Tea Party Platform (And what’s wrong with it)
This is the Tea Party Platform per their website of http://www.teaparty.org
- Illegal aliens are here illegally
- Pro-domestic employment is indispensible
- A strong military is essential
- Special interests must be eliminated
- Gun ownership is sacred
- Government must be downsized
- The national budget must be balanced
- Deficit spending must end
- Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal
- Reducing personal income taxes is a must
- Reducing business income taxes is mandatory
- Political offices must be available to average citizens
- Intrusive government must be stopped
- English as our core language is required
- Traditional family values are encouraged (teaparty.org)
The above list of the essential and non-negotiable beliefs of the Tea Party was taken from their website, teaparty.org. It is an interesting list of what, on the surface, are the ideals of this movement that has taken America hostage at times in order to force them upon us. In some cases, they read like the platform of the Libertarian Party. At others, they read like the ranting of people who misunderstand the history of our country or even of how the US government works. I will attempt to point out how these ideals are either not being implemented or even truly wanted, cannot be implemented, or are just plain silly in the first place.
First, “Illegal aliens are here illegally.” A redundant sentence begins the list. That in itself should lead a person to see that this movement wishes to prey on the uneducated. My first thought was simply, no shit. If someone comes into a country illegally, obviously, he or she is an illegal alien. There is no debate in the verity of that sentence. However, another comment should be, so what? Our nation was founded by immigrants, from the Native Americans/First Nations who immigrated over the Bering land bridge to the waves of immigration from Europe and other parts of the world to the New World in hope of wealth and prosperity. I seriously doubt that the Native Americans/First Nations wanted the first White settlers to come here, especially after those settlers started to drive them out of their native lands and certainly, after they drove them onto reservations in the hope of slowly eradicating their entire race.
It also does not establish what they want to do about it. If people are coming here illegally, then why not establish a way for those who are otherwise law abiding people to become citizens legally? Many illegal immigrants come here to work because they cannot find jobs in their own country. Many illegal immigrants take jobs that most Americans do not want or are too lazy to perform, such as in the agricultural industry. Rather than simply exercise prejudice against them, why not give them an opportunity to become citizens or at least obtain legal status in the US? If they become citizens or legalized aliens, then they can contribute to our taxes. They can also have rights as workers and citizens. They can vote. They may be able to actually live their life without worrying about deportation and causing misery to their families, including those children they have who were born in the US and are, therefore, citizens of the US. We are a nation of immigrants, so why not welcome others as well?
Next, “Pro-domestic employment is indispensible.” No one can deny this is a great idea. We as a country should create jobs for those within the United States. However, wait, corporations are moving jobs from the United States in search of cheap labour in order to keep prices down or, more sinisterly, allow the corporate executives to pocket more income than most of their employees will see in a lifetime. If the Tea Party is serious about this one, then why have not they advocated taxing companies who move their work outside of the United States more in order to force them to move the jobs back to the United States? Oh, wait. That would be in violation of their 11th principle of “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.” It cannot be both ways. If US corporations are moving their jobs to foreign countries without penalty as they search for cheaper labour, then what incentive do they have in keeping jobs here? The Tea Party says nothing about how to do this. In fact, most of the wealthy supporters of the Tea Party have no problem with US corporations moving jobs overseas because there are less stringent labour laws, pretty much no unions, and they can pay the workers there subsistent wages all the while as their corporate executives make scads of money that they can then hide in foreign bank accounts so they can avoid paying taxes that run our economy.
Their third point is “A strong military is essential.” To a point, this is true. Having a strong military works as a deterrent to keep those wanting to harm our country at bay. Yet, it did not stop the attacks of September 11, 2001. It does not stop domestic terrorism such as the incident involving Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. A strong military cannot work without cooperation between nations. In some cases, it acts as an enticement to encourage those who wish to harm us to see if they can accomplish their evil plans in spite of our massive military complex. We need a strong and nimble military as our enemies are not the armies of countries, but smaller guerilla units who do not fight using conventional warfare tactics. Good intelligence between nations working together to keep an eye on the threats that destabilize countries is what is needed in conjunction with having a strong military. This point is not so much false as it is only part of what is needed.
Point number four, “Special interests must be eliminated.” This actually is the first thing mentioned that makes sense. Yet, it only makes sense if it is implemented across the board and not just for those who agree with other points of the Tea Party message. However, in reality, those wealthy Tea Party sponsors, especially the Koch Brothers, are a special interest. Have not seen Tea Party loyalists wanting their influence eliminated. Another problem with this is a little ruling from the United States Supreme Court that is supported by many in the Tea Party called Citizens United. This ruling allowed that corporations can be considered individuals and are therefore treated as individuals when it comes to financing campaigns of politicians. If the Tea Party is serious about this non-negotiable tenet of their platform, then they need to come out against Citizens United and jump on the bandwagon to repeal the ruling. They should also be heavily in favor of limiting campaign contributions to politicians by anyone as the more donated by any one person could be considered trying to establish a special interest group to influence that politician unduly against the needs of the community as a whole for which he or she is elected to represent.
The fifth point, “Gun ownership is sacred,” is troubling for a number of reasons. The use of the word sacred makes it seem as if guns are to be worshipped as a deity. After all, the word sacred as defined by Merriam-Webster means the following:
1 a: dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity <a tree sacred to the gods>
b: devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose) <a fund sacred to charity>
2 a: worthy of religious veneration: Holy
b: entitled to reverence and respect
3: of or relating to religion: not secular or profane <sacred music>
4: archaic: accursed
5 a: unassailable, inviolable
b: highly valued and important <a sacred responsibility>
Origin of SACRED
Middle English, from past participle of sacren to consecrate, from Anglo-French sacrer, from Latin sacrere, from sacr-, sacer sacred; akin to Latin sancire to make sacred, Hittite šaklāi– rite
By definition, then, the Tea Party believes that guns are to be worshipped. Somehow, I do not think our Founders wished for firearms to be considered a deity when they created the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Viewing firearms as a deity is akin to prehistoric people seeing fire as a deity. Look, I have the power to kill you without touching you with metal projectiles from my fire stick. It is G-d. Seriously?!?
Guns are not sacred; they are a right given loosely to private owners in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. As such, they should be regulated in order to keep the citizenry as whole protected from those individuals in society who would use them to terrorize or harm others. As this is not writing about the gun control, I will not delve further into the subject. However, guns are not sacred objects and this point is, to use a phrase from my students, messed up.
Sixth point of the Tea Party is that “Government must be downsized.” Okay. This is not such a bad idea overall. After all, most people are frustrated by the amount of paperwork needed for many things having to do with our government. Yet, when looking at how our government is set up as a representational government, trying to decrease the size of the government, yet still be able to function as a representational government is daunting. They fail to mention in what way, aside from Libertarian austerity, that they wish to downsize the government. This point needs more specifics. If it means deregulation and allowing industry to police themselves, then that is not such a good idea as it would be like investing in weasels to protect a henhouse. Regulations are needed to protect the interests of the citizenry of our country from pollution and other things that can harm us if left unfettered and to the corporation’s financial goals. See the issues with our food industry for one set of examples. See the factory pollution issues in West Virginia and other places as another.
The seventh point of the Tea Party platform is “The national budget must be balanced.” This is a great idea in theory. After all, it works in the household when balancing our checkbooks. Never spend more than you have and save a little for when it is needed. However, you cannot run a country like that. There are issues that arise, natural disasters, man-made disasters and the like that happen and money is needed to fix them. Add to this that we have neglected our infrastructure to the point where our roads and bridges are unsafe and in need of repair. In addition, this cannot occur if their additional ideals of “Reducing personal income taxes are a must” and “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory” and “A strong military is essential” are to be realistically met. Unless, of course, they are willing to tell the military, for instance, that they can only have a certain dollar amount of ammunition to use in a year and once it’s gone, then no more shooting. Or maybe simply telling the victims of natural disasters to simply deal with it and hope for the best in order to survive and rebuild. Our economy is much larger than a personal bank account. There are too many things to pay for even without a large government. Besides, are they also willing to force a reduction in pay on their elected officials who are getting a salary to do a job, plus funds from speaking engagements? Perhaps this is possible in the unlikely event that a law can be passed that requires elected officials to refund the government any income they receive that is over their legal salary for the office they hold. In addition, they can no longer receive free mail, office space, and they have to buy their insurance like everyone else rather than have a set plan paid for my taxpayers.
Next Tea Party platform point is that “Deficit spending must end.” Great idea, but see the previous point. This would work great if we were still on the gold standard. In theory, it makes sense, but in reality, it does not work. Our government throughout history often runs through deficit spending. The last time there was not a huge deficit was under the Clinton Administration. However, along came two wars that had no financial backing to them and what surplus there was is long gone. You cannot erase a deficit without tax dollars as that is where the government gets its income. Again, this point goes against the other two points of the Tea Party platform of “Reducing personal income taxes is a must” and “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.” Tax revenues are needed to reduce the deficit and pay for even the most minor government spending.
While we are there, might as well touch on these two tenets of the Tea Party. Their 10th and 11th ideals are “Reducing personal income taxes is a must” and “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.” None of us like to pay taxes. We would all like to keep as much of our income as possible. After all, we work hard for our money. However, in order for us to live with good roads, schools, fire and police protection, a strong military, and even the basics that our government provides, then we have to pay taxes.
Unless, of course, the Tea Party wishes to have these things paid for by each person paying a toll or a bill sent to them for their share of these things as they use them. Yet, if for instance, in order to maintain the roads, people using those roads needed to pay tolls as they drive those roads, then government would need to expand in order to hire people to collect those tolls as well as collect the tolls from those who try to get away with not paying those tolls. There goes the shrinking of government they so much want. In addition, what if people cannot afford to pay the tolls? Are they then banned from using the roads? If so, how will they work? Oh, they can walk. However, in order to maintain the sidewalks, there is a toll because otherwise there is no revenue to pay for the maintenance of the sidewalks. The list can continue ad nauseum. While my examples seem absurd, this is the ultimate in the Randian/Libertarian/Tea Party world. Pay as you go and if you cannot pay, then tough shit on you.
Another fault in this is if you notice the wording of these two tenets. The words ‘must’ and ‘mandatory’ are what I’m focusing on here. Personal income taxation being reduced is only a must for the Tea Party, but when it comes to business income taxes, it’s mandatory. This is a tenet of the failed trickle down politics from the Reagan era. Businesses do not create jobs when they pay less in taxes. Instead, many of them simply keep the money and they keep it at the top of their hierarchy rather than the worker. Better than this would be to keep a more strict accounting of how tax dollars are spent and make taxation such that those who make more pay more as they are able to pay more and usually have more tax breaks than those who earn less. This would lead, in turn, to personal income taxes decreasing since the wealthy and corporations would pay more and the worker could keep more to use to invest as well as spend which would boost the economy.
The next Tea Party tenet is that “Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal.” First, the irony of this is huge. After all, I doubt the Tea Party backers would agree that the plans their poster child president Bush laid to bailout the banks and his attempt to stimulate the economy through giving everyone money in hopes they would go out and spend it was wrong. If so, why were they not yelling a screaming for him not to do this? Why didn’t the Koch Brothers tell their paid for politicians to block these efforts? Heck, why didn’t the economists and even the average person on the street demand where our government would get the money to do these things? The reasons are probably more numerous than can be imagined, but it all comes down to a human desire to get something for nothing. There is no way in heck that anyone with an ounce of sense could not realize that simply giving money away, especially money that was not there, is a good idea. Rather than bailing out the banks for their schemes and risky investing practices, then those responsible should have been held accountable and gone to jail for their actions. As far as the bailout of the Big 3 automobile manufacturers goes, it was needed in order to protect our nation’s economy. Yes, there were things done by the UAW and the management of the Big 3 that are reprehensible, such as UAW member’s children getting free college and such as benefits for their working. However, if the Big 3 were allowed to go bankrupt, then not only would the automakers and those working for them have suffered, but also that little subcontractor who makes widgets for the automakers, and so on. It would have had potentially damaging effects on people throughout the country.
What should have occurred is that, in order to receive a bailout, then those receiving it should have been held to stricter rules to not only repay the bailout, but also to make certain the situation causing it does not occur again.
I love the next one, that “Political offices must be available to average citizens.” I agree with this, yet realistically this is already the case. Anyone can run for political office if he or she wants as long as he or she meet the requirements for the office for which they seek. However, the cost to file a petition to run for office is sometimes beyond the financial means for them to do so. Add to this the cost of running a campaign. Yes, a recent person won against a more heavily funded candidate for office. However, how much did he spend? Estimates are that he spent about $200,000 to defeat the incumbent against the $5 million spent by the incumbent. However, this amount of money is not something the average citizen can afford to raise. Many claim rightfully that the reason for the defeat came from the money spent by special interests to make certain their candidate would win. (There’s that pesky special interest thing that the Tea Party claims should not occur, but yet uses to campaign with again).
If the average citizen wants to have a chance at being elected, then there needs to be real campaign reform. There should be a set amount that every candidate can spend on a campaign that comes from a non-partisan fund used for finance campaigns. In addition, no outside special interest should be allowed to run advertisements that support or attack any candidate for office. Free time should be made for all candidates by the media regardless of medium used. That would even the playing field to the candidate and their stance on issues rather than how much they can afford to spend or how much those who want them elected can spend to get them elected. Any Tea Party backers for this idea? I doubt it.
Their next tenet is not clearly defined. They say “Intrusive government must be stopped.” Yet, that tenet goes against their final two of “English as our core language is required” and “Traditional family values are encouraged” as well as that many Tea Party members are also anti-LGBTQ and other issues that are rather personal in nature. For instance, a recent Pew survey found “that 64 percent of Tea Parties want abortion to be illegal” and “69 percent of Republicans who identified with the Tea Party opposed same-sex marriage” (http://www.salon.com/2013/10/21/10_reasons_the_tea_party_is_wildly_unpopular_partner/). If they want the government to be less intrusive, then why would they want to back issues that are very intrusive into the lives of people? Less intrusive would be to allow people to live their lives, especially their personal lives, without government interference unless the things being done are detrimental to society as a whole. Would it not?
The next to last tenet is that “English as our core language is required.” While it is convenient that everyone in America should know English, why should it be required? And, if it is going to be required, then how should it be implemented that people be encouraged and even instructed in the English language so that they can comply? As far as that goes, requiring a language would necessitate that those already here be able to use it properly as well. As a former English teacher, I can attest that even native speakers of English fail to do this and, thus would be in violation of this tenet should it become law. Additionally, what form of English should be required? Colloquial American English? Academic American English? Slang American English? Who determines the form of American English to be used? Will it be a set standard where certain regional uses of language be nullified in favor of a set standard of American English?
Do they not realize that even the use of English as the language of America was by chance? It was not the first choice of the Founders as many wanted to sever ties with England entirely. Among the languages first considered for America were the following: Hebrew, French, and Greek. We have become a nation where people came here speaking many languages and survived with this occurring. We are also one of the few nations of the world where the learning of other languages is not an academic requirement. American English is a language that has borrowed from many of these languages. In fact, it can be argued that American English would not exist without contributions made to our distinct form of English by other languages. I think that rather than require English, we need to encourage people to learn it and even find ways to help non-native speakers (and native speakers) learn it well.
The final tenet of the Tea Party is that “Traditional family values are encouraged.” The problem with this is that every family has differing values. Some value community service. Others value wealth. Some value athleticism, while others value academics. Who gets to define what “traditional family values” are? This phrase is vague at best and can even be sinister at its worse if a set of values is forced upon people. They should just be more honest about it as they wish to promote White, Anglo-Saxon, and Conservative Christian values. However, those are not the “traditional family values” of everyone who lives in the United States and they should not be since our country is a melting pot of many beliefs, values, and cultures that serve to enrich our nation.
The tenets of the Tea Party movement are a set of ideals put forth by those who are afraid of change and/or are simply undereducated. They are reminiscent of some of the ideals of the Confederates leading up to and during the Civil War. They are impossible to realistically implement and some are even just plain scary to think of being implemented in a rational and civilized society. Yes, my essay had only but touched the overall reasons why these ideas are either not being implemented or even truly wanted, cannot be implemented, or are just plain silly in the first place.