Reason for a New Age

Posts Tagged ‘tea party’

The Tea Party – Part 2

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/04/16

My apologies, I had a sudden bout of nap attack strike as I was writing part 1 and had to cut the post short. This post should complete the topic.

For several months, the Tea Party movement has existed with no clear unifying purpose beyond being “very very angry”. As such, discussion of the group was fairly impossible. “Angry” simply isn’t an objective.

A day or two ago, the movement finally decided a top ten list of goals, which gives me the chance to weigh in.

The first and simplest comment that I can make is that whoever wrote the thing is simply awful. The writing is not appreciably better than a high school student’s, that I can tell. This alone makes it a fairly worthless document as any time your organization puts a foot forward, its progress will be limited to the amount of respect it can get from its peers. If it looks like a blithering idiot, it will not find itself going far–except perhaps as some scheming fellow’s servant.

The one point that I can compliment is the title, “Contract from America”. Clever.


The purpose of our government is to exercise only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people, chief among these being the protection of our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety from threats arising inside or outside our country’s sovereign borders. When our government ventures beyond these functions and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.

The very last sentence of this utilizes the logical fallacy of Proof by Assertion. Insisting that these particular government activities lead to corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty does not make it so. If you do not have the space to prove your assertion, you are not gaining anything by asserting it but making yourself look the fool. So far as I am aware, the economic crisis is mostly a factor of lessened government oversight of the banking and investment system. Given that it is this crisis which brought the Tea Party into being, stating that even less influence in the marketplace would be best seems rather foolhardy. Why not say that good influence is good and bad influence is bad?

1. Protect the Constitution

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

In their very first clear policy suggestion, they have wasted one of their ten slots. The Constitution gives the government the power to do whatever it wishes so long as it does not violate our rights. The US Federal government has the right to raise taxes, to protect the nation, and to see to the general welfare of the populace. I can think of nothing that is not encompassed in that. The preamble itself is so broad that one need quote nothing more than that to state which section of the Constitution gives the power to make that law. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It’s also worth noting that there is an entire branch of the Federal government which does nothing more than verify that laws are kosher as regards the Constitution. This matter has been dealt with already.

2. Reject Cap & Trade

Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.

Governmental Response: Very well then, we will not create costly new measures that do all these various bad things. Instead we will prefer cost-effective measures that do not do bad things and will have a significant impact on global temperatures. Your wish for us to not do ineffective, costly, and bad things has been duly noted and is found to be in accordance with our own wishes. Thanks for visiting!

3. Demand a Balanced Budget

4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform

Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.

Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution.

The question of government debt is a large one and will be examined in a future blog. Regardless of what the answer to that question may be, I suspect that so far as taxation is concerned, it should be something which acts according to a formula or set of rules, rather than a set value that is lowered or “hiked”. Even then, the ability to tax or bless at will is a useful tool for many situations and I doubt that there are many economists who would advocate seeing these abilities removed or made unreachable — at least in regards to taxes other than income tax. I may be wrong on that point.

Ultimately, I would say that the issue should be to concretely examine the question more than to state anything as an absolute desire. These are not simple and clear issues.

5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the US Constitution’s meaning.

While perhaps noble, this is a fairly meaningless desire. “Do it better!” sounds good, but neglects the fact that better is subjective. Just as often as not, an intent to clean the house up simply makes things worse because everything is as it is because of years or decades of evolution to the optimum state. Generally, when something is actually under-performing, it is not too long until this comes to light and things are revised. A base presumption that nothing is working can only cause chaos.

6. End Runaway Government Spending

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.

Seeing as a call to balance the budget was already demanded in item #3, this seems entirely superfluous. Its arbitrary limit can only be called bizarre. What if the country is being invaded? What if there is an economic crisis that is causing deflation?

7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care

Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries.

Outside of the pesky detail that the recently passed health care bill did not create government-run health care, I can only point out that the issue of state boundaries account for less than 2% of health spending. If the goal is to decrease spending, there is still another 50% to go from there. See the entire series on the cost of health care, starting here.

8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy

Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs.

So far as I am aware, the government is more often doing its best to encourage various forms of energy creation than in putting in regulatory barriers. I can only presume that this refers to bans on oil exploration domestically. It’s not obvious why they felt a need to beat about the bush in stating what they wanted.

President Obama, in fact, recently opened up several regions to be explored. Democrats that I know of didn’t seem to particularly mind and certainly Republicans are already for it, more or less. I suspect that the age of the old-time hippies has died. The only objection I saw anyone mention was that under President Bush II, he certainly would have done something stupid regardless of the theoretical benefit of the act. I can’t particularly fault that logic.

9. Stop the Pork

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.

If the goal is to keep the budget balanced, this was — again — demanded in item #3. If the goal is to stop earmarks, it should be noted that earmarks are how politics are done. Trading hogs is what we pay our politicians to do. I also wonder how one is supposed to balance the budget before the items of spending have been agreed upon?

10. Stop the Tax Hikes

Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.

“Balance the budget” and “don’t raise taxes” are entirely at odds. The cost of a balanced budget is that you have to deal with your expenses. You can defer payment, but the longer you do so the harder the hammer comes down at a later date. If anything is going to negatively affect the economy, that will.

Ultimately, taxes are a side-effect of spending. If you do not like taxes, there is only the option of cutting spending. Nearly all spending goes to the military, social security, medicare/medicaid, or interest on the national debt. Not raising taxes simply increases the last of those. Removing social security or medicare/medicaid from the government simply moves that expense to private insurance. You’ll still be out that money.

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The Tea Party™ – Part 1

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/04/15

If my recollection is accurate, when the New World was first being settled, the individual colonies acted as a sort of business. A group of stockholders would invest in an expedition and then journey together to begin colonization. As equals, the task of managing the expedition was an elected position. When the colony was started, the company president might then be elected the new mayor of the village, and so it went. This is a good basis for our natural comfort in government by elected representatives.

But the question is how these officials came to be elected. It’s unlikely that there was any particular campaigning process with posters, offering everyone goodies, or whatever else. Rather, everyone would meet together and get to know each other, and as time went on and it came time to position someone as the leader, whoever had shown himself to be the most reasonable and level-headed was elected.

This would have remained largely true for the colonies as time went on. In the small towns, certain citizens would become more prominent as honorable and reasonable men. All news was local and the upper classes will always be a reasonably small number to keep track of. In that time and place, knowing everyone worth knowing was much of the job of the learned, land-owning man. And for everyone else, there wasn’t much else to do but gossip outside of work.

When a man was elected for a position, his personality and intellect were likely familiar to all who voted for him. If nothing else, they had likely read his personal writings in the newspaper several times, not something that a speech writer had written, nor a journalist’s second hand account of the man. Most likely when he did write something in the newspaper, it was because he was active in the daily life of the town and in its organization–not because he was campaigning.

Now, the reason that I bring this up is to bring attention to the fact that at the time of the writing of the Constitution, there would likely still have been a fairly strong idea that when you voted for your representative, you were voting for the man, not for a particular set of policy. People may have known little about what he was likely to do in his new position. He might not either, in particular. Everyone simply knew that out of everyone they could think of, he was the one they trusted to represent them as a whole. Oh, I’m sure that if he went in and started to do too many things counter to the town’s perceived interests that someone else would get elected the next time, but by-and-large the idea of electing your leaders was to elect those who you trusted to be someone who would take the time to understand the issues and who could make as good a decision on it as anyone could ever be expected to. You did not elect him because he had promised you some list of things that you wanted.

We do Not Live in a Democracy

That I can tell, the Tea Party is an activist split-off group of the Republican public. After having the Republicans spend like drunk sailors just to be followed by the Democrats seemingly do the same, they do not feel like their representatives are representing them–which is to say, they don’t feel like they are doing as they are told to do. As I already pointed out, elected representatives are not intended to do as told, but to analyze the situation and make wise decisions on the behalf of those who do not have the time, wit, access, nor paycheck to do so. That sentence, in itself, explains why this is a good thing. Even I, with the internet at my hands, can only wish that I had a crew of researchers at my call and any expert in the country available at need.

Ultimately, for the Tea Party organization to be telling the government that it is doing things wrong is ignoring the fact that most likely the government has ended up as it is due to the hard work of many smart and informed people. That there is some amount of corruption and dumbassery is of course true, but most likely not in appreciable amounts at the end of the day. We might not elect our representatives based on personal knowledge, but it is quite hard to make it up the ranks to getting elected to the Federal government if you are not reasonably bright. Being honorable and levelheaded, perhaps not so much, but those characteristics are probably not as vital.

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