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Taibbi: the Tea Party Moron Complex

By rallying behind dingbats and morons like Palin and Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party has made anti-intellectualism its rallying cry.

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When the Chinese proposed replacing the dollar as the international reserve currency, Bachmann apparently thought this meant that the dollar itself was going to be replaced, that Americans would be shelling out yuan to buy six-packs of Sprite in the local 7-Eleven. So to combat this dire threat she sponsored a bill that would "bar the dollar from being  replaced by any foreign currency." When reporters like me besieged Bachmann’s office with calls to ask if the congresswoman, a former tax attorney, understood the difference between currency and reserve currency, and to ask generally what the hell she was talking about, her spokeswoman, Debbee Keller, was forced to issue a statement clarifying that "she’s talking about the United States . . . The legislation would ensure that the dollar would remain the currency of the United States."  

A Democratic staffer I know in the House called me up after he caught wind of Bachmann’s currency bill. "We get a lot of yokels in here, small-town lawyers who’ve never been east of Indiana and so on, but Michele Bachmann . . . We’ve just never seen anything quite like her before."

Bachmann has a lot of critics, but they miss the genius of her political act. Even as she spends every day publicly flubbing political SAT questions, she’s always dead-on when it comes to her basic message, which is that government is always the problem and there are no issues the country has that can’t be worked out with basic common sense (there’s a reason why many Tea Party groups are called "Common Sense Patriots" and rally behind "common sense campaigns").

Common sense sounds great, but if you’re too freaking lazy to penetrate the mysteries of carbon dioxide -- if you haven’t mastered the whole concept of breathing by the time you’re old enough to serve in the U.S. Congress -- you’re not going to get the credit default swap, the synthetic collateralized debt obligation, the interest rate swap, etc. And understanding these instruments and how they were used (or misused) is the difference between perceiving how Wall Street made its money in the last decades as normal capitalist business and seeing the truth of what it often was instead, which was simple fraud and crime. It’s not an accident that Bachmann emerged in the summer of 2010 (right as she was forming the House of Tea Party Caucus) as one of the fiercest opponents of financial regulatory reform; her primary complaint with the deeply flawed reform bill sponsored by Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank was that it would "end free checking accounts."

Our world isn’t about ideology anymore. It’s about complexity. We live in a complex bureaucratic state with complex laws and complex business practices, and the few organizations with the corporate will power to master these complexities will inevitably own the political power. On the other hand, movements like the Tea Party more than anything else reflect a widespread longing for simpler times and simple solutions -- just throw the U.S. Constitution at the whole mess and everything will be jake. For immigration, build a big fence. Abolish the Federal Reserve, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education. At times the overt longing for simple answers that you get from Tea Party leaders is so earnest and touching, it almost makes you forget how insane most of them are.

This excerpt first appeared on DailyKos. Click here for a copy of "Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America."

Matt Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone .

 
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