Saturday, June 12, 2010

WEAK TEA: Tea Party Looses Steam

WaPo: Last Tuesday's primary results provided fresh evidence of the amorphous network's struggle to convert activist anger and energy into winning results.
Frustrated and lacking agreement on what to, self-identified tea party leaders say the movement may be in danger of breaking apart before it ever really comes together.

Disapproval of the tea party movement is at an all-time high, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Another nationwide Gallup Poll just 28 percent of Americans say they are a “supporter” of the tea party movement.

The Coffee Party, as just one example of support for the progressive movement, has gained 199,993 Facebook fans since 26 January 2010 (over 65,000 per month, counting all of January) while its alternative the Tea Party has 165,111 since March 2009 (about 12,000 per month). That suggests that the Coffee Party, as measured by real Facebook numbers rather than the impressions of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, is around 500 percent more popular than the Tea Party.

Ronald Reagan, in his first inaugural address, famously declared that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Echoing President Coolidge, Reagan believed that “the business of America is business,” and the government should get out of the way. Industry self-regulation and “free market” economics became the substitute for government regulation. Conservative Republicans argue that they have worked hard for 30 years to "free capitalism and individual liberty" by deregulating and dismantling government oversight of business.

Conservative political thinkers continue to argue that it is impossible for government to protect the the interests of the public and the nation. For decades they have held that all government is bad and less is always better. As a result we had decades of indifferent and incompetent leadership in the regulatory agencies. In recent years they have frequently been staffed with people hostile to their basic purpose. After decades of planned neglect, mismanagement and ideological attack, the American government, across the board, has gotten out of the way of corporate America – and the country is paying a heavy price.

Reagan's conservative "small government" argument, now carried by the Tea Party movement, is that government can not and must not play any roll to protect the general welfare of the American people by ensuring that business operate on a honest, fair and level field of play. And, that government can not and must not play any roll to protect the interests of American citizens and the environment in which we live and earn a livelihood.

"Deregulation" is wonderful until we discover what happens when government regulations aren't issued or enforced. The conservative philosophy of governance has disemboweled government and handed vast responsibilities over to a private sector that will never see protecting the public interest as its primary task.

Indeed if it does anything, the disaster in the Gulf demonstrates the folly of this conservative approach to government. Internal BP documents released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the explosion and its aftermath, show that "time after time, BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense." BP took measures to cut costs in the weeks before the catastrophic blowout in the Gulf of Mexico as warning signs mounted, prompting a BP engineer to describe the doomed rig as a "nightmare well," in an e-mail April 14, six days before the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

And the lesson that conservative approach to government is a failure is reinforced by the cries for help from the conservative political leadership of the Gulf Coast states – who in the past led the charge for smaller and less intrusive government. Beyond all question it demonstrates the need for competent regulation that is not controlled by the interests it is supposed to regulate. It destroys the simplistic notion that the interests of business coincide with those of the broader community.

The modern conservative movement began at conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation that Reagan brought together with the religious right and ultra-rich elites in an unholy alliance that after 30 years has culminated in disastrous energy policy, the Iraq war, skyrocketing health insurance costs, unprecedented levels of national debt, near economic collapse, record mortgage foreclosures, an exploding gap between the rich and poor, a military industrial complex spending tax payer money like drunken sailors, the freedom for multinational corporations to move American jobs off-shore and now a ruined coastal environment that will take decades to recover.

Conservative governance has given Americans the worst decade for the U.S. economy in modern times by a wide range of data, with zero net job growth and the slowest rise in economic output since the 1930s. On balance, American families are also worse off than any time since the 1930s

The Tea Party movement has generated a lot of media talk about “populism,” which gets defined by the media as the battle between Big Government and the Common Folk. What gets ignored is that the only feasible check on unlimited corporate power is a democratized and energized "we the people" federal government.

Corporate lobbyists — led by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips’ Americans for Prosperity organizations — have been organizing the phony astroturf activism of "tea parties" as a "coordinated campaign" marketing action for the Republican Party and the corporate interests that fund the Republican Party.

By agitating against government, not corporatism, the Tea Party promoters serve as “faux populist” front-men for corporate interests like British Petroleum who want to make sure government doesn't force them to "waste" money on equipment and procedures that safeguard their employees, the general public interest and the environment. "

Thirty years after Reagan's inaugural pronouncement that big business, not a government elected by the people, should be responsible for the public's interest, in the midst of the worst environmental crisis in the nation's history and as the nation struggles to recover from near financial collapse at the end of President Bush's 8 years in office in 2008, Reagan's conservative anti-government philosophy, now personified in the Tea Party movement, must be critically assessed an utter failure at securing the general welfare of American citizens and the environment in which Americans live and earn their livelihood.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. The Tea Party's 15 minutes of fame created by funding from corporate lobbyists and billionaire ultra-conservatives is about done!

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