Tales from the Trail

The Tea Party’s “blue deal” for America

August 12, 2011

By John F. Wasik
The opinions expressed are his own.

Imagine being elected to government even though you’re openly hostile to it.

Such is the perverse arrangement the Tea Party has with the electorate, which is foisting a “Blue Deal” on Americans. As opposed to a “New” deal or even “Square” deal, the Blue Deal and its prolonged pain will hurt most middle-class Americans through higher costs in retirement, health care and public health.

Tea Party affiliates’ nonchalant posturing on the potential debt default influenced the Standard and Poor’s decision to downgrade U.S. debt and the ensuing turmoil.

Now that the Congressional super-committee has been named to begin

cutting more government spending — and hopefully raising revenues — it’s time to craft a balanced agenda that will preserve social programs while cutting government waste.

The Tea Party’s brash intrusion into U.S. politics was a needed wake-up call, although the movement will be more destructive than productive if it doesn’t create a tide that lifts all boats. Here are the major stumbling blocks that need to be addressed head-on by the committee:

  • Being the World’s Cop. If Congress is truly interested in the kind of debt reduction the ratings agencies and markets will take seriously, it has to end its role as gendarme to the world’s hotspots. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said as much on Tuesday in a National Public Radio interview in which he was cut off before he had a chance to fully explain why. Frank said overspending on needless military expenses is one reason U.S. debt was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated in 2008 that the Iraq and Afghan wars will cost the U.S. at least $3 trillion — double the cost of the Korean War and outpacing the 12-year Viet Nam war. Pull out of these countries and reduce spending on forces in Europe and Asia and Congress will not have to touch social programs.
  • Deregulation Will Cost Money and Lives. The epic dismantling of government regulation by conservative GOP members is going to result in more deaths and higher costs for everyone. Ralph Nader, who knows more than anyone how consumer regulation works, noted that at least 150 million workers will be adversely impacted by cuts in workplace safety and health regulation. There’s more:  ”There are 307 million eaters in America,” Nader states. “More than 7,000 of them die from contaminated food and more than 300,000 are hospitalized each year. The Tea Partiers pushed cuts through the House to the already underfunded FDA food safety programs.” Add to that the assault on investor protection, unions, bank regulation and environmental protection, and it’s difficult not to conclude that the Tea Party’s unrelenting hostility toward government watchdogs will largely hurt the populace.
  • Tax Expenditures Cost the Treasury Billions. Tax breaks such as mortgage interest and health insurance deductions take away up to $1 trillion from the Treasury every year and do nothing to promote affordable housing or health care. Conservative economist Martin Feldstein at the Bureau of Economic Research proposes capping all personal write-offs at 2 percent of annual gross adjusted income. He estimates that would raise annual tax revenue by $278 billion annually. Isn’t this a tax increase? While those making $500,000 a year would likely pay $40,000 more in taxes, taxpayers in the $25,000 to $50,000 range would pay only $1,000. The theme here is restoring progressivity to the tax code instead of raising rates. The wealthiest taxpayers don’t get to lard up on breaks that most of the middle class won’t benefit from. In any discussion about taxes, the Tea Party needs to recognize that fairness in the tax code can partially eliminate the cuts in education and health care. Needless corporate breaks that don’t create any jobs and rob the Treasury should also be on the chopping block.
  • Rebuild the American Dream. A new social contract is needed. A mindless slashing of every government program isn’t the answer. Social Security and Medicare are enormously successful social programs that have kept millions out of poverty. When you cut benefits, the math is simple: It will increase costs for the retired. If anything, these programs should be expanded to cover more people. Government should be in the business of saving money on hospital stays, medicine and retirement fund management. Social programs should be part of a separate discussion that doesn’t demonize them and implements meaningful cost controls reached by a consensus of Americans. Another dialogue should begin on how to create jobs and involve the private sector, which is sitting on more than $3.6 trillion in cash. Activities that are harmful to society — such as pollution, junk food, smoking, gambling, alcohol and trading speculation — should be heavily taxed. Use the revenue to create 21st Century jobs that pay a living wage and fund public education and clean energy.

Compromise and social progress need to have a seat at the table. The alternative: Chaos, economic despair, social unrest and a lower standard of living. We need only look to the streets of England or the Arab world to see how gross social inequity eventually translates into anarchy.

Comments
28 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

The whole concept of government regulation in a democracy comes out of the realization that left to themselves all individuals including businesses and corporations will only do whatever is profitable for themselves They will not do things to anyone else’s benefit. Human history is proof. The kings and the lords ( the precursors of present day business tycoons and corporations) did nothing for the majority of the people. This led to democracy and government regulations meant to help the common man and the country as a whole. Those who advocate no government regulations conveniently ( or foolishly) forget the atrocities committed by the powerful since time immemorial and advocate small or no government with a slogan that “Big Government” is somehow evil is denying all lessons of history to the contrary. And I doubt any article written by Mr Wasik or many reasonable opinion writers or statesmen of the world will change the minds of any on the extreme right who believe that only they are absolutely right and only they have the right to a good life.

Posted by ssrj | Report as abusive
 

Actually Capitalism was created due to the fact that each individual should have uninhibited freedom to do what is most profitable for themselves. Freedom here is the necessary claim not regulation. You assert that the atrocities of the past are due to individuals (business and corps today) when in fact it was the government’s ability to deny freedom by the use of force. Your first statement is completely ignorant of the fact that business has created all the wealth through their own free ability to persue what is best for them, not government. Government didnt create the wheel, the car, the internet, anything. It was man’s desire to improve himself which benefitted the rest. And he was able to do that through freedom that capitalism brings. the GOVERNMENT through regulation inhibits wealth creation because it FORCES(the only power in the world to have that ability)man to do something. You are completely offbase by saying that business doesnt benefit every individual…the accurate comparision is Government to Government as they hold the power of force. True Capitalism is the only moral socio-economic system because it allows for voluntary trade and benefit….try educating yourself a little bit…might i suggest Mill, Adam Smith, etc.

Posted by rwillis1242 | Report as abusive
 

The Tea Party is a front for the interests of the top 1%. Their real concerns for this country expressed by the issues they are interested in instead are the interests of that 1%. Any government to them, is big government. Until a larger majority of the US sees the truth instead of the propaganda fed through the media, their voice will be listed to and feared. This article focuses on the devastation of enacting their policies. The problem is their political position is like that of a dictator who insists you only have one solution to a problem and they of course are the only ones who know it and will not accept any other.

Posted by 12405 | Report as abusive
 

12405 – What a laugh…the Tea Party is a front for the top 1% wage earners? Get a grip. I’m sure you can link stats to show this (NOT). Don’t let facts get in the way of a good one-liner.

OneofTheSheep – excellent post

Knock the Tea Part all you want but they are the only segment of the Congress / Senate that actually focused on cutting spending, stuck to their principles, and got some spending cuts.

So let me get this straight the MSM, liberals, and RINOs like to paint the average Americans that make up the Tea Party as crazy for the following:

(1) Realize that taxes are the peoples money not governments. We give it to them to do a job.

(2) Produce a friggin balanced budget. You know that crazy thing that all private citizens have to do and the majority of States in the Union do.

(3) Retool the tax code. When the top 10% of wage earners pay over 40% and 47% of the populace pay no Federal Income Taxes you are reinforcing the wrong behavior. The Fair Tax is a great idea (my opinion not necessarily that of the Tea Party). If we want to do away with corporate welfare then we also need to look at reforming personal welfare.

(4) Reform Entitlements. This doesn’t mean changing what has been promised to seniors other than possibly retirement age. What it does mean is allowing younger tax payers to opt out of current programs to private programs. Look up the City of Galveston, TX. They opted out of SS and have at least 4x the money and they (not the government) control it. The Federal Government has already raiding the SS fund. Let us take the money out of washington and control our own future.

I KNOW!!! Crazy talk. (heavy sarcasm intended)

Posted by SensenCommon | Report as abusive
 

It is an unfair to say that the Tea Party is hostile to government. It is plain to see that the Tea Partiers are consistently respectful of democratic institutions of government and the rule of law. What the Tea Party opposes is the present unsustainable level of Federal deficit spending that cannot be supported even by oppressive taxation destroying economic mobility and incentives for productive activity, and growth of the Federal government far beyond its constitutionally-defined role.

Posted by TrueLib2417 | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Wasik – your idealogy and understanding of government is monolithic. Most people have to lean on the experiences of fellow citizens who have worked with government organizations at the local, state and federal level. I can say – without hesitation that the corruption and incompetence is at an all time high. Our government should help provide safety and some regulatory enforcement to keep crony capitalism from becoming the basis of our economy – but both groups are using our capitalist economy and government as their ticket to get in the boards rooms and labor boards of the every industry and prying money from them with legislation or the threat of legislation. This nuanced view that goverment is above the laws of good financial stewardship and can be used as a particular party’s social tool – is why we have to reduce government to a streamlined function. You cannot find any level of government that is not laden with waste and crony incompetence. I will not have them making decisions on anything the is of importance to my health. While your mother is dying in the hall – the government worker will be holding up service while you complete form 210b. ANd yes some health care establishments are almost as inefficient. However – the government is purely a redistribution to a politcal party’s benefactors and on this alone should be reduce and much constrained to pull the pigs from the trough of our money…….

Posted by xit007 | Report as abusive
 

The members of the Tea Party were elected. Therefore, they are not a “brash intrusion”. If you taxed every rich person making more than a million dollars at a 100% tax rate, it still would not be enough to balance the out of control spending that has been going on since Obama took office.

Posted by moonhill | Report as abusive
 

I pay almost $20K/yr in healthcare insurance premiums and as a result pay no Federal income taxes. I would be pleased to pay that much in taxes for our country to have a good universal healthcare system.

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive
 

Yes – let’s talk about the 21st Century in which our government is NOT controlled by religious ideology. and while we’re at it…let’s take a look at the 501C-3 organizations that get to operate tax-free!!! churches, trade associations, hospitals…wow, add up all that potential tax revenue (just on property alone) and we could keep all the social program going!

Posted by telo62 | Report as abusive
 

@PCScipio, I am in 100% agreement. It the only solution that makes sense on every level.

Posted by USAPragmatist | Report as abusive
 

@moonhill, the majority of our deficit/debt drivers IS NOT Obama’s spending, it is the unfunded Wars, tax cuts and Medicare Part D enacted by the previous Admin. Parroting the same GOP/tea-party talking point time and time again does not make it any more true.

Posted by USAPragmatist | Report as abusive
 

PCScipio – I would agree but turning to our government for the actual running of health care is like giving the keys to your car to a 14 year old. I cannot emphasize how inept government bureaucracy is – there are good workers no doubt but the system is ladden with political appointees that magically make decisions – that epitomize the idiocy of government. I see all these blogs with these simple solutions when the fact of the matter is the details of the actual workings of government are ignored. These are classified as pin headed ideas of the functionally illiterate. Just because someone says this will work – and save us money and create this utopian system – it is nonsense in the current frame of government. there was a time when government was more accountable – and our politicians not so pin headed and partisan. Sad thing is no matter how we change our system of government going forward – we will have to pay for the largess and past mistakes. The answer is to have highly accountable non partisan task force to right the ship with the PAC and Partisan politics – can we rise above it? If not – there will be more crying that fighting about our future as a nation.

Posted by xit007 | Report as abusive
 

Moonhill wrote “The members of the Tea Party were elected. Therefore, they are not a “brash intrusion”.

Well said.

Posted by Pyrmaus17 | Report as abusive
 

We wouldn’t even be talking about genuine fiscal reform were it not for the Tea Party. Deficit spending would be running completely uncheck until the day the bond market turned against the Treasury and we found ourselves in the same position as Greece and Ireland. Their methods may be brash, but that is what’s needed. Time to get serious and deal with the real problem. Thank you Tea Party!

Posted by actnow | Report as abusive
 

@xit007….you either are a tea-party dude or you are falling for their schtik. There are plenty of things the government can do and do well, and healthcare is one of them. Medicare has less then half the administrative costs, on a % basis, of private health insurance plans.

One of the rights strategies along with starve the beast during this whole fiasco is to lower every ones’s confidence in government because their main goal is no government regulation for their corporate donors.

Posted by USAPragmatist | Report as abusive
 

actnow, yes you are probably right….we would be talking about the REAL short term issue….JOBS.

The free-market economy that you on the right say is NEVER wrong showed you this week the US government debt is still in high demand. Yes the deficit/debt is an issue but it is a medium/long term issue. We should be concetrating on what we slow/reverse the growth of the debt sooner and faster then anything else, getting back to full employment.

Posted by USAPragmatist | Report as abusive
 

“turning to our government for the actual running of health care is like giving the keys to your car to a 14 year old”

Medicare’s administration costs average less than 5%. Private health insurance admin costs are nearly triple that. Regardless of ineptness and bureaucracy, the right’s claim that private for-profit health insurance is more efficient than government-run healthare is a flat-out lie.

Posted by 4ngry4merican | Report as abusive
 

Why are government institutions inept or wasteful? No private corporation could be as successful or as lean as the Social Security Administration. No company could get your mail anywhere in the United States for 44 cents. My insurance company can’t handle a chipped windshield claim without 14 pages of documents; please don’t tell me that corporations are far more efficient and lacking in bureaucracy.

Claims of political cronyism seem to forget that if these services were privatized, would the private, behind-the-curtain corporate hiring practices select more competent individuals? I’m sure you’ve worked for some fabulous corporate managers who got there solely through incompetence. Privatization is not always the answer.

Why is the government viewed as a destroyer of wealth? The internet WAS created by the government (I’ll re-read Adam Smith after you look up ARPAnet). The government didn’t create the car, but did create the FEDERAL Interstate System that made it useful.

Realize how regulatory bodies are created. The government doesn’t wake up one day and say, “Gee, we should be regulating horticulturalists, because currently we don’t.” Something occurred to make regulation necessary (‘The Jungle’ sparked the Pure Food and Drug Act that led to creation of the FDA; ‘Silent Spring’ was derided by government regulators until public outrage ended DDT use and required testing of pesticides). If the SEC is so obtrusive, how could Bernie Madoff make a career out of a Ponzi scheme? Madoff was a destroyer of wealth, not the SEC prosecutors who finally imprisoned him. Please, I’d rather know my beef is e-coli free than save than come that much closer to a balanced budget.

Posted by Mike_s1 | Report as abusive
 

Actually, I’m all for better accountability of how our taxes are spent. There’s waste in every agency, particularly in the defense budget. And yes, we can rein in costs in Medicare and Medicaid while policing fraud. But this is not the mantra of the Tea Party. They are pushing a private sector ideology for things that the government should be able to do on a large scale. For example, it’s patently false that private insurers or retirement plan providers are (or can) provide a better product than the federal government at a lower cost of administration. The opposite is true. The Veteran’s Administration is one of the most efficient health care providers around. While the VA isn’t perfect, there’s a clear argument for a single-payer providing economies of scale in care and drugs. I would welcome the Tea Party’s input on ways to improve government instead of tearing it down without a viable alternative.

Posted by johnwasik | Report as abusive
 

xit007, there are always inefficiencies in large organizations, but straightening out our Federal bureaucracy is a different problem from getting folks to understand that universal healthcare would benefit all of us.

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive
 

Imagine being able to share your distortions about the “Tea Party” and the politics of debt reduction in an internationally respected news forum without a shred of acknowledgement of your own fundamental bias.

First, men with feet of clay should be careful when walking on egg shells. You can never be sure which one will break first. The Tea Party is not hostile to government. The government can only exist “of and by the people,” at least my understanding of the Constitution would suggest. The Tea Party is “of the people”. They are hostile to an entrenched special interest that they believe has taken the people hostage to their own special interests.

Congress is full of self serving special interests that have lavished upon themselves and their constituents discriminating favors. That is how they seek re-election. Government in its many Federal, State and Local guises has become the preeminent special interest.

Take a look at pensions, starting with Congress! There is a total disconnection from Service to the People and the remuneration over a lifetime to even the most ineffectual elected Congressional Official. The Democrats in particular have become dependent upon the support of their host of Governmental employees for survival. We will leave the recipients of entitlement spending for another days review. Likewise, the Republicans should abandon their no new tax pledges with a vow to reform the Byzantine Federal Income Tax Code. They too are sub servant to their own special interests. Here once again the Democrats must step forward. Acknowledge the need for entitlement reform, particularly entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Republicans must join Democrats in the effort acknowledging that means testing of the most fortunate of our citizens is an unsustainable benefit that robs our children of their future prosperity and is a crime against our youth.

The “Tea Party” stepped in and said we must stop the madness. They may be mad and maybe even a little bit crazy but certainly they are no more insane that those they seek to replace. I am neither a member nor a supporter but I do empathize with their objection of restoring some sanity to fiscal policy. That may involve spending cuts and even “tax equity” and reform of the current system. But it does not suggest that feeding the beast will ever succeed in taming its veracious appetite for dollars it has not created.

Regards

Posted by JusticeSpeaks | Report as abusive
 

Hey John,

Let’s cut to the chase and simply go the whole centralized economy route. We the People should take the wealth of anyone who has more than we do…the money, the houses, the cars, the land…everything. We should then take over the corporations, replacing their “boards” with our own “peoples’ councils” so that the companies are making what we need and any wealth that is created is given to the people as a whole…and not just some who would call themselves the owners. We should begin to assess the capabilities of our young and assign them their future roles in the new order. We will decide who will become a doctor and who become a ditch digger. We will decide who will become the ballerina and who will become the janitor. Such important decisions must not be left up to the whim of the individual. Hail the People!

Posted by ScottiesRule | Report as abusive
 

Dear Mr. Wasik,
My prior post seems to have been ignored. However I must object to your last reply. The Federal Government may deliver services from time to time better than the private sector but it is clearly the exception rather than the rule. You mention the VA and reference Social Security and Medicare in prior comments. However you neglect to mention that they are functionally bankrupt. The Social Security Trust Funds are invested in US Treasuries, providing a below market rate of return on investment. And the funds do not truly exist other than for the Treasury’s ability to print money. Their is no true investment. The government has engaged in a giant Ponzi scheme. The only aspect keeping the system from collaspe is the ability to rob proceeds from current generations to fund current receipents. This is the superior performance as measured against the private sector?

The VA has a long history of abysmal care of veterans. Recent improvements do not mask prior neglect. The key performance driver for the VA is more likely the benefit of the passing of so many WW II veterans that a much smaller segment of the population nots depends upon
their facilities. I am sure the large numbers of current service members with new and unique physical and psychological challenges may have less faith than you in the ability of the VA to provide quality service comparable to the private sector’s medical establishment.

Yes the private sector must contend with the occasional Madoff, but at least he was arrested for his crimes. Our crop of Congressmenn are generally probated to serve for re-election and will never face justice for their crimes against future generations.

Posted by JusticeSpeaks | Report as abusive
 

The TEA party had to form or the gov’t would have taken over every facet of our lives and taken every dollar to do it. Ralph Nader always says the same thing, if we deregulate then people will die. Guess what Ralph? People ARE going to die, we have not discovered a federal agency that will prevent people from dying just as we have had no luck outlawing stupidity and making it work.Take for example, the idiots who breathe and rebreathe toxic aerosols to “get high”. There are laws against it. There are restrictions on some of the favorite things “huffers” use but there are still a substantial number of idiots who will do this and die from it or become the human form of a beet or gabbage.
The TEA party offers a true deal, get the gov’t out of things it sucks at, like preventing people from breathing paint fumes, and reduce the regulations that cause such a drag on businesses.That’s the True Deal from the TEA party no matter how much doom and gloomers like Ralph Nader mutter about how people will die if we don’t regulate their every action.

Posted by cashman57 | Report as abusive
 

I like how Mike_s1 points to two federal programs that are going bankrupt to prove his point.

Posted by Incitatus1 | Report as abusive
 

I’m hostile regarding any threat against this country! Our National debt is now greater than 100% of US GDP and represents 25% of TOTAL world debt! Also, our government is now 40% of US GDP! If not now, when and why? Thank you tea party for your honesty, wisdom, courage and passion-it was needed and you were right!

Posted by DrJJJJ | Report as abusive
 

Why do so many demonize the Tea Party? Their basic message is one that we all agree on but can’t seem to implement in our own lives let alone the government. You can’t keep spending money you don’t have!
One day soon, our lenders (China) will stop buying our bonds. When that happens, we will be FORCED to reduce the federal spending. Let’s hope Washington can develop the backbone to make the cuts needed before they are forced to.
Go Tea Party!

Posted by Ernie52 | Report as abusive
 

get really tired of hearing people pretend that the lobbyist and corporate-funded astroturf Tea Party is anything other than the crazy, wingnut, racist, nativist brand that has always been the extreme right wing base of the Republican Party.

There is no comparison of Tea Party democraphics that shows them as even remotely resembling the same percentages of the American population. The Tea Party is disproportionately composed of individuals who have higher-than-average incomes, disproportionately composed of men, disproportionately composed of white people, disproportionately composed of self-identified conservatives, and disproportionately composed of self-identified Republicans.

And they are very, very sore losers.

Posted by GetpIaning | Report as abusive
 

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