5 Ways the Tea Party Agenda Screws Tea Party Supporters
If people could be counted on to vote in their own best interests, there would be no Tea Party movement, for if the economic agenda embraced by Tea Partiers -- a vastly pro-corporation, government-killing plan -- were ever to be enacted, Tea Partiers would find themselves among the people most hurt by it.
As George Lakoff and Drew Westen remind us, people don't vote on the facts: they vote on emotion, according to Westen, and their notion of morality, according to Lakoff. The resentment of Tea Partiers toward liberals, East Coast elites, the poor and people who don't look like them has been effectively marshaled in service of a "free market" ideology cleverly packaged as "freedom." Never mind that free markets are anything but free for ordinary people. The packaging strikes the necessary emotional and moral chords: Free markets = freedom = liberty = endowed by the Creator, as written in the Declaration of Independence by the founders. It's the perfect exploitation of the worldview of conservative middle-class white people -- all in the service of enriching the super-rich at the expense of their unwitting, patriotic ground troops.
Casting themselves as an organic uprising in opposition to a federal government they see as the greatest threat to their freedom, Tea Party supporters conveniently look past the likely consequences of the no-holds-barred, anti-regulatory aims of Rupert Murdoch and David Koch, the billionaires whose dollars grease the skids on which the Tea Party movement rides. Murdoch leads News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, the movement's evangelists. Koch is a principal in Koch Industries, the second largest privately held corporation in the U.S., and heir to its fortunes.
The billionaires give the activists lots of entertainment to distract them from this reality, especially in the form of sideshows, such as Glenn Beck's travesty at the Lincoln Memorial, designed to fan the flames of racial resentment while making Tea Partiers feel holy about it. At other times, the demonization or infantilization of the nation's first black president serves up the same charge of adrenaline to the fearful, angry throngs who seek to blame their troubles on anyone other than the corporatist manipulators in whom they've placed their trust.
How else to explain the embrace of the billionaires' agenda by the middle-aged, middle-class folks of the Tea Party movement -- the very ones likely to find themselves screwed by it? Here we examine five positions advanced by Tea Party leaders, and what they would mean for Tea Party supporters.
1. Ending Social Security. Rep. Michele Bachmann, doyenne of the congressional Tea Party Caucus, has outlined a plan for an abrupt phase-out of Social Security. Speaking before an audience of Tea Party supporters at the RightOnline conference convened in July, Bachmann referred to Social Security and Medicare as "welfare" that had seen its day. The event was convened in Las Vegas by the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, whose board is chaired by David Koch. There, more than 1,000 Tea Partiers -- the majority of whom are over the age of 45 -- sat in rapt silence as Bachmann outlined a plan to end Social Security for all those who will be under the age of 65 at the time her potential dream Congress enacts the legislation.