Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tea Party?

I have made it a habit to refer to people and groups by the name which they prefer. However, I do reserve the right to comment on the appropriateness of the name that groups choose.

Growing up in Massachusetts, I heard the story of the Boston Tea Party when I was in school. How much of what I heard was entirely accurate, I can't say. What does seem to be true about that Tea Party is that it was a somewhat risky venture. The participants could have ended up in prison. It was also a protest against the levying of taxes on colonists who had no representatives in the Parliament.

Today's Tea Party movement shares neither of these characteristics with the Boston Tea Party. Participating in this movement carries no risk of imprisonment and the taxes which these Americans don't like were levied by their representatives. There can be no cry of "Taxation without representation is tyranny" from these tea partiers. There problem is not tyranny, but their own failure to elect to Congress enough people who agree with their agenda.

And what is that agenda? From where I sit, it appears to be simply anti-federalist. What this movement seems to want is a radical diminishing of the role of the federal government. To achieve the tax cuts that this movement appears to want, without cutting the defense budget, there would have to be major cuts in expenditures for such programs as Head Start, Medicaid, WIC, and Section 8 housing assistance. To follow the agenda that the tea patiers seem to me to advocate, might well lead to the abolition of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education.

Of course, I am an alarmist, but there are times to sound an alarm, and this may be one of them. When I worked as the Director of the Erie County Commission on Homelessness, I often heard and used the phrase, "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor." I understand that the members of the Tea Party movement are, like most of us, experiencing some difficulties during the recession. I understand how common it is for people to look for someone to blame when things aren't going well. This nation is facing some serious problems, but laying the blame on the federal government and diminishing its role in our common life isn't the solution.

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