Of the Tea Party, by the Tea Party, for the Tea Party

By Maureen Tkacik
August 19, 2011

By Maureen Tkacik
The opinions expressed are her own.

There is one thing more nauseating than watching our elected officials weasel their way through another Sunday morning rationalization of our ruinous economic policies: Watching the sole beneficiaries of those policies publicly distance themselves from those politicians on CNBC.

I am talking, generally, about rich people, although to be fair some rich people are more dishonest than others, as a tense Wednesday morning exchange between celebrity analyst Meredith Whitney and the network’s veteran correspondent Rick Santelli demonstrated. Delivering a meandering monologue assailing “children on both sides” of the aisle for…insufficiently gutting what remains of the social safety net, Whitney laid the blame for this failure on an unlikely constituency:

“Call it Tea Party, whatever you will, the fringe element is — I characterize (as) — freaked-out white men who are unemployed and have been unemployed for three years and they’re scared to death.”

To which Santelli retorted a few seconds later:

“Well you know the last person that said that was King George, and he said it about the colonists. Those were our Founding Fathers. You know what, you know what? How many muni, uh, areas have actually defaulted?”

Meredith, back in the studio, shaking head: “I don’t get it. Why is he so angry?”

Santelli: “Think about it. Think about it. Stick with munis.”

Santelli was, it’s worth remembering, one of the Tea Party’s Founding Fathers, having triumphantly launched the movement not a month after the Obama inauguration with a rambling sermon from the Chicago Board of Trade floor about his displeasure over the passage of a federal program supposedly intended to help underwater homeowners. (It ultimately helped virtually no one and cost virtually nothing.)

Meredith Whitney remembers: She has her own Rolodex full of Tea Party pundits and has probably done more than her angry male counterpart to advance its austerity agenda (which is what Santelli was getting at with the reference to muni defaults). I’ll detail that a bit later, but in this case sheer absurdity is the ultimate “tell.” Who else would have the nerve to go on TV with a claim so ludicrous as “The Tea Party comprises primarily frustrated jobless men hellbent on holding onto their unemployment benefits”? Only someone with a long history on Fox News. (Whitney met her husband on the set of a Fox business news show.)

Because while the campaign that brought them to power channeled the frustrations of some economically distressed voters, the Tea Party freshmen class comprises mostly millionaires, with a dozen or so reported to own assets valued into eight figure territory in financial disclosure forms:

  • Richard Hanna of upstate New York’s 24th district is worth between $11 million and $33 million amassed in the construction business.
  • Norfolk Marine-turned-Volvo dealer-turned-restaurateur-turned-congressman Scott Rigell of Virginia reports a fortune worth between $11.6 million and $48.2 million.
  • Nursing home operator and serial entrepreneur Rep. Jim Renacci of Columbus, Ohio has assets worth between $17.6 million and $39.9 million.
  • Nan Hayworth of New York and Diane Black of Tennessee are both former medical professionals whose husbands got rich in the health care business; Scott Hayworth (HHNW: $9.5 – $23.3 million) runs the dominant medical group in upper Westchester County and Black’s (HHNW: $14.7 – 84.1 million) runs the country’s preeminent drug testing lab.
  • North Dakota’s Rich Berg is a commercial real estate tycoon ($19.3 – $59 million) who served in the state legislature since 1985 before being elected to Congress.
  • Two oilmen in the freshmen class are also filthy rich: New Mexico’s Stevan Pearce ($8.4 – $38 million) and the Lone Star State’s Blake Farenthold ($10.4 – $31.4 million).

But treat those disclosures as “living documents” since this Congressional class has a record of underestimating its own wealth. Back in 2002 Pearce sold an oil services firm he had valued at $1 – $5 million for $12 million, then under-reported the value of that sale by about half. Berg’s forms list his interests in dozens of commercial real estate properties but left out 46,000 shares he owns in an oil services investment firm in which he is a director. (Among other things, Berg supports allowing oil companies to drill in state parks to pay for Social Security.) Last year an Ohio judge ruled that Renacci had under-reported his 2006 income by some $14 million.

Even the Tea Partiers who claim to be broke don’t apparently mean that literally; after reporting personal assets worth zero dollars, Tennessee’s Stephen Fincher made headlines for having received $3.34 million in federal agriculture subsidies in recent years; eventually he amended the form to include his cotton farm as an asset, estimating its value at $500,000. (South Dakota’s Kristi Noem has also collected more than $3 million in farm subsidies over the past decade, but her form only lists five assets worth somewhere between $33,000 and $145,000.)

It’s not hard to guess what these people see in Tea Party politics. Here is a movement united around an unfailing support of tax cuts for people like them, at a time in which poll after poll (23 polls, by one count) reveals the American electorate to be united by unprecedentedly broad-based support for doing the opposite. But there also more specific interests at play: the wealthier freshmen generally made their livelihoods in one of three economic sectors—health care/insurance, real estate and energy—whose profit margins not too long ago appeared particularly vulnerable to Obama’s policy goals.

  • Health care: 13 GOP freshmen hail from the business that comprises nearly a fifth of the nation’s economy and its one bonafide growth sector — which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if 43% of its annual revenues weren’t being paid by the government. Take it from the Tea Party governor whose hospital chain defrauded Medicare of about $1.7 billion. Here is an industry in which meaningful reform could clearly produce better care for more people at substantially lower costs; but meaningful reform in such businesses is rarely popular with the thousands of entrepreneurial individuals who have made fortunes mastering and exploiting the nuances of its dysfunctions.
  • Real estate and construction: all politics is real estate, so it is not exactly surprising that scores of Tea Party freshmen own a lot of houses. (Even Todd Rotika of Indiana, one of the famed faction of couch-sleepers too cheap to rent a place in Washington, owns three rental properties back home.) But in a crash, it’s noteworthy that so many men and women in the business would rally behind the Tea Party movement — again, founded in bitter opposition to the (overwhelmingly industry-supported) program designed to assist underwater homeowners.What is clear is that the housing nightmare was and remains the single biggest challenge facing the Obama administration, and any sane observer might have reasonably expected it to at some point acknowledge that by enacting policies that would be expected to have ramifications for the industry. (What happened instead is a mystery I’ll leave for another column.)
  • Oil and energy: here’s the Tea Party’s cash box — the movements biggest financial backers are also among the biggest oil barons in the country. Ten GOP freshmen have major interests in the energy (mostly oil) business, and they all managed to get elected on a “Drill Baby Drill” platform in the same year that witnessed the most devastating oil spill in recorded history, consigning green jobs, cap-and-trade and climate change to the dustbin for the foreseeable future.

Other freshmen have amassed wealth in agriculture (at least six have received federal farm subsidies), pro football (New Jersey’s Jon Runyon), defense and law. (Florida’s Dennis Ross served as general counsel to the Walt Disney Corporation.) But to return to the original point: where does Meredith Whitney get off depicting such rationally self-interested men and women as a bunch of loony out-of-work rednecks? One plausible explanation is the Tea Party itself, whose agenda Whitney has been tirelessly promoting since she left Oppenheimer, the firm at which she made her reputation, in 2009.

But whereas at her old firm Whitney distinguished herself as a rare “honest broker” amidst the obsequious cesspool of conflicted hacks by blowing the whistle on the financial system’s insolvency early, often and in granular detail that saved millions for any client wise enough to read her research, her bold pronouncements as the CEO of Meredith Whitney Advisory LLC have been vague, dubious and loudly smacking of short-sighted political opportunism. I refer, of course, to her wide-eyed prediction on a shamefully-sloppy 60 Minutes segment last winter that state and municipal bonds were headed for a spate of defaults, totaling between $50 billion and $100 billion in value, within the next year. The call had no basis in reality, nor had it anything approaching a historical precedent, nor had it anything remotely to do with Whitney’s realm of expertise.

But because municipal bonds are highly illiquid, low on media interest and held in large part by the sort of elderly, risk-averse investors likely to watch 60 Minutes, Whitney’s prediction roiled markets and generated loads of publicity. More importantly, however, it lent critical “independent” credence to the Tea Party-manufactured fiscal emergency occasioning the orgy of public spending cuts and crony capitalist privatization drives to which we’ve been treated ever since.

Whitney never misses an opportunity to praise the Tea Party agenda—look, here she is last month on CNBC castigating the blue states for being too eager to tax millionaires and “reticent to sell assets” and here she is a few weeks earlier defending one of their pet causes, the right of Big Finance to continue siphoning off of $30 billion a year in gratuitous “interchange fees” from customers and retailers; there she is postponing off an overseas trip to dine with Chris Christie—she just doesn’t usually refer directly to the “Tea Party.” She also rarely mentions her husband, the WWE wrestler-turned-conservative talk radio host, Fox personality and virility potion peddler John Layfield, in interviews. Like his wife Layfield claims to be nonpartisan, but he invariably toes the Tea Party line on TV, radio and Twitter, where some of his followers registered their dissatisfaction with his wife’s assessment of their cause (“Please ask Ms. Whitney to think before she shows her hatred of free heathens who do not worship Ivy League Elites,” was a typical Tweet.) Layfield’s old brokerage boss Robert Bonelli is an ardent Tea Partier who last year wrote a call-to-arms, Liberty Rising: A Treatise on the Restoration of Our Constitutional Republic.

More curiously, for seven months before she founded Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC, Whitney was registered with a firm called IRC Securities, which until recently went by the legal name Laffer Advisors for the famous Arthur Laffer, godfather of supply-side economics, prodigious right wing think tank scholar and co-author of the Rich States, Poor States survey, an annual production of the fearsome state legislature lobbying giant American Legislative Council that can be regularly relied upon to make the case for privatizing state services and slashing income taxes in favor of higher sales taxes and more casinos.

I have no idea what the nature of Whitney’s relationship with Laffer is, presuming (and it’s hard not to) there is one. For all I know they go way back—Laffer worked as an economic advisor in the Nixon White House when Whitney’s dad Dick P. Whitney was a key Commerce Department staffer during the early seventies, before the former defaced an historical napkin with his “Laffer Curve” and the latter went into venture capital. (Both also worked closely with the billionaire deficit alarmist Pete Peterson, who took over as Commerce secretary after the resignation of Martin Stans in 1972.)

But it’s probably always wise to keep an eyebrow permanently arched when Wall Streeters profess incredulity and/or ignorance toward the political process that has been so painstakingly gamed in favor of their own class interests. Just by way of example, CNBC blogger John Carney currently has an odd opinion column advising his Wall Street brethren to remember that while certain presidential candidates might strike them as “bizarre or fringy” it’s important to remember that they “aren’t usually running to be your president” but rather that of “another country that happens to share a legal system with us.”

If that message strikes you as vaguely disingenuous considering the unprecedented influence of money and corporate interests on electoral politics, consider the chosen topic of the keynote speech John’s brother Tim Carney delivered in January before an exclusive Palm Springs retreat for friends and ideological allies of the billionaire Tea Party benefactors Charles and David Koch: “Corporate welfare and bailouts, and the destructive influence of the Big Business lobby in Washington.”

I don’t need an invitation to a secret plutocrat retreat to point out what may be the single most destructive legacy of Big Business’s chokehold on the political system: its persistent success at hiding its true agenda from the public it spends such a fortune to manipulate behind “fringe element” platforms that distract the broader public from the long list of opinions they happen to hold in common: ideas like banning big bonuses at bailed-out banks (more than 70 percent, and even higher among Republicans) or ensuring the continued funding of beloved fixtures of American life from Medicare to PBS (69 percent oppose cutting off its funding) to even Planned Parenthood (57 percent of Americans support Planned Parenthood, a considerably higher percentage than those identifying themselves as “pro-choice.”)

There’s a reason no one ever coined the aphorism “unite and conquer.” Whenever two factions of American politics purport to be “teaming up,” one is usually simply allowing itself to be conquered by the other (wealthier) one. By the same token, perhaps the real reason Washington is said to have become more unbelievably, unprecedentedly, un-grownup-ishly partisan and divided with each new election cycle is because everyone is actually so likeminded on the issues—taxes, regulation, white collar crime, corporate predation—that really matter. (Which is to say: both sides agree that neither is served by making hay of any of those issues.)

The debt ceiling “standoff” was meaningful only inasmuch as the near-instant acceptance that the debt reduction measure supported by the vast majority of Americans (tax hikes) amounted to a “non-starter” so starkly illustrates the fraudulence of American “democracy.” That such Wall Street luminaries as Whitney and S&P took the opportunity to distance themselves from the Tea Party’s alleged radicalism merely shows how good they’ve gotten at playing along.

The Republican Party will be spared another 1996, in which the Republican Revolution almost unraveled in the intramural struggle to hold onto Congress while running a credible campaign for president, so that Michelle Bachmann or Ron Paul can become Barry Goldwater figures for the 21st century while another unctuous generation of arrogant Rubinites busies itself with the power trip of “governing” within the plutocracy’s narrow parameters.

Photo: A woman holds a sign with a message for U.S. President Barack Obama as dozens of Tea Party supporters rally near the U.S. Capitol against raising the debt limit in Washington, July 27, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

99 comments

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Maureen,

I guess your point is that it is reprehensible for Congressional members to claim that they are from the middle or lower income scales when they truly are the wealthy. I think the point you miss is that they all, Democrats included, say they are for the little guy. Last I checked all your top Democrats are all Millionaires and many never held private sector jobs or ran businesses. John Kerry married into his millions, as did McCain (in fairness), so did Nancy Pelosi. The President wrote a few books (most writers, as you know, barely make a living doing so) and he is a millionaire.

I guess my point is that you need to wake up. It’s all a millionaire club that claims they are out to help the little guy. The real question is whose leadership do you personally do better under? Most Americans feel that the country does better when both parties get out of our way and let us lead our own lives and keep our hard earned living in our own pockets. The next question you should ask is why a Millionaire or Millionaires would care to take a job that pays only 6 figures a year? Do you think it might be that they get something out of it beyond the satisfaction that they are doing the work of the people?

I think so. And that is why people (the little ones) are growing discontent with both parties.

Posted by Bdy2010 | Report as abusive

Is the revolution coming to United States? The country side is covered with robber barons, petty thieves, trick artists and pay to dance clowns. There is not one citizen in the position to accept the truth or logic of a modern society. The media like FOX tells you when to jump and high high. What would happens when the people start to wake up and go to the streets and show their discontent?

Posted by invinoveritas | Report as abusive

If you are rich, you can buy the media, not only in the US, just look how Murdoch has corrupted the UK as well. No wonder folks there are rioting and getting Jailed, but do you see Murdoch going to Jail, no you don’,even though the damage he has caused is not only revolting, bribing Police and Politicians undermines British democracy not to mention spying on the Royal Family

Posted by Dyota | Report as abusive

Santelli was, it’s worth remembering, one of the Tea Party’s Founding Fathers?!?! WRONG. Try 2007 Ron Paul

Posted by NEPAChris | Report as abusive

Understanding Tea Party people is quite straightforward really. One need only remember that they chose, of their own free will, to take their name from a bunch of smugglers so inept that their contraband tea actually retailed at a higher price than the fully duty-paid, pukka stuff.

Posted by Ian_Kemmish | Report as abusive

Yeah, they’re millionaires who either deceive people into voting against their interests or buy elections in rural areas where it is still possible to do so.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

Ms. Tkacic is unemployed for a reason, as she seems to not see the connection.
Tea Party is indeed lower middle class people naive enough to seek help from millionaires.

Posted by DDL | Report as abusive

The problem for the Advocates of Big Government is what people DO understand about the Teaparty. Namely, that it’s right-on in pointing out that tripling down on the same failed big-spending policies that are currently destroying the economy are unlikely to succeed, that spending does not end a recession, that those who confiscate our tax dollars should follow a budget just as we do.

Posted by Lon_Seong | Report as abusive

The problem with Congress is that a significant number of them are lawyers in a system where it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong but who has the most persuasive argument.

As long as they made their wealth legally, who cares how much they are worth?

Posted by Pseudonymous | Report as abusive

Maureen you are an idiot. Yes, all the hollywood libs are really starving artists right. funny Obama has 50k plate dinners..why don’t you write about that as well..You are a dolt..

Posted by ihnas | Report as abusive

I really disaggree with most of the Tea Party ideas, but this kind of childish demonization of them, Millionaires in USA and Wall Street financial plutocrats have shown a more than moderate support for Obama and his progressive ideas, do nothing good to a fractured society and remember that the responsability of this fracture can be found not only in Tea Party followers or leaders, who have a great one, but also in Pelosis, Dunns and “great thinkers” for the world of entertainment who are continously “hired” by some media in order to discuss issues that they really can´t even understand.

Posted by Caribbeanomics | Report as abusive

The rich who back the teahadists bring to mind the German industrialists who backed Herr Hitler in the early 1930s. They thought they could control the little Austrian corporal, and were dead wrong. The wealthy Americans who back our teahadists would suffer immeasurably had we defaulted. They came within inches of that when their boys and girls in Congress almost bent to the wishes of their narrow constituency and nearly stopped the debt ceiling deal.

Posted by Gaius_Baltar | Report as abusive

Whoa, Maureen. Decaf. Take a nappy nap. Spa, maybe. Ma-ssage. Or just get down to it and write a proper manifesto.

Posted by GiveMeCookie | Report as abusive

Interesting piece, but the byline here is a bit of a non-sequitur: “The people who pledge allegiance to the new conservative movement have been stereotyped as mostly angry lower middle-class white men, but in reality the Tea Party congressional freshmen class of 2010 is comprised mostly of multi-millionaires.” The constituency is not the leadership, so this should not be a big surprise. It would be interesting to know if the constituency actually shared the socio-economic characteristics of the leadership.

Posted by ALandreth | Report as abusive

Wow. That was long and rambling. What the poor white trash (wasn’t that your implication? that they’re low-class and vulgar and slightly stupid?) and the so very sinisterly rich people (oooh, conspiracies and complexes) they support have in common (why is it your logic-apparatus didn’t tumble to the possibility of a common theme) is that we all like to live in a world of possibilities. We prefer not to give up our right to dream and make dreams reality. Living in a Kafkaesque bureaucratic, centrally-controlled hive doesn’t appeal to us. It might be an American thing. You’d have to be one to really get it. If I want to start my own business (again) tomorrow, I don’t want it regulated to death before I even walk out the door. I like the America where today’s dirt poor legal immigrants can be tomorrow’s Kardashian sisters or Koch brothers.

Posted by YippeeKayay | Report as abusive

My wife and I, 60-something college graduates, belong to a Tea Party in Arlington, TX – half-way between Dallas and Ft. Worth. I seriously doubt anyone in our sizeable group has a 7-digit net worth but even if they did, so what? What we are sick of is an obviously socialistic government usurping the foundation of America for one purpose: Power. As a fraternity rich Democrats, especially the more liberal among them, are NOT a very cohesive group as they are in building power. Saul Alinsky was not so concerned with tangible riches as he was in controlling whole populations. Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Jeff Imelt, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, etc., ad nauseum thirst for power. Remember, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Posted by tmbttd | Report as abusive

Wow, a disgruntled Gen X-Y kid who has discovered that college did not buy glory (or, evidently, bring money). Honey, there are many more things “more nauseating than watching our elected officials weasel their way through another Sunday morning”. Lose the self-absorption, forget about ‘your career’, go find a life in something that involves developing people rather than despising them, and maybe someday you will write something people will read.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive

Agreed, ARJTurgot2. Your comment fits that category (and was promptly filed under nauseating).

Posted by shedemon | Report as abusive

Nice hit job on the Tea Party, even though most of the hated, scamming millionaires getting rich off the sweat of folks like you and I reside on the Left side of the aisle. But mentioning that irrefutable fact, and the fact that the Left plays the minorities and unemployed like a fiddle, would suck the wind right of your sails here, so I best not mention it.

Whoops.

Posted by Fluidizer | Report as abusive

Next assignment, Millionaire Liberals and their inability to pay their Taxes.

Posted by Maxwells | Report as abusive

You know, name-calling makes you look silly. When Tea-Partiers call Obama a “Socialist,” I have a flash-back to my elementary school. “Liar liar pants-on-fire” is a more scathing criticism than the meaningless “Socialist.” Why don’t you show your true colors, and call him a “Commie-Pinko-Hippie?”

Posted by BadgerBay | Report as abusive

Actually main supportors of the “Teaparty” are people who have this crazy belief in founding principles and the really, really wacky idea that the Government should stay within a budget.

Just like we citizens have to. I hope more zillionaires jump on board in this quest to preserve Freedom.

Posted by Lon_Seong | Report as abusive

What a bunch of gobbledy-gook. I could red her story long enough to determine if she has a clue what planet we’re on but just a few or her little quips against the tea party folks is enough.

Tea party philosophy is simple: Government is too big, too arrogant and too ineffective to solve our problems. the answer to the economic ills of our country (and the world0 is for government to radically reduce its size, influence, expense, and footprint. The answer is for the private sector to keep more of ts currently confiscated dollars so they can build things, produce things and create jobs. The potential for profit rules he world and without it, human ingenuity dies. Oppressive and hungry governments eat all that is supposed to be left for those at the top, and the bottom, and returns nothing.

That is the tea party, rich or poor, white or black.

Posted by murrietamike | Report as abusive

What I took from this article is the assurance that the so called tea party ‘s agenda has a disingenuous reek from financially motivated representatives, making them about on par with the established parties they claim to eschew. That’s believable, most likely

Posted by auger | Report as abusive

never mind the fact the tea party and congress are still disproportionately WHITE.
same as it ever was….same as it ever was…

Posted by chizzlinsam | Report as abusive

Yes, the Tea Party manifests the discontent of local oligarchs with their national counterparts. When the credit bubble imploded only the national oligarchy were protected through the big bank bailout. Real estate interests were left on their own without government-provided national socialism. Big mistake, the type of stab in the back that induces medium level hucksters to organize revolutions.

Posted by palinurus | Report as abusive

So the Tea Party is no better than the democrats or republicans? Maybe I shouldn’t bother voting.

Posted by ejhickey | Report as abusive

Good column, Ms. Underemployed! You deserve better opportunities. Have you thought about writing for FireDogLake or HuffPo? Good luck!

Posted by Ralphooo | Report as abusive

Refreshing to see a glimmer of intellect in the argument here. However, you collectively need to dig a bit deeper. The U.S. has not had a functional democracy for 70 years; policy, and legislation, being wholly controlled by big business lobbyists. Have a look at the quality of your legislation: Gas fracking companies exempted from the clean water Act? Credit card debt exempted from bankruptcy? Two straight forward examples. Add the Patriot Act, which certainly is unconstitutional. How about the ability for the President to veto Habeas Corpus?
Have a look at the destabilising effect of U.S. foreign policy. None of it is to do with the establishment of fledgling democracy, and all of it is to do with providing an umbrella for U.S. business interests. Find a way to deal with the self serving meritocracy that hijacked your democratic process, and the Tea Party becomes a vestigial irrelevance.
If what is left of the middle class: the educated, the career oriented, the motivated and accomplished doesn’t revolt, all you’ll have left is an oligarchical collective , just like Russia, but with added hypocrisy.

Posted by peeweekiwi | Report as abusive

Some good points. It is sorta odd how the Democrats are caving into the demands of this “fringe” party. Thanks for uncovering what we already knew. They’re all in bed together! The unfortunate shame is that cuts to education are creating voters who can’t think their way out of this ruinous cycle. Ditto what @liveoilfree said.

Posted by LEEDAP | Report as abusive

I’m enjoying the fact less, bandwagoning blowhards decrying the authors all too real commentary. Sent forward by their Faux news overlords and millionaire handlers to just “say it ain’t so”.

Sure- all “they” want is for you to maintain your wealth. No check that, “they” want you to be richer- just like them! That has always been the hopes & dreams of the wealthy throughout time! Suuuuure…

Like just arriving at the start of a Bachmann speech- the best is yet to come.

Now Entertain US Teabaggers!!!

Posted by mynamehear2 | Report as abusive

Nobody ever had the media more in their pocket than Barry Obama. The media was actually fawning over him. C Matthews was about to have an orgasim. He said “when he speaks, chills run down my leg” Come on folks, the media made Obama. Although, they are now waking up. The prince has turned into a FROG ! Rivit Rivit Rivit !

Posted by Xiaoyun | Report as abusive

I make less then $30K a year, and i’m a tea party member that will defeat Obama in 2012 unless you cheat the paper work again!

Posted by saltlake | Report as abusive

Looking at all these posts, I’d say the tea party is more a movement than anything else. Pretty hard to make a label stick to a movement. Hard to blame it for things too. Wouldn’t it be nice if the tea party actually became a party? Then the politicians and media could apply the appropriate labels at the appropriate times to convince all you posters that it’s all the tea parties fault because [apply label here].

We should remember that we are Americans. Don’t let them segregate you.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

Gee my skin’s not white and and I’m a tea party supporter AND an educated woman to boot. If we’re talking about rich, may as well throw in pelosi (somewhere I read she made a 63 or 67% profit overal this year on her investments); reid, rangel the guy who gets away with fraud, theft etc., and yet still collects more wealth maintaining his congressional seat. And of course we have Obama with his millions and many other millionaires sitting in their congressional and senate seats.

Talking about the Koch brothers, let’s just say they help out the repubs as Soros helps out the dems and Obama. So it’s evens stevens here.

Posted by joda | Report as abusive

I read a lot about politics and the economy, and this is perhaps the best-written op-ed piece I’ve read in some time. Thank you Maureen for laying out the facts in such a thoughful analysis.

Posted by 1AmericanGuy | Report as abusive

So what is wrong with being rich? Isn’t that the american dream – work hard, work smart, get a little lucky and wind up “rich”? Why demonize success? It seems all the left wants is for everyone to be poor and dependent on the government. Why demonize the tea partiers, who have taken the time to express their views on their elected officials? Is Charity supposed to be a government function forced on the 50% of us who pay taxes? I don’t expect you to answer because I know you don’t have one, you will just start calling me names.

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive

Ever hear of the South Central LA Tea Party? Those folks are black. How about the Chino Tea Party? Those folks are Hispanic. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this: the Tea Party represents the local residents, not the white race. And the Tea Partiers suffer unemployment at the same rate as the general population. That means 9%, jus like the rest of the country. Don’t forget that the Tea Party has political power. Lie, slander, and insult them at your own risk. 2012 is coming!

Posted by PomonaResident | Report as abusive

People seem to forget that George Washington was the richest man in the country. Being rich is not the problem, nor is it surprising that TP politicians are rich – they can afford the campaigns without having to get dollars from special interests.

Do we want people who are economic failures to be in charge of Congress?

Posted by stevedebi | Report as abusive

What makes you people think the Tea Party is all made up of millionaires? And some of you also think they’ve all had some form of higher education as well. WRONG! The Tea Party is BACKED and SUPPORTED by Republican millionaire conservatives who are too gutless to speak their minds so they’ve organized this party of ignorant rubes to vocalize for them. Don’t you get it? The Tea Party is the Frankenstein monster of the Republican party which created it and is now stuck with the sorry consequences. Have you ever seen some of the signage they so proudly wave and carry at their evil little events? Not a literate one among them ,full of misspellings and poor grammar. These are NOT educated people, but morons too stupid to realize their nothing more than tools of the Republicans. The frightening part is that they’re VOCAL and ANGRY, exactly what the liberals and Democrats need to be instead of indulging in all this soft-soaping and “compromising”. First thing the Democrats need to do is put someone with BALLS up against Obama in 2012c because, in case you haven’t figured it out, folks, he’s a weakling and little more than a Republican calling himself a Democrat. My vote is for Dennis Kucinich (as it was in 2008, when he unfortunately for the country, dropped out of the race), who’s got the guts and speaks what Obama can’t…the TRUTH!!! Obama just sits there and takes the blame for the wreckage the 8 years of REPUBLICAN authority left before him. Are peoples’ memories really as short as the Republicans are hoping and expecting they are? Obama DIDN’T CREATE this financial mess, he WALKED INTO it, and just like quicksand he’s having a helluva time getting out, and getting the country out with him. The REPUBLICANS did it, and now they want BACK IN? Why, haven’t they done enough damage?

Posted by mbwisper | Report as abusive

They bible speaks about some of the pro tea partiers here.
You criticize the straw in your own eye when there is a rafter in your own. HYPOCRITE, first extract the rafter from your eye then you can see clearly to extract the straw from your brothers eye.
Matt 7 7
Why is it that we even have Tea Partiers now? When BUsh was busy expanding the government they all were oddly quiet.
When they retired they kept getting their socialized medicine Medicare and Social Security yet call Obama a Socialist.
They say they are for small government, yet don’t want GE and billionaire corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.
They would rather see this country go in a ditch because its a democratic president, as opposed to working together to move the country forward.
Finally, they NEVER criticize their masters the bansters who got us into this mess in the first place, but instead choose to criticize the poor, the sick and the weak among us.
HYPOCRITES! The only person that will get us out of this mess is not your million dollar politicians but Ron Paul. And unless you wake up to that fact you will continue to be angry, old, white men. And maybe a bit racist too(but its our little dirty secret okay, I promise not to tell anyone).

Posted by Independent007 | Report as abusive

The straw in your brothers eye is what the Tea Baggers are talking about. Yup, cut food stamps, entitlements. RESULT: Riots in the street and more instability for America, which is what the banksters want so they can install marshal law and take away MORE of our rights. You Tea Partiers are not real bright because your being used (again) by the millionaire Congressmen who have as their Masters the corrupt banksters.
But the Hypocrites comment fits just perfectly.
Stop listening to Limbaugh, and start listening to Alex Jones. The blue pill or the red pill. Then you will see the real Matrix. Its not about Obama or Republicans or Democrats its about LIBERTY. Someone once said, GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH. You Tea Partiers are not free, you think you are, but you will never be free as long as the banksters control our Congress. And here is a little known fact, they control the Tea Party members of Congress TOO! Follow the donations, follow the money and you will be surprised. Again don’t listen to me, just understand that you are being used to fight useless fights when we all should be standing tall as Americans for the CONSTITUTION and against tyranny. Banksters will rob America blind while the commoners fight each other in the streets politically, haha, they will watch Rome burn and you Tea Party people are happily falling in the trap down led by the Repubs water boy Rush. Wake up! There is a reason Rush hates Ron Paul, wake up.

Posted by Independent007 | Report as abusive

Bdy2010: “Most Americans feel that the country does better when both parties get out of our way and let us lead our own lives and keep our hard earned living in our own pockets.”

This is the great Libertarian fantasy. Civilization, never mind democracy, is not self-organizing. It is not self-sustaining. Yes, the U.S. government is bloated and corrupt. But that is not because of “too much regulation.” It is because we have destroyed our regulatory capacities. Nobody from Wall Street has gone to jail, and nobody is likely to, because a) the regulators are indistinguishable from the regulated (that revolving door spins faster and faster) and b) we don’t provide enough funds for the regulators to adequately do their jobs.

Posted by Iolaus | Report as abusive

SCARE 20.12.2012
(Stop Corruption and Repression Effective 20.12.2012)
Banks were given a very important privilege to create more in the form of extending credit. This function requires diligence and careful consideration in regard to individual credit risks as well as to overall credit levels in the system. The financial crisis revealed that the banks were operating at too high a leverage and with too much risk. They were used to be saved by the Central Banks and certain that in times of difficulties the Central Banks were there to save them. They were like trained dogs and their master Greenspan or Bernanke would always be there to rescue them when unforeseen difficulties arose.
That may be true but that does not absolve them from their obligation to monitor overall debt levels in the system as well as being diligent in evaluating the debtors ability to not only service a debt but to be able to repay it over time. The banks clearly failed in this function that is the core function of banking but focused mainly on their compensation packages. The way these bankers enriched themselves in the process of driving the financial system into a wall was appalling and the average income earner was never able to comprehend their schemes but preferred to simply ignore them. Of course, the bankers explained their outrages income levels with free market principles of supply and demand, where the best simply could be hired with those kinds of benefits only. In hindsight those superior managers seem to have missed their mark considerably. The most interesting aspect of all of this is the fact that, after we have been more than 3 years in this financial crisis, the bankers continue to loot the system as if nothing ever happened.
True to form the Central Banks “saved” the financial system by saving those great financial institutions without whom the system would have collapsed, as was argued. Hardly were we out of the danger of collapse, the banks immediately went back to their old ways and were certain that this was a problem that would occur just once in a lifetime and now all was clear again. The real problem, however, had not been addressed but had simply been muddied.
In actuality, the losses produced of extending unsustainable levels of credit by the banks have been transferred to the public. Different ways were chosen to achieve this task in the form of free money for the banks, injection of government funds into some institutions, increase of basic money supply and so on.
The threat of system collapse would have been labelled blackmail if it would have occurred in another setting. However the bankers were able to influence the media, the legislators and regulators in their favour with all the financial resources available to them. Nobody was made to take any responsibility and no one was taken to account.
This represents a serious violation of the spirit of the Rule of Law that is the basis of western society. It seems that now the new rule is Might is Right. This changes many parameters in the compass of the social system within the western world. No one can be sure on what level and when one will be subjected to the financial abuse of those elites. Presently, the people in charge are trying to enhance financial repression of which one form is to keep interest rates below the level of inflation which affects mainly those that lived within their means over the past many years; another clear violation of the spirit of the Rule of Law as it transfers losses from bad investments to the innocent and decent part of the population. In addition, the increased level of government debt puts in doubt all those benefits promised by governments the world over.
It is interesting how the banks were able to confuse the public that they are unable to grasp the actual situation. But considering their great financial resources, it seems not that much of a miracle to influence the media and the legislator and having politicians do their bidding. The question is what the heck can WE, THE PEOPLE do about it.
Usually, we could address such things on a political level as we are a democracy, right? But it seems that the system has been corrupted by all the money sloshing around and it is extremely difficult to find any electable person that will act against those powerful interests. In addition, it will take many years until sufficient numbers of persons with the new thinking and with integrity not to be corrupted by those lobbying efforts will be elected to office that will implement the changes needed. So, what should we do? Start a revolution?
Well, the blackmail used by the banks may be the only way to address the injustices that have occurred over the past few years. They showed us how to leverage one’s limited resources to achieve one’s goal. Therefore the following proposal to start the movement “SCARE 20.12.2012” should be seen in this context. The idea is that if by that time (20.12.2012) some serious injustices have been removed from the system, people start to withdraw their money from all financial institutions driving them into default. And it might work, because those who hesitate to support this threat may be left with no money as the banks will have to close down before all has been paid out.
Now, what demands are made if that scenario is to be avoided.
1. Bankers and past Bankers (all those working in the financial industry that earned in excess of $500k plus annually for more than 2 years during the past 15 years and this without any downside risk i.e. risk of financial losses, except the possibility of losing their job) have to be made personally accountable for their past activities and be removed from any such position that might directly or indirectly have influence on the money creation and lending aspects of the economy (this includes regulating agencies and politics) before 20.12.2012.
2. Present and past regulators have to be made personally accountable for their past activities and be removed from any such position that might directly or indirectly have influence on the money creation and lending aspects of the economy (this includes financial institutions and politics) before 20.12.2012.
3. Politicians that accept any financial support from institutions that are involved in the money creation and lending aspects of the economy will have to face a jail term of no less than 2 years without the possibility of parole.
When these 3 points are implemented before 20.12.2012, we the public will not destroy the financial system but support the way to find back to the RULE OF LAW and away from the idea of MIGHT IS RIGHT.

Posted by linushuber | Report as abusive

I think we may be seeing an historic year. The Republicans and the Tea Party seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory.

They’ve turned the argument against socialism into a bizzare argument that we need to keep giving money to companies to save the world. I think they are going to find out the average voter in the middle is more comfortable paying grannie or some poor kid 300 dollars a month to eat than they are giving a bank a billion dollars to enable them to rape us all again.

My only choice so far this election cycle is do I elect a party that gives my money to the poor, or do I elect a party that gives my money to the rich? Either way I lose. So do I lose helping granny or do I lose helping Warren Buffet and all the rich oil men in my state?

What a choice they give us.

Posted by samuel_c | Report as abusive

Aren’t all of the politicians who control the various parties made up primarily of millionaires, therein lies the problem.

Posted by seattlesh | Report as abusive

Things are about to change with the initiation of Digital Democracy. Organizing is being done at americanselect.org. They offer the opportunity to prioritize issues and help choose a candidate. All persons (real voters) are invited, doesn’t matter which way you lean.

Posted by Valerie... | Report as abusive

Having been born in the UK, lived in the good ole US of A, I prefer politics in Sweden where I now live. You don’t have to be a millionaire, or require wealthy sponsors to represent your constituents in parliament (Congress or Senate). Further politics in the USA is so divisive where it appears that right wing Republicans see every Democrat as the personification of the Devil. Sweden has extremely high direct and indirect taxes, but it provides an excellent social security system and FREE medical treatment (despite what FOX news may say!). Sweden has NO POOR!

SHAME ON YOU USA! You have the richest, most, powerful country in the World. You can spend trillions of dollars on armaments and fighting financially crippling wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but will not provide good and affordable medical care for the American population. Neither will you take any positive steps to eliminate poverty! There’s too much, “IT’S MY MONEY! NOBODY*S GOING TO TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME!” And you talk about democracy and Western morality!

Posted by IRATESCEPTIC | Report as abusive

Dear Maureen, your irritation with “tea party” people is a mystery, they seem to have all the vices of the liberal spendocrats and seem to lie and steal equally well if not better. The only difference financially is that they are more creative in creating wealth, are apparently successful in many fields of enterprise rather than the limited skills shown by the spend/steal/obfuscate bureaucrats of the “gifted ones”. Could it be that there is a little “ENVY” there at their wealth and ability to make money? You also seem to forget a basic capitalist principle: “you can’t spend and steal if the capitalists don’t make a profit”. So you can bitch and complain all you want about the “tea party” but in the end you will just have to go sit in the corner, or in the back of the bus in Obama’s case and shut up while the Rick Santelli’s of the world clean up this spending mess you liberals have made.

Posted by gregio | Report as abusive