Tea Party Populists Should Demand Progressive Outcomes

The Tea Party movement, which claims it is driven by a resistance to taxation, is really motivated by a widespread sense of economic disenfranchisement, that is now reaching everyone except the superrich. The populist urgency that underscores all of the Tea Party’s energy is not inherently linked to Grover Norquist’s anti-American “Club for Growth”, but the movement has no leader honest enough to openly demand progressive policy outcomes.

Instead, the popular movement has been co-opted by the establishment crowd that caters to corporate interests, foreign and domestic, and which seeks to shift the tax burden away from wealthy multinationals and billionaire investors, and toward the average American middle class and working family. While many Tea Party adherents say they are independent voters angered by corporate greed and government spending, they have routinely and unquestioningly signed up for rapacious budget reform that continues the pattern of transferring most Americans’ hard-earned household wealth to mega-corporations.

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Individual Mandate Upheld in Federal Court

A federal appeals court has ruled that Congress acted within its Constitutional authority when it passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, last year. Importantly, the three judge panel voted two to one, with one Republican nominee and former Scalia law clerk in the majority, that the individual mandate is in line with Congressional authority to regulate interstate commerce.

It is the first time a Republican judge has sided with the individual mandate, in the ongoing wave of legal challenges to the law, and many conservatives see the ruling as a setback. Others say the challenge to the individual mandate will continue until it reaches the Supreme Court. But critics of that view warn there may be unintended consequences of pushing the challenge too far, consequences which might require more, not less, government intervention.

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Refusal to Deal with Revenues is Refusal to Deal with Debt

The view taken by some in Washington that major reductions in the United States’ national debt can be achieved without addressing revenues is essentially a pledge to do nothing serious about the debt or deficit. The reason: the ideology of supply-side tax-cut-only social policy not only requires, but admires “deficit spending”.

Some critics of this way of thinking, most notably fiscally conservative, pro-middle-class Republicans, have called it “voodoo economics”—a mystical and unverifiable faith tradition posing as economic policy, which only serves to divert wealth away from the middle class, draining the federal budget to deliver wealth to the already wealthy.

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The Only Reason to Slash Budgets is Failure of Imagination

There is only one reason to “slash” budgets, due to fiscal hardship provoked by irresponsible tax giveaways, lawless market manipulation and the ensuing economic recession: the same failure of imagination and recklessness that led to the economic collapse of 2007-2008.

There is quite literally no corner of this country that is so “broke” that it is “in danger” of collapse. The rapidly spreading “budget emergency” is emergent only in the sense that it is suddenly the thought engine driving one major party’s ideological and partisan attack on the economic and political levers that give middle class Americans influence over their government.

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Tax Cuts for the Rich have NOT Created Jobs

After 30 years of re-engineering our nation’s economy and tax code to deliver huge benefits, free of charge, to the wealthy, the most massive transfer of wealth in the history of the world —a transfer of wealth that has led to now catastrophically failed wealth disparities between the wealthiest and the poorest—, we have not seen the wildly prolific job-creation that was promised. Indeed, we have seen our manufacturing base stripped away piece by piece and our middle class society systematically eroded.

Now, after 10 years of massive tax breaks for the wealthiest people in the history of humanity, we have seen a further concentration of wealth and a further erosion of the open market for employment and innovation. The 400 wealthiest people in the United States now control more wealth than 155 million people at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum combined. The tax cuts that were supposed to be given to the “supply side” were never given to the supply side at all, only to those that seek to own it.

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Public Officials Who have to Cut Social Services Are Not Creative Enough

A radical idea is flooding through the American political discourse: that the only way to “repair” government budgets is to make extreme cuts to spending on social services, like education, healthcare, parks, infrastructure and public safety. The fact is: any public official who argues there is no option besides slashing spending on quality government programs is not creative enough and cannot be said to be fully equipped to govern.

Polls now show between 80% and 90% of Americans want “cuts” only to areas of spending that are legitimately wasteful, fraudulent or abusive. Only 11% support education cuts, for instance. There is no support for cutting Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits, only waste, fraud and abuse. Officials who have promised budget-busting tax cuts in order to curry favor with voters and financial backers are not serious about fiscal solvency.

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Parasitic Enterprise is not Legitimate Enterprise

There is a myth that is often put forth as evidence that conservatives are unserious about democracy, which is that they favor rapacious capitalist behemoths. Many do, especially those for whom conservatism means capitalism. But most conservatives are ordinary people who want the little guy to be free of the imposing will of major power interests. It confuses matters to assert that all conservatives are interested in promoting big business interests.

As a good friend of mine often says, it matters more what people hear than it does what you say. When most conservatives hear talk about business, they don’t think about how wonderful it would be to promote the infinite expansion of multinational corporations, and they don’t hear their own vocabulary as promoting oligarchy.

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The Tea Party is an Alarm Bell

The Tea Party movement is famous for its persistent expression of rage. It has been elevated by partisans who want to channel that rage to harm their opponents, and it has been misinterpreted by progressive politicians as a result of ignorance and poor anger management. Those superficial qualities are symptoms; the movement is an alarm bell that neither party seems equipped to respond to.

The alarm is clearly about the erosion of the influence of the individual, the small organization, local culture. The alarm is not about taxes or liberalism or spending or immigrants; those are all targets of convenience. The alarm is an attempt to alert us to our own reduced importance in a world not run by us or by our representatives, but by powerful, impenetrable interests.

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THIS IS NOT RIGHT (Wealth Distribution in the U.S.)

This is absolutely not how it should be. This pie chart shows the shocking distribution of wealth in the United States in the year 2007, when the financial system began to unravel. Keep in mind: 70% of economic activity in the United States is consumer spending. 80% of the population looks relatively unable to keep up with the “market will bear” pricing curve that the top 20% dominate.

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Why Coffee Houses Foster Independent Thinking

The last 20 years have seen an uninterrupted boom in the opening of cafes and coffee houses across the United States, specializing in quality coffees, baked goods and a warm, thoughtful atmosphere. They have often been portrayed as bastions of liberalism unwelcoming of other views, but in fact, the cafe culture tends to be warm, welcoming and conducive to the expression of diverse viewpoints. In this way, coffee culture is less about liberal politics than the elevation of the independent thinker.

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