Matt Taibbi piece in RS on the tea bagger movement almost had me feeling sorry for them. But they are too malicious to have too deep sympathies for. There is that old wisdom that you reap what you sow. How corporate interests and Republican insiders built the Tea Party monster
A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.
After Palin wraps up, I race to the parking lot in search of departing Medicare-motor-scooter conservatives. I come upon an elderly couple, Janice and David Wheelock, who are fairly itching to share their views.
Related Get your dose of political muckraking from Matt Taibbi on the Taibblog.
“I’m anti-spending and anti-government,” crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. “The welfare state is out of control.”
“OK,” I say. “And what do you do for a living?”
“Me?” he says proudly. “Oh, I’m a property appraiser. Have been my whole life.”
I frown. “Are either of you on Medicare?”
Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!
“Let me get this straight,” I say to David. “You’ve been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?”
Like this blog’s readers I know people like Janice and David. This is where that small nugget of truth comes in that the tea baggers are just regular folks. They’re sometimes regular folks who do not have a clue. They see no hypocrisy at all in their not just collecting some kind of government aid but being against it for other people – them over there – they’re the ones who shouldn’t be getting government benefits – I being old and white deserve them. Taibbi is not mining any new finds here. Back at the height of the town hall health-care reform shout downs the tea nuts were holding up signs about the government keeping their hands off their Medicare and Medicaid. It is as though many of them think these programs, either they or their relatives depend on to survive, are like dust sprinkled by fairies in the night.
Joining them in the fight was another group, Americans for Prosperity, which was funded in part by the billionaire David Koch, whose Koch Industries is the second-largest privately held company in America. In addition to dealing in plastics, chemicals and petroleum, Koch has direct interests in commodities trading and financial services. He also has a major stake in pushing for deregulation, as his companies have been fined multiple times by the government, including a 1999 case in which Koch Industries was held to have stolen oil from federal lands, lying about oil purchases some 24,000 times.
So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy. Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob, a federation of distinct and often competing strains of conservatism that have been unable to coalesce around a leader of their own choosing.
Here agin there is a grain of truth in some tea bagger claims they are against corrupt corporate America, but ultimately most of the tea baggers and tea party leadership are just water carriers for the same old corporate interests. Democrats carry their share of water for corporatism too, but at least they made some attempt to reign in the excesses. Tea baggers and Republicans in Congress were perfectly in sync in calling the financial reform that did pass another attack on the perfection that is unregulated capitalism. A capitalism that has never been completely free of regulation and does not work without. The median income tea baggers seem to be the willing tools of FreedomWorks, Metlife, the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity and other special interests. Special interests who in no way reciprocate by looking out for the common good of the tea baggers.
Taibbi’s article reminded me of some of the classic articles done on the tea nut movement. These articles are not the last word on the subject, but a good place to start on understanding the tea nuts: Jacob Weisberg’s The Tea Party movement has two defining traits: status anxiety and anarchism.
Ron Rosenbaum’s The Tea Party’s Toxic Take on History
Ron Chernow’s The Founding Fathers Versus the Tea Party
This is not just about Palin. It includes a lot of the disinformation spread by the tea baggers, Fact check: Palin’s claims in Tea Party speech debunked
Jon Perr’s 10 Lessons for Tea Baggers. This list includes some of the most basic and easy to verify facts which the tea nuts just can’t seem to wrap their minds around.
Congress is poised to cut food stamps, taking away an extended benefit created by the 2009 stimulus before its original expiry date and setting up an unprecedented “cliff” in food stamps, now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. To demonstrate how hurtful this might prove, hunger advocate Joel Berg recently spent a week eating according to the SNAP budget.
“I had done it in 2007, as well,” he said. “This time, it was much harder, because the price of food has increased more than the benefit has increased. Last time, for instance, I ate an apple a day, along with other food. This time, I couldn’t afford a single piece of fruit.”
Berg is the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, which represents New York’s 1,200 nonprofit soup kitchens and food pantries and its 1.4 million residents that cannot afford enough food.
Almost as sure as the Law of Gravity a conservative will chime in on the comments section with an anecdotal story of seeing someone buying champagne, sirloin steak and a bag of candy with their food stamps. And dammit people need to learn to take care of themselves. Remember your spam e-mail after 9-11 ans all those fake charities that tried to scam people. An unfortunate aspect of human nature is anything that a human can exploit or abuse there are always a few people that will. That is not a good excuse for condemning programs that are successful like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance ( food stamps). I could write all day about just the corporate abuses I have seen which have cheated employees of better wages and investors of return on their dollar. Does that mean we should end capitalism? Of course not. Wall St just robbed the United States of $3 trillion dollars in wealth. By the reasoning of the penny pinching conservatives and their guilty by anecdote rule of law, we should shut down Wall St.
So, I’m hearing on the internets that liberals had better disavow Grayson’s Taliban ad or risk being seen as hypocrites when we complain about the other side doing it. All I can say is, “Oh dear, not that.” (And I have never been much for the bi-annual “disavowal ritual” in general. You can look it up.)
Ever since Jesse Helms ran this ad and Daddy Bush ran this one I’ve haven’t given the moral dimension of attack ads much thought at all. They are part of American politics and you can rail against them all you want, but they aren’t going anywhere. Fretting about such things is the province of very upright, highly moral liberals who believe that it is better to lose than to run ads which sink to the other side’s level. I guess I just don’t think ads are more important than keeping corporate sponsored theocrats from being in positions of power, so we will have to agree to disagree.
At this point in the United States it is permissible for Republicans to attack Democrats as treasonous, Godless/Muslim socialists and compare them to Hitler and Stalin but Democrats are only allowed to attack Republicans for their differences in policy.
I ditto what Digby said and would add this political attack ad by chicken-hawk scumbag Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) on veteran Max Cleland. Chambliss compared Cleland to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. After a few million conservatives condemn the thousands of scurrilous attack ads that they have aired against Democrats, I’ll consider getting worked up over Grayson’s attack on Webster, an authoritarian theocrat who has never supported the basic tenets of the Constitution.