Michael Lind

How the Tea Party Has You Fooled

In recent essays for Salon I have argued that progressives and mainstream pundits are making a profound mistake by treating Tea Party radicalism as an outburst of irrationality by moronic “low information” yokels, rather than understanding it as a calculated (if not necessarily successful) strategy by the regional elite of the South and its allies in other regions. In an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal titled “The Tea Party and the GOP Crackup,” William Galston presents data that reinforces this conclusion:

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How the South Is Holding America Hostage

When I have described the well-considered, coherent political and economic strategies of the conservative white South, as I have done herehere and here, I am sometimes been accused of being a “conspiracy theorist.” But one need not believe that white-hooded Dragons and Wizards are secretly coordinating the actions of Southern conservative politicians from a bunker underneath Stone Mountain in Georgia to believe that a number of contemporary policies — from race-to-the-bottom economic policies to voter disfranchisement and attempts to decentralize or privatize federal social insurance entitlements — serve the interests of those who promote them, who tend to be white Southern conservatives.

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Tea Party Radicalism Is Misunderstood: Meet the “Newest Right”

To judge from the commentary inspired by the shutdown, most progressives and centrists, and even many non-Tea Party conservatives, do not understand the radical force that has captured the Republican Party and paralyzed the federal government. Having grown up in what is rapidly becoming a Tea Party heartland–Texas–I think I do understand it. Allow me to clear away a few misconceptions about what really should be called, not the Tea Party Right, but the Newest Right.

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Conservatives Used to Mock Ayn Rand -- How Did She Become a Hero to Right-Wing Nerds Everywhere?

The growing influence on the American right of Ayn Rand, the libertarian right’s answer to Scientology’s novelist-philosopher L. Ron Hubbard, is a wonder to behold. When she died in 1982, Alissa Rosenbaum — the original name of the Russian-born novelist — was the leader of a marginal cult, the Objectivists, who had long been cast out of the mainstream American right. But the rise of Tea Party conservatism, fueled by white racial panic and zero-sum distributional conflicts in the Great Recession, has turned this minor, once-forgotten figure into an icon for a new generation of nerds who imagine themselves Nietzschean Ubermenschen oppressed by the totalitarian tyranny of the post office and the Social Security administration.

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Game Over, Austerity - Obama's Speech Clinches the Case Against Right-Wing Economics

If you need any further evidence of the stark ideological divide that separates progressives from conservatives, you can find it by contrasting President Barack Obama’s speech on the economy with the response of the House Republicans.

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11 Big Myths About the Economy That Are Destroying America

In the Middle Ages, people looked to the Church for certainty. In today’s complex, market-based economies, they look to the field of economics, at least for answers to questions concerning the economy. And unlike some disciplines, which acknowledge that there’s a huge gap between the scholarly knowledge and policy advice, economists have been anything but shy about asserting their authority.

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Why Libertarians Are Basically Cult Members

My previous Salon essay, in which I asked why there are not any libertarian countries, if libertarianism is a sound political philosophy, has infuriated members of the tiny but noisy libertarian sect, as criticisms of cults by outsiders usually do. The weak logic and bad scholarship that suffuse libertarian responses to my article tend to reinforce me in my view that, if they were not paid so well to churn out anti-government propaganda by plutocrats like the Koch brothers and various self-interested corporations, libertarians would play no greater role in public debate than do the followers of Lyndon LaRouche or L. Ron Hubbard.

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How to Defeat Useless Rich Moochers

In two previous columns, I argued that left and right alike are confused by a failure to distinguish productive businesses that sell innovative goods and services from “rentier” interests — landlords, lenders, copyright holders and others — which use their natural or artificial monopoly power to extract excessive tolls, fees and other recurrent payments from the rest of society, including productive businesses. The fees or rents extracted by these interests constitute a kind of “private taxation” which — rather than public taxation — is the greatest threat facing America’s productive economy.

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3 Ways Wealthy Moochers Hurt America

In a previous column detailing the true “makers” and “takers” in America, I argued that the greatest threat to American capitalism today comes not from public taxation supporting public programs, but from “private taxation” in the form of excessive private “rents” that subsidize private sector parasites or “rentiers” (like landlords, lenders and providers of health insurance and healthcare). These excessive private taxes or rents are costs on productive enterprise that can be as crippling as excessive public taxation.

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How the True Parasites from the Private Sector Suck the System Dry

You don’t have to be a Tea Party conservative to believe that the economy is threatened when there are too many “takers” and not enough “makers.” The “takers” who threaten the dynamism and fairness of industrial capitalism the most in the 21st century are not the welfare-dependent poor — the villains of Tea Party propaganda — but the rent-extracting, unproductive rich.

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The Old South's Last, Desperate Stand

In understanding the polarization and paralysis that afflict national politics in the United States, it is a mistake to think in terms of left and right. The appropriate directions are North and South. To be specific, the long, drawn-out, agonizing identity crisis of white Southerners is having effects that reverberate throughout our federal union. The transmission mechanism is the Republican Party, an originally Northern party that has now replaced the Southern wing of the Democratic Party as the vehicle for the dwindling white Southern tribe.

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What I Learned at a Conservative Think Tank: Propaganda Now, Facts Later!

The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., has always had a special place in my heart. In the late 1980s, during the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, the right-wing think tank provided me with my first job as a young conservative intellectual. My first assignment was to write a policy brief about presidential war powers. I was removed from the project after I wrote a draft that began with the observation that the U.S. constitution divides war powers between Congress and the president, and gives the most important war powers — the power to declare war and to fund it — to Congress. The higher-ups at Heritage reassigned the paper to a Wall Street Journal staffer, who provided them with what they wanted: a brief arguing that the president has absolute, uncontrollable power in foreign affairs.

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Forget Red vs. Blue -- It's Slave States vs. Free States in 2012

Every now and then someone highlights the overlap between today’s Republican states and the slave states of the former Confederacy.   As clichéd as the point may be, it remains indispensable to understanding what is happening in American politics today:

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Can Science Vanquish the Small-Mindedness and Bigotry of Social Conservatism?

Growing public support for gay rights, including gay marriage, is the latest example of the moral liberalism that has transformed advanced industrial societies in the last few generations. The social traditionalists who claimed to be a “moral majority” in the United States in the 1980s are acting like an embattled, declining minority in the second decade of the 21st century. A few years ago the conservative activist Paul Weyrich declared that the right had lost “the culture war” and called on social conservatives to withdraw from mainstream society into their own traditionalist enclaves.

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Why Do Conservatives Hate Freedom?

Why do conservatives hate freedom? The question may be startling. After all, don’t conservatives claim they are protecting liberty in America against liberal statism, which they compare to communism or fascism? But the conservative idea of “freedom” is a very peculiar one, which excludes virtually every kind of liberty that ordinary Americans take for granted.

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How the Rich Took Over Airport Secuirty

 The other day at Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Texas, I witnessed a striking manifestation of the new American plutocracy. Along with getting a photo at the Department of Motor Vehicles and sitting in a jury pool, standing in line at airport security with a mob of other people, miserable though it is, remains one of the few examples of civic equality in our increasingly oligarchic republic. Much airport security, of course, is theater, designed to provide alibis for bureaucrats and politicians in the event of a terrorist attack. But while we can debate what a rational airport security system would look like, no rational system would discriminate among passengers on the basis of ability to pay.

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3 Ways Elites Rig the System

A growing number of Americans suspect that the American economic system is rigged in favor of the rich and merely affluent. That growing number of Americans is right.

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