Tea Parties: A First Step to What?

I have not been part of the “Tea Party” movement that has emerged this year.  I don’t feel like that movement provides the basis for a way forward in governing this country until it comes to grips with its recent past; namely, its nonexistent or muted protests to the fiscal policies of the Bush administration when taxes were cut ahead of any concrete plans for spending reductions to maintain budget balance.  As I quoted in the spring, referring to the passage of Medicare Part D in 2003, “Where were the Medicare tea parties?

Finally, this weekend, we had protests in Washington against the expansion of government participation in health care markets.  As I have argued, we should more plainly describe the so-called “public option” as a buy-in to Medicare for all.  And it would be ridiculous for people who envision a smaller government than we currently have to think that the so-called public option is anything other than the first step toward a new health care entitlement.  There is just too clear a history of growth in entitlement programs after their inception and to little specificity in the President’s speech about reforms like the risk adjustment mechanism for exchange-participating plans that are essential to preventing the public option from being the only option once it is established.  If that is the motivation for the protests, then count me in.  That the train is six years late in leaving the station is no reason not to get on board now that it is heading in the right direction.  Health care reform ought to be proceeding at a more deliberate pace with a better case being made by its proponents.

But that train is not likely to carry the Republicans back to office for the long term.  It only stops the other side from making things worse.  It does nothing to build the foundations of good governance beyond the first election where it may be exhibited next year.  Andrew Sullivan says it very well in response to his “Dissent of the Day” post:

Sure, Obama isn’t ideal. I’d like a carbon tax rather than cap and trade, drastic 1986-style tax reform, and an end to the government subsidizing employer-based insurance plans. I’d also like marriage equality in every state and a flat tax and an immediate end to the military’s gay ban. But unlike so many of these tea-partiers, I also realize that in real politics, you have to construct a solid coalition for all this and make arguments for it consistently (as Reagan did for decades) and have some credibility. But the GOP has been doing he opposite, fighting wars – cultural and military – instead of attending to basic fiscal responsibility and limited government. You cannot just pivot on a dime without some accounting of the recent past. Well, you can, but you look so partisan and so two-faced you’ll only persuade people by ratcheting up fear and hysteria to drown out the actual issues.

His whole post is worth a read.  See also this post from Diane Lim Rogers at EconomistMom, “What Exactly Are They Protesting?

About Andrew Samwick 89 Articles

Affiliation: Dartmouth College

Andrew Samwick is a professor of economics and Director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

He is most widely known for his work on the economics of retirement, and his scholarly work has covered a range of topics, including pensions, saving, taxation, portfolio choice, and executive compensation.

In July 2003, Samwick joined the staff of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, serving for a year as its chief economist and helping to direct the work of about 20 economists in support of the three Presidential appointees on the Council.

Visit: Andrew Samwick's Page

2 Comments on Tea Parties: A First Step to What?

  1. Duh – it’s called PUSHBACK against the proposed agenda.

    It is completely legitimate for citizens to stand up for themselves in an attempt to stop what they don’t want imposed on them. Such uprising does not obligate them to propose something different.

  2. blah blah everyone is confused……a first step to what? saying enough is enough …..what they are protesting really doesn’t matter ….in one way or another most protestors have had enough…..they have been mind fuked by corporate marketing and lobbyists infiltrating the congressmen’s pens…..the revoling door between big gov’t and big finance (big industry of any kind really) has slapt them on the face so many times they are dizzy and all they know is they “no likey” ….Main stream media is stepping up their perception management and they gotta be in a tizzy that the internet is showing all these less flattering perspectives of the way things are headed in this country…

    This country is on the road to ruin and just because the wheels have not come off the last few times we went off the rails people just think they will go back on…..look positive thinking works…especially when you believe it…but at some point action’s have to back up these beliefs….and guess what the household expansion of debt/ leveraging that allowed us to recover from the last recession is not going to reflate to get us out of this one…..this one is massive…..the gov’t is trying to pick up the slack but there is only so much spending they can do w/o flipping the bond market over (even with manipulation of interest rates thru interest rate derivatives)..the swine flu stands out as a very special opportunity to “not let a good crisis OPPORTUNTIY go to waste” when you still have the ability of the sheeple under your media control and thus can divert blame for future failed policy’s toward some SWINE FLU fear mongering….that co-incidentally will require the same invasions of freedoms that a economy with much lower standard of living will. Watch the fear mongering take off ….”we were headed for a recovery…but …the swine flu hit” divert anger from politico’s….big industry greed which has unjust influence over washington at the plight of the little guy who is basically the gimp being bent over in a giant pass around gang bang where they skim a bit more of his disposable income off the top…fortunately the consumer is about tapped out …..the debt overhang (and political inability to allow bad debts to be written off) STOPS the leg which has been kicking the can down the road for the last 3 decades….

    choice one …one last kick and with it you take the bond market and u.s dollar very destabalizing……….because gov’t is the only entity that can add enough debt now to get a “meaningful recovery” however it will be of poor quality

    choice two ….allow the media to go into full fledged fear mongering (of swine flu) use this as a means to divert blame from failed/unsustainable gov’t policy /industry policy….then tighten the noose of privacy and freedom in the name of keeping people “safe” from swine flu….b/c the standard of living in the USA is going down and the amount of freedoms need to be curtailed to maintain control….

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