Friday, October 15, 2010

Obligatory Pre-Election Post and Thoughts on the Tea Party

I really should be studying right now, but as always I've got the need to chime in with my two cents, and I want to do this sometime before the fall election.

And if the covers of major news magazines are anything to go by the past few months, it looks like the tea party is going to play a big role in this next election.

However, after reading the recent "Tea and Crackers" article by Matt Taibbi (link here) I decided there was no need to re-write what he had already said so well. So instead of reading my post, just go over and read his article. It's worth your time, trust me.

As for my own personal two cents:

I'm sympathetic to some of the concerns the tea party has about the huge deficit. What makes me cynical is that for the tea partiers, this appeared to only become an issue the moment Obama became president. This makes me think they're only playing politics with the issue.

Where were these people during the Bush years, when we went from Clinton era government surpluses to record high levels of debt?
(And just to prove that I myself am no Johnny-come-lately on the deficit issue, if you search the archives of this blog you can find a lot of fretting about government deficits and irresponsible spending going all the way back to 2004. (See here, here, here, here here , here, here, here, here and here for example).)

But there's an even more important point that almost always gets overlooked in the mainstream media--higher taxes always have been, and always will be, linked to wars. You can see this very clearly looking at history. Go and read some of it for yourself. Every time the taxes were raised it was to fund foreign wars. Every time the peasants complained about the tax burden (or rebelled against taxes), it was because the king needed the money for wars.
The high taxes that caused the English Civil Wars, for example, were caused because King Charles needed the money for his war with Spain.
Even the hated income tax is meant to supply money for the military. (The first income tax in history was introduced because Pitt the Younger needed a way to fund the British wars with Napoleon.)
I could list list examples here all day.

The perception that high taxes are linked to social spending (single black mothers on welfare, illegal immigrants on medicare, et cetera) is perhaps the most successful bait and switch misinformation campaign ever perpetrated. It's been so successful that it affects the thinking of liberals as well as conservatives.
(As a young liberal, I used to argue with my conservative friends that I didn't mind paying tax money to the government because I felt the money was going to people who needed it more than I did.)

Of course the role of government has expanded since the old days, and so the political picture is more complex. But it would be extremely naive to think that America can have the largest military in the world and not have to pay for it.

Usually military spending isn't questioned because we're constantly being told that the military is necessary to protect our democracy, and to protect the freedom of someone like me to speak out against it.

But the US has military bases in 63 different countries around the world. No other government in the world finds it necessary to have military bases in so many different countries to protect its citizens. This isn't "defense spending", this is empire, and empires cost a lot of money. And you and I are the ones expected to pay for it.

And that's without even getting into the massive pork barrel waste to well connected defense contractors.

It's estimated that every year about half of the income tax goes to military spending. War Resisters League releases figures annually (figures for 2010 and the data backing them up can be found at this link here).

This is where we should focus our attention if we're truly worried about government debt.

Some of the right wing realize this--the libertarians who run the website, for example. [See for example their article "Tea Party vs. War Party" (link here) for the type of dialogue I wish was happening more in the tea party ranks.] But the vast majority of the Tea Partiers seem to be a victim of the same old bait-and-switch campaign on government spending.


Second brief observation:
There's been a lot in the news about race since Obama's election.

As someone who's been involved - in - protest - politics - myself, I'm somewhat sympathetic to the fact that the Tea Party can't always control what nut-cases show up to their events. So it would probably be unfair of me to paint them all as racists just because some of them are.

However there's another equally dangerous fallacy. A number of media commentators have been implying (or straight out said) that since white America has elected a black president we now live in a post-racial society, and any discussion of racism in America is now taboo.

However the pendulum of history can always swing back unless we stay vigilant.

For example, when Benjamin Disraeli became the first Jewish prime minister of Great Britain in 1868, it did not mean the end of antisemitism in Europe. Or even the end of antisemitism in Great Britain itself.

For a time in 1919, Rosa Luxembourg, Karl Liebknecht and other Jewish intellectuals were among the most powerful people in Germany. But this did not mark the inevitable decline of antisemitism in Germany.

Link of the Day
Last word on the Subject goes to Noam Chomsky:
Chomsky: We Shouldn't Ridicule Tea Party Protesters
Instead, those on the Left are to blame for letting right-wing ideologues organize and manipulate them

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