Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tea Party

This weekend my home state hosted the first ever Tea Party Convention. For those who don’t know, The Tea Party movement began as a series of protests over the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. At nearly $800 Billion Dollars, the A.R.R.A. is largest government bailout since the last government bailout, which was a $178 Billion Dollar stimulus package passed in 2008. Most Americans remember the 2008 package as “the time I got $1,200 for being married.” At any rate, it is crucial to disambiguate the A.R.R.A with the money allocated to General Motors, AIG, and other private industries. These funds came from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (T.A.R.P.) which was signed into existence on October 3, 2008 by then President Bush and later utilized by the Obama administration to issue loans to the above mentioned corporations.
The A.R.R.A funds were generally doled out as tax cuts, supplements for COBRA and Medicaid, and to extend unemployment benefits. To be fair, it also includes the obligatory pork, like $100 million to help remove lead paint from public housing, and Tea Party members felt that such measures were needlessly deepening the national debt and took to the streets in protest. This self proclaimed “grassroots” movement culminated last week with the Tea Party Convention, a three day extravaganza featuring Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker. The event was to be a gathering of “regular folks” who wished to discuss issues like smaller government, protecting freedoms, and modest spending.
I agree with many of their points concerning overspending (this is capitalism, let GM plug their own leaks) but I was disturbed by several items that emerged from the convention:
·         For a movement concerned with overspending and “regular folk” perhaps you shouldn’t charge $549 a person. It is rather tough when you are giving interested citizens the choice between attending a convention and making the monthly payment on their Honda Odyssey.

·          There is no organization. One of the mantras of the gathering was that the movement did not need a leader or even a hierarchical structure to accomplish their goals. Phil Valentine was quoted as saying "The tea-party movement has no leader, and ... neither did the American Revolution!”The historical ignorance of this statement is somewhat frightening considering our war efforts were lead by then commander-in-chief George Washington who was given that position by the Second Continental Congress. Someone is always in charge, whether you see them or not.

·         Palin was reportedly paid $100,000 for delivering her speech; a sum she now insists will flow back into the “movement” which has no financial oversight in place due to the previously mentioned disdain for centralization. She also undermined her own message by negatively alluding to Obama’s use of a teleprompter while referring to the talking points written on her own hand.

·         Make some goals. So far the biggest accomplishment of the Tea Party Movement is elevating the projected revenue for the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. Will this be a new political party? An emphatic no. Will there be a lobbying group in place to repeal unwanted legislation? There is no leadership to spearhead it. Can we elect Congressional delegates to represent the views of the group? There isn’t any. Will this movement prevent me from receiving pointless text messages from AT&T? We can only pray….
While some of the intentions of the movement may be honorable, I am wary of any group that takes donations but refuses to implement a system to make decisions on how that money is allocated. If there is one thing we do not need, it is another rudderless movement with a corny theme song.
On a personal note, if I have to hear the word “grassroots” used in a political context one more time I might seriously contemplate Canadian citizenship. I have decided that in the next election I will vote for the candidate that uses these phrases the least:
·         Grassroots
·         Main Street
·         Reaching Across The Aisle
·         Everyday People
·         Synergy
·         Bipartisan
·         Special Interest Groups

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