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The Teabaggers' Lament
How the bogeymen let them down

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
April 15, 2010

The teabaggers had their big march today, and Faux News trumpeted that “thousands” of teabaggers descended on Washington DC to throw fear into the hearts of...well, non-teabaggers. Given Faux's track record on the crowd estimates of such gatherings, it's safe to assume the turnout was in the high hundreds. Maybe 1,500.

The teabaggers were beset with drama, as such groups often are. Fox News executives, described as “furious” by an amused Media Matters, knuckled under to pressure to at least pretend to have journalistic integrity, and not have Sean Hannity star in fundraising events even as he supposedly reported on them.

The teabaggers themselves were making a determined effort to keep the nasties and the zanies out of the range of cameras. They could probably survive nit wits dressed up in pseudo-revolutionary era costumes, but public amusement erodes rapidly when such participants are carrying signs showing Obama with a bone through his nose and the slogan “Go back to Africa”. The teabaggers belatedly realized, in the wake of the crowd shouting racist and homophobic slurs at Congressional reps, that it was a public relations disaster.

To this end, Orly Taitz was disinvited from a teabag rally. The woman not only SOUNDS nuts, but has a permanently demented expression on her face which leads a lot of people to glance at her and look quickly away, resolving not to let her make eye contact.

Another champion of the Teabag movement has fallen on a downhill trajectory. Glenn Beck has seen his viewership plunge from a peak of 3.5 million in January to about two million now.

Russo Marsh + Rogers, the GOP consulting firm that launched the Tea Party as part of its “America Deserves Better” PAC, was dismayed to note that quite a few of the teabaggers were subscribing to the notion that only people who didn't deserve better were voting Republican. They seem to be losing control of the peasants with pitchforks that they envisioned driving Obama out of Washington, and presumably, back to Kenya.

Still, in an effort to make themselves look like a legitimate political force, the teabaggers decided to canvass their members and find out what the top ten things they wanted to change in Washington might be.

The results showed a singular lack of awareness of what was going on in the country, and a really destructive “remedy” for a lot of problems, some of which don't even exist.

Faux News was happy to provide the list. Here they are, with a few modest annotations by yours truly

(1) Require each bill to identify its constitutional authorization.

This sounds good on the face of it. In fact, the founders, Jefferson in particular, played with the idea. Jefferson felt that it might be a good idea to have the courts vet every law passed by Congress before it was put into effect. It was decided to let the laws be enacted, and have the courts analyze the laws in a more reflexive mode, and the SC, using original jurisdiction, took that role.

But the trouble is the Constitution doesn't authorize ANY laws. Or rather, it authorizes all laws, and the courts come along afterward and sort out which laws ever impede the rights of the people, the states, or separation of powers.

So a legislator could draft a bill, and under “constitutional authorization”, write “because the constitution thinks puppy dogs are cute and icecream is yummy!” and as far as constitutional authorization goes, it would be perfectly valid.

So it's pretty much pointless.

(2) Defund, repeal, and replace government-run health care.

Since the HCR doesn't have “government-run health care”, that means they must be planning to defund, repeal, and replace Medicare, MedicAid, the VA, and Congressional health benefits. Since most of the teabaggers are middle-aged or beyond, and a lot are vets, I wonder how many realize they would be shafting themselves whilst leaving Obama's non-governmental health care reform utterly untouched?

(3) Demand a balanced budget.

Conservatives and right wingers have no idea what a joke they make of themselves when they demand this one. Nearly 90% of the national debt was piled up under Republican administrations. The only two presidents to have balanced budgets since 1960 are Johnson and Clinton—both Democrats.

Balancing the budget during a steep recession would wreck the economy. There actually is a concept in budgetary surpluses or deficits that would make sense, even to a teabagger. Budgets should be run on a “saving for a rainy day” basis. When times are good, run balanced budgets, and better still, surpluses. Then times turn bad...well, that's the rainy day that you were saving for.

Not only CAN government spend its way out of a recession, but it MUST.

(4) End runaway government spending by imposing a statutory cap limiting growth in federal spending.

I'm always amazed at right wingers who complain that government is unresponsive and unwieldy (which it often is), but whose response is to put ever more things on auto-pilot. Zero tolerance. Mandatory sentencing. Here in California, we have a law: if a cop's radar shows you three over the speed limit, he is required by law to chase you down and ticket you. Cops hate it almost as much as motorists.

Nobody argues that government needs to be responsive and flexible. But you don't get there by making it less responsive and flexible. One-size-fits-all approaches in budgeting are a recipe for disaster.

(5) Enact fundamental reform to simplify and lower taxes.

Anyone who supports this who makes less than $80K a year (and that would be about 75% of the population) is an utter fool. For lower middle class and working poor, the federal tax bite is already the lowest in the western world. The “lower taxes” are for the undeserving rich, and the tax burden will shift toward the poor, one way or another.

Most teabaggers aren't rich. That means they fall in the other category.

(6)Create a Blue Ribbon task force that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs.

Great. Another task force to do what at least 75 other task forces are doing. Sounds like a good recipe for throwing good money after bad.

(7) Reject cap-and-trade.

I actually agree with this one, although I doubt many teabaggers would like my reasoning. I feel it gives “dirty” companies a license to pollute. They feel it's a tax, one that should be shouldered by the people sickened by the pollution, rather than the polluters.

(8) Pass an “all of the above” energy policy.

As soon as I figure out what this means, I'll let you know what I think about it.

(9) Stop the 2011 tax hikes.

That would be ending the immense tax cuts for the wealthy the Bush pushed through in the wake of 9/11. The best way to respond to a horrible attack is to hand the national treasury over to the rich, you see. And now that they are even richer, they deserve a free ride. See my objections to provision #5. Same obtains here.

10. Stop the pork.

“Pork” is best defined as “government spending on the OTHER guy”. It might be amusing to pass out lists of “pork” by Congressional District to teabaggers in those districts, and watch the expressions on their faces change.

Some pork is wasteful and stupid, and it should be stopped. But just because I don't benefit from highway construction in Oklahoma doesn't mean it's pork. The only valid question to determine pork is “is it a waste of money?” And “waste” isn't defined as “benefiting someone other than me.”

So there you have it. Incoherence squared, inchoate shouts against bogeymen, some of which don't even exist.

And that is the Teabagger movement in a nutshell.

Posted: April 26, 2010

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