It’s unlikely to happen, but I think the folks gathering in Silverthorne Saturday for a “let’s get rowdy tea party” should kick things off by watching a replay of President Obama’s health care speech Wednesday night. Unless they believe what the thuggish Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) yelled at the president during his speech (“You lie!”), they might be encouraged to hear our head of state pointedly allaying fears about many of the things tea-party types are worried about.
No, Obama stated, health care reform won’t increase the deficit, strip grandma of her right to care or offer free health care to illegal immigrants. If the tone is similar to other such tea parties and town halls, though, no amount of presidential reassurance may prove adequate. Looking at the flyer and press release regarding Saturday’s event, I’m not even sure what facts one would present to tell the Obama administration one is “tired of taxes, sick of spending, beleaguered by the borrowing and repulsed by the rushed-through liberal legislation.”
Federal income taxes under Obama, for example, will not be raised – unless you’re fortunate enough to have a family income above $250,000. And while no one loves paying taxes, surely tea-party goers understand things like roads, schools and, yes, armies are funded by taxes (at least I hope they do).
“Spending” is a broad term, but if we’re meant to protest the $651 billion military budget and the wasteful subsidies to big business, I’m there. If, however, “spending” is code for “let’s not help anyone under 65 with health coverage,” well, that’s a message that says “I’ve got mine, to hell with the rest of you.” Not a fun party.
As for borrowing (as a synonym for federal debt), it’d be hard to find anyone happy with where we’re at now. Having the federal deficit at 40 percent of GDP and rising is clearly not good news, but it’s not the end of the world, either. At the end of World War II, for example, federal debt hit 109 percent of GDP and was near 50 percent at the end of the Reagan years. It’s hard to say yet whether the stimulus money that’s helping fuel this debt is paying dividends, but with the economy at least coming out of free fall and the recession nearing an end, one interpretation could be that the administration’s investment (and incurring of debt) may prove prescient in the long run. And as we know, the current federal debt situation is, in large part, a hangover from the previous administration.
I have to laugh when I hear people complaining about “rushed-through” legislation. Again, this sounds like code for “we don’t want health-care reform if it’s the Democrats’ idea,” but it ignores the fact that the drive to fix America’s hopelessly messed-up way of paying for health care has been in the works for decades. The president and many people believe we can wait no longer to fix this stinking mess, and that dragging it out any further will kill any hope of meaningful reform. Far from being “repulsed,” I’m encouraged that our heretofore do-nothing Congress is actually moving on something – the only bummer being the GOP and the so-called Blue Dog Democrats are doing everything they can to water it down.
Our local tea party-goers say they chose Sept. 12 because it was a national day of unity after Sept. 11, 2001. Not a bad idea: What this country needs now is a bit more unity to tackle our problems instead of stonewalling and refusing to even come to the table – the GOP’s current modus operandi. But if a “tea party” is aimed at nothing more than reiterating “Obama’s the devil” talking points from the cable-TV circus, what’s the point?
When the colonists dumped their tea in Boston Harbor in 1773, it was due mostly to anger over being taxed from afar without representation – and it led to reform through violent revolution. It’s hard to say what today’s tea party-goers are really angry about – is it that the world is changing and they don’t like it? For me, the level of anger at a president trying so hard to fix the economy and improve health care for Americans is misdirected. I applaud Obama’s efforts and am angry at the politicians trying to undermine them for purely political reasons. I’m angry at the way lobbyists and big business call the shots in Washington, and how improperly regulated insurance and financial industries have turned this country upside-down.
So sure, have your tea party and feel free to criticize the manner in which things are being done. Just don’t tell the mechanic to stop working on the car as it sits smoking on the side of the road.