Friday, April 16, 2010

The Tea Party

A CBS/N.Y. Times poll on the Tea Party was released yesterday. The poll addresses who they are and what they believe. There weren’t too many surprises but there were a few.

Generally Tea Party supporters are older, conservative white middle class and working class individuals. 89% are white, 75% are over 45 and 73% say they are conservative.

Surprisingly 56% make more than $50,000 and 20% make more than $100,000. Even more surprisingly, 37% are college graduates.

Only 39% say they are Evangelical Christians. I thought that number would be much higher. I wonder how many accept evolution?

They supposedly make up approximately 18% of the population but only 4% are what the poll calls “activists.” Here’s where I wish the poll had done a better demographics breakdown between “supporters” and “activists.”

You’ll find the most in the South (36%) and the fewest in the Northeast (18%) with the West (25%) and the Midwest (22%) in between.

They are also singularly misinformed and confused which isn’t surprising since 63% get their information from Fox News.

What are they misinformed or confused about? Well, they don’t really understand what Socialism is. 11% even believe Socialism means taking away rights or limiting freedom.

76% say lowering the budget deficit is more important than creating jobs but when given a choice between lowering the budget deficit or lowering taxes, 49% chose lowering taxes.

It’s highly unlikely that the budget can be balanced and taxes can be cut simultaneously. This is a fact of life that these folks haven’t figured out because Fox News and the pundits that whip up the frenzy never address these two issues together. They’re either banging the drum on one or the other but never both at the same time.

92% want a smaller government providing fewer services but 62% think Medicare and Social Security (two of the most Socialist government programs) are good things and worth the cost.

64% believe that the Obama administration has increased taxes for most Americans when in fact the overwhelming majority, about 90%, has had a tax cut.

The bottom line is these folks are upset, and they have good reasons to be upset, but they don’t have a clue about what’s really going on or how things work.

Basically I see a situation where they had a vague idea that something was wrong and have had that vague idea solidified into a complex collection of utter nonsense by the Glenn Becks, the Sarah Palins and Fox News telling them what they want to hear and whipping them into a frenzy without providing any FACTS.

Yes, we have a serious financial crisis. Was shoring up the sagging economy at the cost of increased debt a good idea? It’s hard to say, but most economists seem to think it was the right thing to do. The deepening recession was an alligator and the national debt is quicksand and you always address the more immediate threat first.

It’s not clear what they have against Heath Care Reform because they don’t appear to understand what the Health Care Reform bill actually says. I suspect it falls into one of four categories. Either they believe the cost is going to deepen the national debt, they look upon the requirement to have health insurance as an infringement upon their rights, they believe its going to raise their taxes or “IT’S SOCIALISM SO I’M AGIN IT.”

I sympathize with the it’s going to deepen the national dept or lead to an increase in taxes concerns. However, the Congressional Budget Office appears cautiously optimistic that neither of these two things is going to happen beyond the tax increases included in the bill, tax increases which will impact only the top 5% or so of wage earners.

As for the requirement to buy health care, let’s start with the question of what kind of idiot wouldn’t have it assuming it was available and affordable? Then let’s understand that if people that don’t have insurance become sick or get injured, guess who’s going to pay for it? Yup, you got it, the rest of us. People without health insurance, like uninsured drivers, increase the cost of insurance for all the rest of us.

As for “IT’S SOCIALISM SO I’M AGIN IT,” only a complete moron judges an issue by a label attached to it.

If the economy continues to improve I suspect that this movement will lose its momentum. If the economy reverses, then this is going to be a force to be reckoned with. These are classic American cranks. The challenge is to channel the good points into the mainstream and let the loony tunes aspects recede into obscurity.

What are the good points?

The budget has to be balanced and the national debt gotten under control. That’s going to require getting spending under control and a major revamping of the tax code. In particular multi-national corporations cannot continue to avoid paying U.S. taxes. I suspect we need something very similar to the Fair Tax which taxes goods and services rather than income.

Serious congressional reform is needed. Earmarks need to be curtailed or eliminated; bills need to be made public a reasonable amount of time before a vote and the practice of attaching unrelated riders onto revenue bills needs to be eliminated. I would also like to see congressional term limits and a reduction of congressional benefits and perks.

None of these things are going to happen unless the electorate consistently demands congressional responsiveness and stops simply returning incumbents to office.

What are the odds of any of this happening? I figure about zero until we have some sort of financial meltdown.

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