Thom,

Maybe you can help me out. As I understand it the Tea Party movement is figuratively, and in some cases literally, up in arms over high taxes, large deficits and government breaks given to large corporations. I can understand all of these concerns. What I don’t understand is how these same people are overwhelmingly (87%) republican.

Consider that Ronald Reagan, one of the Tea Party patron saints, not once submitted a balanced budget and nearly tripled the national debt during his eight years in office. As Dick Chaney reminded us during the Bush years, “Reagan showed us that deficits don’t matter.” Well, they obviously didn’t matter much to Reagan. This is the same “populist” who earned his political stripes as a pitchman for General Electric, was an unwavering cheerleader for big business, kept a portrait of Calvin Coolidge (“The business of America is business.”) in the Oval Office, and riddled his administration with corporate lobbyists and CEOs.

Fast forward to George W. Bush. Bush was yet another big business republican who turned his administration over to corporate America from his very first days in office. One of the first accomplishments of the administration was, in fact, a Dick Chaney energy policy of, by and for giant American oil and energy companies and crammed with taxpayer funded corporate perks and subsidies. Perfecting the example set during the Reagan years, Bush also put corporate executives and their lobbyists in control of virtually every federal agency and “regulatory” body. Timber and mining lobbyists (e.g., Gail Norton & Mark Rey) took over the supervision of our public lands and forests, former coal company CEOs were now charged with mine safety regulation, Haliburton executives controlled oil platform safety oversight (MMS), and perhaps worst of all, anti-regulatory regulators and Republican Party stalwarts, such as Chris Cox (SEC), became our financial sector “watch dogs.” In the Bush years at least, government really was the problem – not the solution.

Bush also inherited budget surpluses that were projected as “generational.” Yet, after eight years in power he left the country facing the most serious financial crisis since the great depression and with unprecedented and soaring deficits. It is unarguable that the energy companies and the upper one percent (also known as the “have mores”) of the country fared exceptionally well during the Bush years. The rest of the country, however, clearly did not. Despite the wishful thinking by some Republicans that the country was merely whining over a “psychological” recession, the financial mess left to the new administration was truly frightening.

In the year and a half since the Obama administration took charge, the inherited financial crisis does appear to have stepped back from the brink. My taxes haven’t gone up and recent data indicate that the overall federal tax rate is the lowest it’s been for 60 years. How well the new administration does in the longer run remains to be seen and I’ll not attempt to defend it here. It really is too early to say. Giving the country back to the party that largely brought us to our current woes seems preposterous, however. Attempting to paint the party of Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Reagan and the Bushes as somehow “populist” is even more absurd.

Where were these Tea Party patriots when we really needed them – working to elect more republicans? Maybe the Tea Party movement should be protesting itself.

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