THE GREAT TEA PARTY FRAUD
By Carl Boggs
One of the most pathetic charades on the American scene is the shameless media reverence extended to Tea Party crusaders ostensibly dedicated to libertarian values, free markets, and interests of the “little guy”(in Sarah Palin’s oft-repeated parlance). About Palin, Rep. Michele Bachman, Senators Jim DeMint and Rand Paul, the dozens of newly-elected House wingers, and their followers, we are sold narratives of angry “outsiders” storming the bastions of power, ready to transform the Beltway. A quick reality-check, however, reveals a movement shrouded in remarkable deceit and hypocrisy, its partisans lock-step behind every authoritarian power structure within reach: Wall Street, corporate giants, the warfare state, an army of well-funded lobbies, U.S. imperial power, a litany of foreign dictators propped up by Washington.
While Tea Party-backed Senatorial candidates like Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Jim Miller were defeated in the 2010 midterm elections, the Republican House takeover was fueled by this rebellious outburst of freedom-loving “populists” taking on the diabolical centers of power and ready to scuttle business-as-usual. DeMint announced that “Tea-Party Republicans were elected to go to Washington to save the country, not be coopted by the club.” Purported champions of small government, lower taxes, and deficit reduction, these nouveau conservatives targeted President Obama for delivering the country to “socialism” or some nightmarish equivalent. The Tea Party Express, founded by longtime Republican hacks Sal Russo and Howard Kaloogian, organized dozens of cross-country bus convoys and town meetings for rightwing candidates organizing to clear out the hornet’s nest of demonic tax-and-spend liberals.
But this insurgency was fraudulent from the very outset, its real interests and goals simply camouflaged by fancy campaign rhetoric. “Outsider” victories were more than anything a blessing for Big Corporations, Big Banking, Big Military, Big Lobbies, and, yes, Big Government with its Big Deficits, cloaked in platitudes about subverting the “establishment” dominated by university-educated elites. In what became the most profligate midterm election in history, with donors facing no campaign limits, plutocratic forces gained new headway. The Tea Party got most of its funding from such “populist” sources as the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, and Americans for Prosperity – the latter mostly funded by the multibillionaire Koch brothers, desperate to keep their energy and chemical empire away from the tyrannical clutches of federal regulations.
The Tea Partiers agonize over government stifling of (nonexistent) free markets and trampling of the popular will. When it comes to deficit-spending for the Pentagon, hundreds of military bases, wars and foreign occupations, the massive intelligence complex, and the largest prison system in the world, however, the Palins, Bachmans, and DeMints turn steadfastly silent. For them, no weapons system, no military deployment, no space venture, and no war is too ambitious or expensive. A military budget reaching $800 billion when Bush left office in 2009 (now one trillion) that exceeds what the rest of the world spends combined? No problem? New Pentagon allocatons? Ditto. Spend $85 billion yearly on the NSA, CIA, and scattered other intelligence agencies? Vital to “national security”. Public debates over such tax-and-spend, deficit-creating operations? That would be unpatriotic, maybe treasonous.
What troubles the Tea Party is something entirely different – social programs and corporate regulations they see turning the U.S. into Stalinist totalitarianism. So long as Bush stuck to building up the warfare state, there would be no outrage over big government, federal debt, and soaring deficits. To renew freedom and take America back for the “little guy”, the first priority must be to dismantle social security, junk medicare, and jettison unemployment insurance – and, if possible (as Angle and Miller urged) eliminate the wasteful Departments of Energy and Education. In Bachman’s twisted world, such moves would revive the “torch of liberty”. What emerges from this mendacity and hypocrisy is the bizarre specter of a tiny group of super-wealthy elites and their propagandists getting ordinary white voters to support tax breaks for the rich, better opportunities for Wall Street and big corporations to rob the public, and drastic cuts in social services and public infrastructure. This passes for the new populism.
Tea-Partiers love freedom so much they want nothing more than to liberate giant energy companies, like those of the Koch brothers, from having to worry about the environment or global warming. In fact Big Oil is so in need of a free hand that, while passionately hated, the government is lobbied to earmark tens of billions of taxpayers’ subsidies for such giants as ExxonMobil, which netted only $21 billion in profits for three quarters of 2010.
The great libertarian campaign for freedom and democracy came up decidedly short, however, when faced with popular uprisings against Mubarak’s brutal dictatorship in Egypt. On one especially virulent winger site, Kristinn Taylor and Andrea Shea King are taken with the idea that millions of pro-democracy protesters – who they know to be allies of the evil Hamas and kindred “terrorists” – were inspired, possibly manipulated, by Code Pink as some of its leaders visited Cairo just two days before the outbreak. The aim of this subversively pacifist group was nothing other than to tear down the “main bulwark against Islamic radicals”. It’s easy to see how the “torch of liberty” can be forgotten when it conflicts with U.S. global interests.
Palin, Bachman, Russo, the Koch brothers, and their false apostles of small government love to resurrect the legacy of Ronald Reagan, that ultimate enemy of bureaucracy and big spending. The problem is that the Gipper (like the two Bushes after him) kept setting new records for escalating federal budgets, state growth, and federal deficits, having increased taxes no less than eleven times as President. Reagan’s “legacy” is shrouded in myth and deceit, but then no lie is to big or outlandish for these counterfeit populists. While screaming about big government, Reagan and the Republicans elevated spending by 40 percent from $678 billion in 1981 to nearly $1.2 trillion in 1989. Neither Reagan nor the two Bushes – nor later Tea Partiers – ever seemed troubled by the orgy of federal monies spent on the Pentagon, Star Wars, prisons, law enforcement, intelligence, and the failed war on drugs. Nor were tears shed over the hundreds of billions in Reagan bailouts to save the predatory and corrupt Savings and Loan industry.
When Republicans controlled the Presidency and Congress from 2001 to 2006, with celebrated “free marketers” in control, the federal budget grew more than ten percent, thanks to the always-insatiable Pentagon, imperial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the “war on terror”. Bush’s military budget for 2009 reached a staggering $800 billion (one trillion including veterans’ benefits), from $358 billion when “big-spending” Clinton left the White House. As for Iraq, economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes recently wrote that their previous (2008) estimate of a three-trillion dollar price tag was much too conservative. Under Bush, the national debt soared to a record $11 trillion without a murmur of dissent from the wingers, then or now. It was Bush, moreover, who engineered the first $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, not Obama, though none of these patriotic free marketers ever called Bush a “Communist.”
In reality the Tea Party, like its rightwing precursors, favors a gargantuan state apparatus so long as it serves their drive toward an endless accumulation of power and wealth. Surely any future Tea Party system of rule would look quite the opposite of their mendacious proclamations, more like a gang of corporate predators, media shills, and ultramilitarists running an authoritarian state with the fewest possible restraints. It would carry forward the wondrous global pursuits of a truly exceptional and noble nation, bolstered by a full-spectrum security apparatus and monolithic culture steeped in Christian “family values.” Social programs would be gutted as a drain on the ever-burdened government budget, a recycling of “shock therapy.” For many this will appear like a streamlined and updated version of Mussolini’s corporate state, which too was marketed as a tribute to the popolini (little people, or Palin’s “little guys”), the church, the virtues of patriotism, and of course a powerful military.