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So it is said that if you know others and you know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but you know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do now know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

Sun Tzu
The Art of War
Chapter Three

Dear Progressives,

The TEA Party faction is not going away. In fact, they seem to be co-opting the Mainstream Republican Party. This is the new opposition. We have to understand how they operate and where they are coming from.

The public face of the Tea Party movement is people like this:

Another moran

(Yes, he meant "dissent.")

For more, the Huffington Post has the ten most offensive signs that the Tea Partiers have cooked up.

The real driving force behind this movement, as Rachel Maddow has pointed out repeatedly, is an outfit called Freedom Works. Freedom Works has been around since 1984 and is chaired by Dick Armey. The connection is pretty obvious when one checks out the "About us" page of Tea Party Patriots. And yes, Red State is still listed there as well.

So let's take a look at the ideas being floated on Tea Party Patriots, the supposed grassroots face of this movement. The tea partiers are currently working on their list of issues. The WingNuts are in the process of submitting their ideas for inclusion on a Contract From America. If you want to do any trolling, hurry up as this is the last day to contribute to the nation's collective idiocy.

Here are some of their top rated "ideas." Note that these people don't offer much in the way of substance for their policy positions, so I need to extrapolate somewhat on some of my responses.

Implement the fair tax

The fair tax would repeal all personal and corporate taxes and replace them with a national sales tax. Fact Check looked into the issue in 2007 when Mick Huckabee, Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter floated the idea. They found that the proposal is not fair and any economic benefits depend a lot on rosy assumptions about corporate behavior:

Get rid of corporate and social security taxes, Boortz argues, and consumer good prices would drop by 22 percent. Even with the 23 percent FairTax, prices stay the same, and with the elimination of income taxes, paychecks will get bigger. Everyone gets a raise and the federal government still gets its revenue. About 10 percent of the e-mail messages we received from FairTax proponents trumpeted this kind of magic act.


A bit of critical analysis shows that this cannot be right. The FairTax is revenue-neutral. That means that for every tax dollar collected under the current system, the FairTax has to collect a dollar. If the FairTax exactly equaled embedded taxes, then it could not possibly be revenue-neutral, since embedded taxes do not take into account personal income or estate taxes.

In short, fair tax proponents assume that companies will give everyone a raise an lower prices if corporate taxes are repealed. Then the federal government will have plenty of money as Americans buy more stuff that carries a sales tax of upwards of 34 percent on top of state and local taxes.

Need I say more. Moving on...

Legislation shall contain no unrelated ammendments

It's tough to argue against this on theoretical grounds. It certainly makes sense that all amendments should be germane. Practically speaking, though, this would either mean the end of the omnibus or even greater abuse of it. Both sides are guilty of inserting unrelated provisions into must pass bills. This insulates members from criticism since they can say that the bill had to pass in spite of some less than acceptable amendments.

On the other hand, Congress could routinely pass omnibus legislation, which is by definition a bill full of unrelated provisions. These would likely typically pass as they would contain enough sweeteners to assure passage. Perhaps we could just do a single omnibus for the entire legislative session and then no one would know what really passed.

Perhaps they should re-think this one.

Congressional Term Limits

The professionalization of Congress has been a mixed blessing. Members are very familiar with procedures and how to get things done -- namely bring federal money to their states and districts. On the other hand, long-time members can become more interested in Washington-based special interests/lobbyists and less than the people back home. This only adds to the perception of a culture of corruption.  

Congressional term limits will not address these problems. The surest path to Washington is to run as an outsider. Certainly, these newbies start out as populists... for about ten minutes. Who better for lobbyists to target than the new guy/girl who has a depleted war chest and few firm ideas about the subtle nuances of policy? In addition, term limits destroy institutional memory. It would be like the Congressional equivalent of reinventing the wheel every two years. Finally, term limits can ruin representation. If a member enters office as a lame duck, there is no motivation to be a good legislator because that member does not need to stand for reelection.

Abolish the Department of Education

Note: They also want to abolish the Department of Energy and repeal the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act.

For FY 2009, the Department of Education had a budget of $45.4 billion, or less than two percent of the budget. The CBO estimates that the federal deficit for the first quarter of FY 2010 will be $390 billion. Therefore, axing the federal government's role in education would be negligible in reducing federal spending.

More fundamentally, the right wing believes that education standards should be as local as possible. Now algebra is not fundamentally different in rural Wyoming and New York City. That is not the issue.

The positive spin is that, once freed of onerous federal regulations, states and school districts can establish their own curricula and see what works. With tens of thousands of districts, surely some will produce innovations in teaching. The problem is that this only works if those ideas are both shared and adopted. Local parochialism can be a huge impediment as one district is reluctant to do something different even if it has been proven effective.

Moreover, there are some subjects that are controversial that should not be. For example, the understanding of the causes of the American Civil War is decidedly different in South Carolina and Pennsylvania. However, the big one is evolution. Federal standards would mean that Kansas might not be allowed to mention creationism. On the flip side, a far right president might outlaw teaching evolution.

Regardless, this not what the Department of Education is all about and they are not interested in establishing national curricula. In fact, they agree that local control of education is a good idea and point out that the bulk of federal spending for K-12 education is in the form of Title I reading grants for schools with economically disadvantaged students and to support educational programing for disabled students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The No Child Left Behind Act set national standards for achievement, but it is still up to the states and districts to meet those standards.

Another of the Department of Education's services is college grants and loans that help low-income students go to college. Cutting these services would mean that students would be saddled with even more private debt on graduation day and they would be even more beholden to the banks. This is not good policy for improving the overall intelligence of the country.

That's the top four "ideas" that the tea party brigade have. Some others include:

An Official Language of the United States

Because it would be terrible if Americans learned different languages. This of course targets Latinos and would freeze a large minority out of meaningful civic participation. And yes, this is a subtle form of racism.

Drill Here, Drill Now

Drill everywhere! Look. There simply is not enough oil in the United States to meet our demand. We need to reduce our oil dependence and thus the need for more oil rigs that destroy the environment.

No lifetime salary or benefits for Congress

Who exactly are these people going to find to represent them, anyway?

cite Constitutional authority for creating laws

The Necessary and Proper Clause. Done.

Federal Spending Limitations - Budget Cap

Then stop opposing the President's plans to reign in spending.

2nd Amendment Rights

First, the Democrats have laid off gun control. Second, we need to allow for local conditions. If you want local control over everything, then cities like, oh I donno: Washington DC, ought to be able to place some local restrictions.

Bills from the House or Senate are to be Made Public 7 Days Before any Vote

Thomas LOC

However it would be nice to have a House and Senate calendar posted a little earlier than the day before.

Oh, and we have Congress Matters.

Congress Must Name Relevant Special Interests When They Vote

Center For Responsive Politics

Heh. The government shouldn't be doing everything for you. Rugged Individualism. Try it sometime.

Create independent Ethics Committees for House and Senate

Senate Ethics Committee
House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct

Market Based Approach to Reduce Global Warming

Because the markets always have the best interests of the public and environment in mind. I wonder if that includes financial incentives? Socialism!

Pledge to Cut Deficit by 70% in Two Years With No New Taxes

LOL. Put down the pipe. To do that, one would have to gut the military, stop paying interest on the federal debt, and cut all unemployment and welfare spending. See for yourself.

I would also suggest checking out the issues drop down menu on Freedom Works. The policy positions are indeed eerily similar. Some of FW's other agenda items include finding ways to reduce legal claims related to asbestos, government spending on school vouchers, and an up or down vote on judicial nominees (this does not seem to have been updated since the GOP's heady days of 2005.

That's the agenda we are up against. Notice there is nothing here about gay marriage, abortion, terrorism, or any of those other sexy subjects. These people are seriously dedicated to destroying some important American institutions. In short, we need to be on the correct battlefield to win the battle.

Crosspost at Progressive Electorate

Originally posted to Casual Wednesday on Sun Jan 24, 2010 at 04:46 PM PST.

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