Sunday, April 25, 2010

Late, late for a very important date ...

The federal government has gone too far!  That is what the "Tea Party" would have Americans thinking.  To some extent, these fed up populist-types are correct.  The federal government has consistently expanded and broadened their powers throughout the history of this nation.

Federalism, or the division of powers between state and national governments, is the system of government we have used since the implementation of the Constitution.  Initially, state governments and the federal government each had their defined roles according to the Constitution.  Federal powers mainly consisted of those specifically spelled out in the Constitution and according to the 10th Amendment, states had legislative control on all over issues (or so they thought).  This era of dual federalism was doomed to failure.

Due to the Supremacy, Elastic, and Interstate Commerce clauses in the Constitution, the federal government greatly expanded their power and left state governments greatly diminished in their role.  This time, called "marble cake" federalism (I'm not making that up), saw Americans mostly comfortable with the way the federal government handled business.  After all, people weren't exactly looking to their state governments for solutions to problems like the Great Depression.  Additionally, states lack the adequate remedies to fight the federal government.  Couldn't they appeal to the court system, you ask!  Indeed, but the Supreme Court (part of the federal government) has consistently ruled against states in their quest for more power.

The Reagan administration claimed to start a practice of "devolution," or returning powers and responsibilities to the states, yet little fruit has been produced, with the notable exception being the Welfare Reform Act of 1996.  This "new" federalism has fizzled.

Americans have now become so frustrated with those who control our governmental structure, that the "Tea Party Movement" has gained momentum.  What exactly is this movement all about?  The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back is the heavy tax crunch the citizens of this nation are feeling.  Though the federal government has been heavy handed in some of their tax policies for decades, Americans are perhaps reaching the boiling point due to the economic conditions in the past few years. 

The angst toward federal tax & spending policies is not new, but this movement materialized because of the rough economic conditions and the large amounts of federal deficit spending on programs many Americans believe to be excessive or altogether not within the scope of the federal government's authority. 

Due to the economic recession that hit the United States in 2008, members of Congress and the President took it upon themselves to "bail out" several key banks (in connection with poor loan policy and overall shady dealings), General Motors, AIG, etc.  (Very impressive for General Motors to have already repaid their loan, plus interest.)  Federal spending also invoked the anger of many Americans for the early 2009 "Stimulus package," which included hundreds of billions of dollars in spending in an attempt to spur the economy in a positive direction. 

Upset Americans took to the streets in droves to protest the massive amounts of spending -- particularly irked by the government's rescue of many organizations that helped incur economic chaos by their less than reputable activities.  These "Tea Parties" were popping up all over the country and now have morphed into a stronger movement than origianlly anticipated. 

Primarily made up of conservatives, with a hint of libertarian, their ranks include supporters such as:  poster girl Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and a host of other fiscally conservatives, who became even more enraged by the health care reform package pushed through Congress by Democrats.  In the minds of these folks, the government only added to their irresponsibility by bloating the national debt to an astronomical number ($12 trillion and counting). 

The Tea Partiers have several legitimate complaints.  The national debt is out of control and the interest on the national debt annually is well into the billions of dollars.  This money could be spent on numerous other worthwhile projects instead of being paid back to nations like China, who buy up American loans. 

Tea Partiers also have rightly complained about the federal government increasing the scope of their authority.  Areas such as marriage (see: Defense of Marriage Act) and education (the dreaded No Child Left Behind Act) have traditionally been aspects of society left to individual states to legislate.  No longer is that the case.  Moreover, several states have passed legislation pertaining to gun ownership that suggests any weapons produced and kept within a state classify as "intrastate commerce" and are thus beyond federal regulation.  Good luck with that states -- check out Gonzales v. Raich for a more in depth look at a similar situation.

Despite legitimate complaints that need to be addressed, the Tea Party Movement causes more harm than good.  This movement fails to realize their effect on the politics in America.  Not only are they further polarizing this nation (thanks to the Bush administration for doing most of that work), but they risk creating a fracture in the Republican Party that will result in a 2012 victory for President Obama.  I doubt neither moderate Republicans or conservative Tea Party goers want such a future.

Moreover, the bulk of these Tea Partiers seem to not understand what they are protesting.  Many of these citizens are upset because economic conditions are making life difficult and they need someone to blame.  I would be interested to know how many of these people have actually read the Constitution.  I cannot be convinced most people understand or even care about the underlying Constitutional conflict or the preservation of the delicate balance of federalism.

The Tea Party Rallies are filled with rhetoric and waving around flags with catchy historic sayings like "Don't Tread on Me."  In some strange sense, these people have been led to believe they are taking part in an event on par with the original Boston Tea Party in 1773.  However, the members of that Tea Party (part of the Sons of Liberty) put their freedoms and lives on the line by dumping tea into the Boston Harbor.  Today's Tea Party is no such risk.  These rallies offer no courage, no patriotism -- only loud voices proclaiming how they are unfairly taxed.  Do they not realize the original Tea Party was a protest on taxes only because colonists were irked they had no represntatives of their own participating in the vote to tax them?

Of particular annoyance was investigating the Tea Party Movement's main website, http://taxdayteaparty.com/, which devotes more resources into defeating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D - NV) than promoting their own candidates.  The site also includes an article that is overly critical of President Obama for not flying the American flag at military installations in Haiti.  Their rationale as to why it should be flown?  Our large economic contribution to the country (since they probably caused their own earthquake, right?) and other nations fly their flags.  Since when do we care what the likes of France do?

More concerning now are the threats coming from the fringe of the political spectrum.  Though not part of the Tea Parties, per se, this movement has brought forth all the political radicals who have been in hiding for some time.  A group known as the Guardians of the Republics sent out messages to the governors of all 50 states, demanding them to resign or their offices would be "commandeered."

Texas, Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont are a few of the states who have strong contingents advocating secession as a remedy to their problems with the federal government.  Perhaps Southerners could remind them how that path turns out.

Threats of violence?  Secession?  Has this what we have become?  This is not the United States the founders envisioned (Jefferson aside).  Politicans at the local, state, and federal levels need to learn to work together and at times must learn to compromise.  Politicians have lost that ability -- to discuss, debate, compromise and yet manage to celebrate our common bond as Americans.  The Tea Party serves only to incite and weaken what has taken years to put together. 

I urge you to reject their rhetoric and aggressive nature.  Our nation has a uniqe mechanism of ridding ourselves of poor political leadership.  Is it another revolution?  A radical change in governmental structure?  Much simpler, actually.  Exercise your right to vote!  This is how Americans should be conducting themselves.  Instead of plotting or scheming, perhaps we should try promoting the values and ideals we stand for in peaceful, honest and forthright ways.

1 comment:

  1. So many ideas are running through my head, I don’t really know where to start. As a libertarian, I share the immense frustration held by the Tea Party about the proper role of government. However, if I were to create my own group to take to Washington and protest, it would differ from this one in many ways. But I don’t want to focus on picking them apart, rather, I’d like to focus on what I think they are doing right, and why I believe they are not doing nearly enough to change our country’s course.
    I think most people can’t really process the depths of frustration a group of people in this country are feeling. Democrats, moderates, even most Republicans, I think are for the most part unaware of the level of concern and even anger, that the libertarian minded segment of the population is feeling as a result of the continued expansion of government. And when they do get a taste of it, through heated rhetoric at protests or however, they don’t seem to get what all the fuss is really about, and often chalk it up to those “radicals” being radical. Perhaps this is sometimes the case, but I do believe people are justified in their level of concern and frustration, and I applaud anyone who peaceably attempts to voice their concerns in an effort to make a change. I think people are right to protest. I think people have tolerated government intervention into their lives for far too long, resulting in the overwhelming level of government infiltration we have today. Something certainly needs to be done, the problem is that the issue is so much deeper than just a bunch of people upset about having to pay taxes. It’s an issue about my freedom as an individual to live for my own sake. I would wager that the majority of people who read my previous sentence would not have it sit well with them, that they would interpret it to have a degree of selfishness. This is the deep rooted problem, not taxes, taxes is a byproduct of the real issue, which is whether or not the individual has the right to his own life or is he a servant of his society, and the morality in this view of life. Today, the vast majority of people in this country believe that laissez-faire capitalism is immoral, even dangerous. They believe that the government should intervene for the sake of the collective good. It is this moral premise that needs to be challenged at its core, and so long as it remains unchallenged, even if the Tea Party continues to grow and press on, no protest or revolt will change much of anything. We have to dig way deeper. What we need to change is the deep seeded intellectual philosophy of mainstream America. Our founding fathers intended government to protect our rights as individuals, our rights to life, liberty, property and of course, the pursuit of happiness. When you’re someone like myself, who firmly and passionately believes that there is only one system of government that is consistent with this pursuit and the implementation of these rights, and you are watching the demonization of it and its demise with every new action the government takes, it is extremely discouraging. I could write pages and pages defending capitalism as the only truly moral form of government, but that’s another blog topic, I’ll try to get back to the issue at hand. I am glad that a group has formed to protest big government. I sure would love to tweak it, to remove the crazies, the uninformed, the pathetic associates (Palin/Beck), but unfortunately I can’t do that. To sum it up, I think there is need for protests, peaceable, but protests nonetheless. It’s a start. I think we have witnessed that simply showing up at the polls to vote is not always enough to secure our personal liberties. Come on, didn’t you know my last words would be hers? “Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities, and the smallest minority on earth is the individual.” Ayn Rand

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