There’s a huge article about the Tea Party movement in today’s NYTimes that’s gathering a lot of comment — more than 1,300 and counting as I write this. It’s a good read, and you can do so here (click!)
I have a two-fold reaction, one snarky, one serious.
Snarky: Why the heck are all these people violating the US Flag Code? An early picture with the story showed a guy wearing a shirt that was one giant American flag. Does he not love America?
OK Serious: What do these people want? Specifically? Very specifically?
No, seriously, I’ve asked this before regarding Sarah Palin, and I’m asking it again because I never get an answer. We know what they don’t like — pretty much everything related to national government, for starters – but what do they want to do about that?
What actions on the ground, today, do they want to see? You’re dictator for a day — what do you do to restore America?
I actually went to Sarah Palin’s web site looking for answers but all I could find in an admittedly not massively rigorous search (I DO have a life) was links to more web sites with more links, usually ending up in some opinion piece that repeated what Ms. Palin said, which was nothing specific.
Anyone can talk circles. Action means actually doing something. So far, nobody is saying what they will do beyond some amorphous “We’ll stick it to those so-and-sos!” sort of sentiment, not that far removed from the ”Up against the wall, M-F’kr!” of my own generation.
For example, this story said a lot of these Tea Party people want to do away with the Federal Reserve Bank. Fine, what’s your mechanism for doing that?
Like it or not, whether it’s in the Constitution or not, the Fed is a reality, a central part of the way the national economy works. Do away with it, and among many other things you do away with the institution that keeps your neighborhood bank from going bust at the first whiff of instability.
Ponder banking 150 years ago. Banks were all local. They were set up by local businessmen, made loans local, depended on money from local sources. They also went out of business at furious paces — The panic of 1873 was just one. And since there was no FDIC back then, and presumably the dislike of federal banking agencies extends to those, we can expect a repeat of the fallout of such a bank failure — massive runs on banks, millions of people discovering their savings are gone, and so on.
So, how do you get rid of the fed and not put yourself at risk of that again? Are you saying we should go back to the gold standard? Essentially become a barter economy again? That’s what a gold-based economy is, you know. Your ability to finance your house, let alone your lifestyle, with borrowed money will pretty much evaporate.
Tea Party people don’t want health care reform. They don’t want socialized medicine. They don’t even like Medicare which, you may recall, Ronald Reagan said would destroy all freedom.
OK, fine, get rid of them. What next? Who pays the bills — private insurance? But private insurance is in a death spiral because people who are, yes, free, are cancelling their policies as economic hard times hit. Most of those cancelling are the healthy people, taking away the money that really pays the bills for all the elderly and sick who are still using those policies.
How many times must I say this: Insurance is socialized medicine. You don’t want socialized medicine, you don’t want the system that enables you to go to the doctor at all. Like it or not, socializing risk by spreading out payment of medical bills is the underpinning of the entire medical infrastructure of this country.
And, yes, if you do away with federal health care such as Medicare, that includes federal health insurance for federal employees. Why should my taxes pay your medical bills? You need that heart valve replacement, start saving up, my friend.
And, of course, all these people who hate Medicare are going to burn their Medicare cards this week, right? Yeah, sure.
But you see, that’s my problem with all this: Nobody says what it means, how it will be implemented, what it will look like on the ground. It’s as if they have some weird vision of America as it looked like in 1950s sit-coms on TV, and they want that back again.
But they won’t say how that’s going to happen.
It is telling that, at the end of that very long Times story, a woman is kind of asking that very thing. Where can she take the revolution next, she asks. She’s signed her on-line petitions, she’s sent money to this person or that, she’s got Glenn Beck programmed into her TiVo . What else can she do? “Who will lead us,” she wails.
This screaming lack of an answer will, in the not-too-long-run, mean the death of this little party. As at every party, eventually, someone says “OK now what?” and if you don’t have an answer, party’s over.
Either that or they will find a leader, someone willing to spout simplistic platitudes against all the things they hate, promise them sunshine and light, and then get put into power and really play dictator for a day.
That’s what these folk really want — someone to do it for them. They don’t want to do the hard work of actual governing and they don’t want to hear that their anger is misguided.
They just want. Want what? I have no clue and, I suspect, neither do they.