« Bart Stupak responds | Main | A Conversation With Tariq Ramadan »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Elizabeth Sanders

I'm not sure it's accurate to see the Tea Party as libertarian, in view of its flamboyant nationalism, apparent militarism, and unyielding defense of Medicare and Social Security. We may be over-intellectualizing an assortment of malcontents. I attended a TP rally in Alabama in April. It celebrated soldiers and the Bible (Judge Roy Moore of Ten Commandments fame is running for governor and was the most rabble-rousing politician to address the rather small crowd).

From my informal survey of my high school class (which appears to celebrate the TP), I tend to agree with NYT columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in a recent Op-Ed,

“Our parents were “The Greatest Generation,” and they earned that title by making enormous sacrifices and investments to build us a world of abundance. My generation, ‘The Baby Boomers,’ turned out to be what the writer Kurt Andersen called ‘The Grasshopper Generation.’ We’ve eaten through all that abundance like hungry locusts.”

I am a Baby Boomer too. Most of the audience at the TP rally I attended were baby boomers; most, I dare say, already on Medicare (or if not, probably some of the lucky few who are still working, and, like me, have generous employer-provided health and retirement programs).

What I hear the Tea Party baby boomers and their upper-income allies saying is this:

“I’ve got mine. My government-provided health care is the most generous available. I can fall and bruise my foot and get taken to the hospital in an ambulance for days of “observation,” and pay almost nothing. I can make innumerable visits to the doctor for every health worry…and they are abundant in my over-fed, under-exercised generation. Instead of telling me to shape up, cut the fat and salt from my diet and walk for an hour a day, the doctor will give me prescriptions for drugs for my blood pressure and cholesterol and the indigestion that attends overeating, all paid for by the government. I may live forever (granted, without large chunks of my mind); but my doctor and hospital and the hugely profitable pharmaceutical industry have every financial incentive to keep my body alive.

“I ignored the Bush policy of conducting two big wars—one based on stories about Saddam Hussein being ready to launch a ‘mushroom cloud’ at us. I thought it was fine to have two big wars while cutting taxes on upper-income people like me. I agreed with Alan Greenspan when he told Congress to ignore the growing deficits and not try (like Clinton and the Democrats in the ‘90s) to cut the deficit and restore a balanced budget. I also backed the big Republican expenditures for new weapons systems, highways, agricultural subsidies, and more Medicare drug benefits (with no controls on drug pricing, and importation of cheaper drugs forbidden). After all, I benefitted from these policies.

“I also supported deregulation of the finance industry. I believed Bush and Greenspan when they said this would unleash great free-market energies with no possible downside. I watched as the EPA, SEC, and other regulatory agencies were virtually dismantled. Good riddance!

“Now economists say that all those chickens have come home to roost. The economy tanked because of deregulation and the rising burden of debt-financed wars and generous baby-boomer health care and retirement pensions.

“Now, suddenly, I NOTICE the debt, and I am outraged, OUTRAGED that the Democrats propose extending health care to young and low-income people. Granted, even my son, a small businessman, has no health insurance while paying a big chunk of his income in Medicare and Social Security taxes, but luckily he’s still pretty healthy.

“I want all entitlements and programs for people under 65 cut. I want the new health care bill repealed. I do NOT want ANY change in Medicare or Social Security. I refuse a higher co-pay, any limit on drugs or office visits, and I certainly refuse to work a month beyond my 66th-year retirement eligibility. I’m ready for golf, bridge, and seeing my friends in the doctor’s office waiting room. I’m happy for the high levels of unemployment that came with the economic crash of 2008, because now I can have a housekeeper, home health aide, and a yard man without paying an arm and a leg.

“I do NOT want to cut the military budget, which rivals entitlements for a huge chunk of the budget. We need to remain the world’s only superpower, with a military budget as big as all other countries put together. The way to fight terrorism is not with wimpy international police work and pressing Israel and India to end their occupations of the West Bank and Kashmir. Let people over there go crazy with rage. We’ll just use our predator drones and missiles to wipe out their villages.

“So the only way to pay down the huge deficit and cumulative debt that suddenly worries me is to repeal the health care reform and cut things I don’t care about. I hear foreign aid is less than one percent of the budget, but I’m fine with it going to nothing if that will help to protect my Medicare drug benefit. I also think we spend too much on education and research. Let the private market provide those services.

“They can also cut out the EPA, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t go to Gulf Shores much anymore, since my walker doesn’t roll well in sand. And besides, Rush Limbaugh says the ocean will gradually absorb that oil without any remediation or regulation. Drill Baby Drill!

I also agree with him when he says we shouldn’t spend a taxpayer dime to protect silly Louisiana wetlands, if that would mean cutting any medical benefits for granny. After all, I am granny!

“Hear me roar!”

The comments to this entry are closed.