Why The Founding Fathers Would Hate The Tea Party

I have been working hard to understand the debt ceiling crisis (I actually think I understood the 2008 housing crisis and related issues better but that was thanks to lots of books and documentaries).  The basic idea I think was that if we did not raise the debt ceiling we would run out of money to pay our debts and that would have catastrophic effects throughout our economy.  I think the general descriptions from everyone not associated with Fox News was the following:

Of course, economists and Wall Street were not enough to convince the de facto leaders of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, that this was necessary.  The Tea Party basically held their own party hostage (probably making John Boehner cry some more) in order to secure deficit reduction at all costs, as if it is the 11th Commandment.  They secured massive entitlement cuts as a prerequisite for doing something that has been done many many times as a non-political issue.  John Boehner cried that he had “stuck his neck out a mile” but when the crazies leading your party are ten miles from sanity, sticking your neck out a mile to meet them is still 9 miles from sane.

But what is most significant about many of the political conflicts over the last three years is that our politics have finally outgrown what the Founding Fathers could have conceived.

American Capitalism Has Finally Worked.  And That Is A Bad Thing

I think our financial crisis of 2008-present has proven that capitalism as it is constituted in America now is a failed system.  The problem is that the only people it is not failing are the ones with the most money and the most political access.  Let me count the ways:

  • Money controls our politics
  • There are no term limits so the most important relationship to a member of either house of Congress is with those that donate money to them, not their constituency
  • Lobbying money, which is the key to political power, NOT elections, dictates policy, legislation and regulation.
  • The increasing disparity of wealth will only get bigger because those individuals and companies with wealth can dictate the political narrative through advertising (thank you Supreme Court for Citizens United) and have greater access to the lawmakers.  This will lead to an exponential growth in the wealthy controlling policy, which directly benefits them, as well as the narrative, through advertising and local elections, which will manipulate many people into targeting their anger at the wrong people.  Why do you think Americans seem to hate Mexican immigrants working bad jobs and gays who want to get married more than the money manipulators (I mean “job creators”) on Wall Street.  Why do they hate unions more than the company executives who refuse solid profits to conduct business in America, in favor of making wild profits producing things abroad?
  • We have made news coverage a money making endeavor.  That means for advertising dollars we have to put stories about things people are interested in (dumb people apparently still want the occasional update on Lindsey Lohan) and that has allowed stations (most notably Fox News and to an almost equal degree (but far more correct) MSNBC to turn news into a team sport where the message is guided by what crowd you want to hang with.

Furthermore, who elected Grover Norquist to anything?  If Obama were adhering to pledges from a private citizen or an unelected group do you think that would be palatable to Americans?


My solutions would be simple and would never happen.  Term limits for members of Congress.  2 terms for Senators, 3 terms for House of Representatives.  It is supposed to be public service, not a path to long term enrichment.  If a member of Congress were not nearly as worried about re-election then they would not worry about constant fundraising and would worry less about annoying their lobbying interests and focus more on the people who sent them to office.  Some people may say, that elections are enough, but with money controlling everything (even the gay marriage legislation in New York was a victory for money in politics, not civil rights.  The left applauded, but it was only because financial carrots were placed in front of swing votes by well-financed proponents of gay marriage that it passed), elections are no longer enough when incumbents are so flush with decades worth of cash stockpiles, which only increase as their time (and influence) grows in Congress.

The Founding Father’s Lack of Vision

But thanks to the Tea Party’s hostage of the already extra-conservative Republican party, they have now demonstrated that our very form of Republican government may be failing.

We know that the leaders of the Tea Party, like Michelle Bachman, are lovers of the Founding Fathers, at least in theory, since she seems to be less than schooled in what the Founding Fathers actually believed and did (see Founding Fathers fighting slavery).  And perhaps if Bachman and her crew knew that the Founding Fathers they would not speak of original intent so much, mainly because from the Founding Fathers’ own words, they could not conceive of a political minority being able to manipulate government the way they have.

In Federalist 10, from the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote that the danger to a Democracy was the faction, whether it be tyranny of the majority or the minority.  Here are some of the highlights from Madison:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority
or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse
of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the
permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the
republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by
regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but
it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the

In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may
be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard
against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be
limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a

Reading those passages it would be hard to believe that the Tea Party would be lovers of the Founding Fathers.  From these quotes from Federalist 10 it goes beyond Madison disapproving of what the Tea Party has been doing to our government.  It is as if he could not conceive of what they are doing! Now of course, ask a member of the Tea Party what the originals intended and they can tell you how all their words can apply to today, but could they really have envisioned our current society if they could not have even envisioned the tyranny of the Tea Party?  Madison clearly believed that our Republican form of government could stop a cabal from controlling or at least clogging the workings of the government.  Madison did not think a minority faction could hide their actions and interests, but thanks to fake grass roots organizations they can.  In short, Madison was wrong.  He just had no idea that he could be wrong because he figured that a majority decision for the nation’s interest could not be subverted by a ideological minority.  It is almost Oedipal.  For the Tea Party to thrive they had to kill an idea of their cherished Founding Father.  And we already know some Tea Partiers have probably slept with their mothers.  Or at least their sisters.

Another person who loves to talk about the Founding Fathers is Sarah Palin, who I believe is the political equivalent of a store front preacher who also sells snake oil elixirs.  I don’t think she will run for president, unless her agent tells her it could raise literary sales.  She is touring the country earning speaking fees and selling books.  She is selling Patriotism the way a preacher sells healings – the only one who actually benefits at the end is Sarah Palin.  But this is who many Americans believe has America’s interests at heart.

The Republicans in general have demonstrated over the last three years that they will allow a minority to control and freeze government action.  In the House, the Republicans allow themselves to be controlled by the Tea Party.  Why?  Because they are all afraid that they could be the target of the well-funded interest groups in the next election (the midterms of 2010 saw many Republicans who did not meet the ultra-conservative litmus test lose in primaries).  Of course, once again, if there were term limits they might not be as worried about clinging to the power of elected office.  In the Senate, the entire Republican party has turned 60 votes into the new 50.  If they have any disagreement the filibuster is called in.  Once again Madison 0 for 2 on the current Congress.

So to sum up the Tea Party – they believe in the Founding Fathers’ vision, which they don’t seem to understand since the Founding Fathers would be at a loss to explain the Tea Party’s death grip on the House of Representatives.  But they probably would have equally perplexed reaction to a black president, which in all honesty is what really spurred this on.  The Founding Fathers would have called Obama a slave, today the S word is socialist.

So as I look at America today, I see an experiment that has failed.  This does not mean America sucks or anything like that, but we have proven that capitalism is not a rising sea that lifts all boats.  Combined with a new Democracy that the Founding Fathers could have never envisioned, we have turned America into a country where the financial minority can deliver power to a political minority and own the entire process.  The progressives who are attacking Obama need to realize that this is now how the country works and that it is way bigger than anything he can do.


Fight The Useless Fight?

The great film Inside Job, which was my #1 movie of 2010 has a peculiar ending.  After about 90 minutes the movie asks people to keep fighting and that things can change.  Perhaps the director is an optimist or perhaps he just thought no one would want to see it if it was 100% gloom and doom.  Well, it is less than a week into 2011 and just today there are four articles in the New York Times that have me incredibly depressed (admittedly I have not finished reading the paper today):

Pomp & Little Circumstance

John Boehner and the Tea Party are a fu*king joke.  I cannot pussyfoot this point.  The Tea Party give Republicans populist street cred while the Republicans are the tit to American business’ greedy baby (some Democrats may be the rattle or toy for that baby, but the Republicans are startling unified in their unyielding support for big business).  It is stupid and sickening.  And turn the page to the business section…

GOP asks Businesses Which Rules To Re-Write

So the lessons the Republicans have learned over the last 10-30 years is that there has been too little regulation of business?!  Poor business – record corporate profits last year, high unemployment of average Americans – yeah, what we need is too let corporate America be more free of regulation.

Detroit Carmakers Post Robust Sales Increases

Now that I am done fuming at Congressional Republicans, this one is for the American people.  Congratulations Detroit auto sales are up.  I guess Americans have smartened up and are now buying fuel efficient cars and are helping power Detroit into the next century as an automotive world leader.  Oh wait no, because gas prices are no longer as high people do not give a flying fu*k about the environment or giving billions to regimes in the Middle East and are buying up trucks and SUVs at high levels again (with the exception of the Ford Fusion).  Great job America.  Just like I believe we need Congressional term limits (3 terms in the Senate, 10 terms in the House would be a good start) we need a gas tax.  The majority of people in America care about their wallet, their bank account, maybe their family and nothing else.  So it is time to speak in a language America understands.

Friends With Benefits

Goldman Sachs.  Enough said.  Good luck non-billionaire investors.  I wonder if there any internal e-mails at Goldman calling Facebook a “piece of crap.”


Rich, Religious or Racist & Why Obama Needs The…

I did not want to hammer away on the health care reform aftermath, or the afterbirth known as the Tea Party movement, but I feel it is a little necessary.

I have always believed there to be three large constituent groups within the Republican Party: the Rich, the Religious and the Racist (and no, I do not want to turn this into some gimmicky, phrase-coining post like it’s a Thomas Friedman column, but here we go). Sometimes all three can be present in one Republican, but often many fit into one of the three groups, with desire for economic security and prosperity being the most common.

The Rich

First, the rich.  This means more than people of means, because there are plenty of wealthy Democrats and plenty of poor Republicans who believe (or say they believe) that lower taxes is important because it stimulates business and means less intrusion into their lives.  I genuinely believe this is phony.  Economic Republicans, whether poor or rich believe in one thing, holding on to their money or dreaming that when they get lots of money that they can keep all of it.  Perfectly entitled to that desire, but I hate when it’s discussed in macroeconomic terms by individuals concerned with their individual circumstances.

A great way to hide this is to call yourself libertarian, which allows the rich Republicans to say that marijuana should be legal or that they are pro-choice, which for these two issues I think amounts to, “I don’t really give a sh*t about those issues, but I can seem less of a frightening Republican if I concede those issues.”  If you were so pro-Choice or so pro-liberty than why would you vote for a Republican in this political climate, at least the ones offered nationally?  (And maybe you don’t/didn’t and then this does not apply to you and I say welcome to the Democratic party either now or down the road, even if you won’t admit it because you come from a family tradition of Republicans.)  One reason: lower taxes.

The Religious

The religious Republicans seem to scare my NYC friends the most, but I do not have a problem with some of them because I consider one of the defining issues of this group, being pro-life (or anti-choice if I must), a legitimate philosophical and moral belief.  Do I think some political people use it as a wedge issue? Absolutely.  But I found the bashing of Bart Stupak (a Democrat I know, but aligned with Republicans on one of this signature divisive issues) by a lot of liberals quite terrible.  Some would say the increasingly arbitrary line of viability (thanks ironically to scientific advancement) is more absurd than a bright line pro or anti abortion stance.  Other issues like prayer in school I understand Republicans views (at least the ones sincerely held), even if I agree with the current law.  But at the end of the day, many of the things that Republicans tell their religious base (we’ll ban gay marriage in The Constitution, we’ll end abortion, John Boehner is naturally tan and his name is pronounced Bay-nor) are just not possible in this country, politically or socially.  But they placate this segment of their base to keep them at fever pitch so that they can be relied on for votes.  And then in all fairness, not to give a large swath of this group a pass, many of them are fu-king crazy.  If you are an atheist you probably think everyone with religious beliefs are crazy, but you know what I mean.

The Racist

But then there is the third group of Republicans, who have nicely and loudly proclaimed themselves Tea Party Republicans – the Racists.  Are there Democrats who are racists? Sure.  Republicans love to bring up Robert Byrd, former member of the KKK as an example.  But who is more racist, or at least enabling to racists: Robert Byrd whose record is marred by insensitive votes, and racist associations early in his career, but later marked by transformation through time and as recently as the middle of the last decade a 100% vote approval by the NAACP, or House Minority Leader John Boehner, who condemned the usage of bricks and racial slurs, not to mention death threats, by people upset over “Health Care Reform” (I put it in quotes because “health care reform” and “socialist” had become mere proxies for “Nig*er until the Tea Party decided to stop being polite), but suggested that they sublimate their “anger” into things that are useful for the party.

This is incredible!  This is a party leader coming as close as anyone since Strom Thurmond to basically say, “we want your racism, your backwards thinking and your hostility in our party; just don’t embarrass us by acting upon it illegally. Vote Republican in 2010!”  A more meaningful and principled stand would be to say, “We don’t want you in the Republican party – we hope to be a party of ideas and solutions, and defiance if we have to be, but we don’t want you if this is how you act.  I remember former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson (Republican) react almost violently when someone made a Republican-gay rights crack to him on a show concerning Matthew Sheppard.  He was so offended by the suggestion that those actions could be affiliated with his party or himself (he was actually a prominent spokesman for civil rights and gay rights).  The vitriol that Simpson responded with and the anger that Boehner showed towards the health care bill is the same broad-based anger Republican leaders should have responded with towards their Tea Party brethren (and let’s not forget that Nancy Pelosi has taken a lot of heat.  Like Hillary Clinton, Pelosi seems able to generate spontaneous hatred – a friend of mine who is Republican had proclaimed “hatred” for Clinton in high school, without any tangible reason, and the same for Pelosi).

On race the Republicans have always been decades late and even then, a token, insulting response.  Clarence Thomas (whose early personal history is quite remarkable and could make anyone an angry reactionary) was, nonetheless, the very unqualified Republican replacement for Thurgood Marshall.  The Republican response to Barack Obama was clown prince Michael Steele.  These seem like responses born out of the spirit of the Spike Lee film Bamboozled, not choices actually made from a more inclusive and sensitive political party.

And the issue of race, is also hidden beneath many of the economic arguments.  As Bill Maher said last week (I don’t always agree with him, but on this point I did), the health care reform reminds people of welfare.  And despite Chris Rock and Jerry Springer’s best efforts, many people in this country still view welfare as their hard earned dollars of whites going to a black mother with 9 black kids in a black neighborhood.

And saying liberals said hurtful and hateful things about George Bush is not a defense.  George Bush started two wars (botched a justified one and heartily engaged in an unjust one), helped facilitate the Great Recession, botched the response to Hurricane Katrina, sanctioned torture, put oil executives in charge of environmental policy, and ignored or at least was derelict in his attention to warnings of 9/11, to name a few things.  He was the Secretariat of bad presidents.  Obama gave 30 million more Americans health care.  Which angry reaction seemed more appropriate and which one seemed more like it should be condemned by the establishment of the respective party?

It reminds me of the climactic scene in A Time To Kill where Matthew McConaughey (alright alright) describes the crime to the jury, but flips it on them at the end.  Well to this third group I would say, “Close your eyes. Now, imagine more of your friends and neighbors could have affordable health care, or that relative of yours that died because of rejection from health insurance companies was allowed to keep his or her insurance.  Now imagine that this was done, in large part, because your President made a promise to a dying Senator, and because this President’s mother had died of Cancer and because he believed it could help lots of people. Now imagine that that President is white.”