could find, seemingly just for the pleasure of doing it, their Tea Party descendants seem to take a perverse delight in obliterating all traces of the Middle Class America so carefully and painfully built since the New Deal.
And if this sounds a little puzzling, consider for a minute just who and what the Tea Party is.
Although it claims to be a “grassroots movement”, the Tea Party is basically a creature of FreedomWorks, a powerful right-wing organization headed until recently by former Texas congressman Dick Armey.
FreedomWorks itself was formed in 2004 by a merger of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) and Empower America.
CSE was founded in 1984 by David Koch, who, along with his brother Charles, is a major funder of right-wing and anti-environment causes.
Empower America, also a tax-exempt nonprofit group, was co-founded in 1993 by Jack Kemp (former congressman and Housing secretary, who would be Bob Dole’s vice presidential running mate in 1996), William Bennett (former education and drug czar), former UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber.
Its early activities also included operating “candidate schools” for Republicans in the 1994 elections, running attack ads against Clinton’s health plan, and opposing any plans for welfare reform, even from the Republican Party.
Any questions about the FreedomWorks/Tea Party goals and methods were answered by a leaked memo from a FreedomWorks volunteer, Bob MacGuffie, which described how members should infiltrate town hall meetings and harass and intimidate Democratic members of Congress:
“Spread out in the hall,” says the memo, “and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up … You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation. Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early. If he blames Bush for something or offers other excuses — call him on it, yell back and have someone else follow-up with a shout-out … The goal is to rattle him …”
So, once they became officeholders themselves, what did the Tea Party do in order to make America a better place?
A few examples:
Declared War on Women’s Rights: Having forced as many children as possible to be born, due to their anti-abortion legislation, House Republicans are now trying to make sure those children will be deprived of proper nutrition once they come into the world.
By cutting WIC (Women, Infants, Children) funding, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAB) House Republicans will be depriving nearly 500,000 women and children of adequate nutrition. According to the Center for American Progress, “one day’s worth of millionaire tax cuts would feed needy families for a year.”
In Frederick County, Maryland, the Board of County Commissioners voted to end the county’s contribution to Head Start, cutting funding for the program by more than 50 percent. Two of the Republican officials justified their decision by arguing that women should be married and staying at home with their kids, which would make the program unnecessary.
Declared War on Unions and Collective Bargaining: By painting collective bargaining in general and public sector pay in particular as being responsible for America’s problems, Tea Party legislators in Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have passed Draconian laws to strip their opponents’ rights and shift responsibility away from the Bush-era loot-and-pillage banking catastrophes.
Declared War on Child Labor Laws: Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said that Congressional laws banning child labor are forbidden by the US Constitution, apparently not understanding that the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in 1941 (United States v. Darby Lumber).
A similar movement is underway in Missouri where State Sen. Jane Cunningham has introduced a bill [S.B. 222] to minimize child labor laws.
Declared War on the Federal Government: The Arizona State Senate introduced SB 1433 which “proposed nothing less than the creation of a 12-person body tasked with studying federal laws and nullifying any and all of those it deemed unconstitutional.” It was basically a secession act; it didn’t pass.
The Virginia legislature proposed an alternative currency for when the Federal Reserve System breaks down. Legislatures in Georgia, Montana, Missouri, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington have proposed making gold and silver the only recognized US currency.
Declared War on Gun Control: Reuters reports that Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich has signed into law “a bill that allows gun owners in the state to carry concealed weapons into bars and other places where alcohol is served.” The law also allows gun owners to go armed into shopping malls.
Declared War on Science, the Environment and Health: House Republicans killed the Select Committee on Global Warming, then unanimously voted to pass the Upton-Inhofe bill to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific endangerment finding on greenhouse pollution. In other words, they have legislated that climate-change does not exist.
Republicans oppose energy saving light bulbs, citing the evils of government interference. They then voted to cut $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which would seriously impede research on cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases.
The Tea Party in at least a dozen states has come up with a radical, states-rights-centered proposal to attack healthcare reform by seizing control of nearly all federal health care programs operating in their states.
Declare War on Education: Tea Partiers are passing laws in several states to put Intelligent Design, sometimes termed “Creation Science” into public school curriculums to oppose teaching evolution.
Led by amateur historians like David Barton, Tea Partiers are fighting to include books into school curriculums, which, like Barton’s, falsify and distort American history.
House Republicans voted to cut Pell Grants, that help middle class kids go to college, by 25%.
And, to sum up. . .
Now, at first glance, so much of this sounds like humor sketches from late night TV. And, it’s tempting sometimes to snicker at the Southern state, or rural Midwest origins of these people and their ideas.
Six of California’s Congress members are avowed Tea Partiers, and are working for exactly the same goals, using exactly the same means as the politicians cited above. All Republicans, they are
● Jeff Denham, (CA19 2011-);
● Wally Herger, (CA2 1987-);
● Dan Lungren, (CA34 1979-1983), (CA42 1983-1989), (CA3 2005-);
● Tom McClintock, (CA4 2009-);
● Gary Miller, (CA 41 1999-2003), (CA42 2003-2012), (CA31 2013 -); and
● Ed Royce, (CA39 1993-2003), (CA40 2003-2012), (CA39 2013-).
And no matter how the Tea Partiers couch these actions in Frank Luntz’s double-speak terminology and in cherry-picked sayings from long-dead radicals, the facts remain that the Tea Party was designed from the beginning as a “search and destroy” operation and has contributed absolutely nothing to the progress and improvement of the United States or the people who live here.
To the contrary, by drawing attention and resources away from problems that urgently need solutions, fixating instead on trivial, ideologically-driven, ALEC-supplied nonsense, the Tea Partiers and their supporters and enablers have done great harm to the American legislative processes, and to the American people.
And will continue to do so as long as they can.
(John MacMurray is a retired La Habra teacher and former Democratic candidate for State Assembly. He blogs at LAProgressive.com where this column was first posted.)
Vol 10 Issue 104
Pub: Dec 28, 2012