A little over a week ago, I put up a post about Tea Party and anti-tax protesters missing the point about government. It was discussing one of those “pictures worth a thousand words” that of course, generate a few thousand words anyways. The irony of anti-tax protesters standing on a street corner surrounded by things paid for by their taxes – indeed, even making their protest possible – was just too good not to point out. Today, I was pointed to an upcoming article by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, titled Tea & Crackers. He took trips to Kentucky to look at the Tea Party phenomenon, and particularly the candidacy of Rand Paul. One paragraph really captures what he saw:
A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.
While I don’t think they’re all elderly, it’s something I’ve noticed as well. You have people who are in many ways dependent on the very government structures that they are saying they’re against. No, they don’t get it. Here’s an exchange Taibbi has with one couple:
“I’m anti-spending and anti-government,” crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. “The welfare state is out of control.”
“OK,” I say. “And what do you do for a living?”
“Me?” he says proudly. “Oh, I’m a property appraiser. Have been my whole life.”
I frown. “Are either of you on Medicare?”
Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!
“Let me get this straight,” I say to David. “You’ve been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?”
“Well,” he says, “there’s a lot of people on welfare who don’t deserve it. Too many people are living off the government.”
“But,” I protest, “you live off the government. And have been your whole life!”
“Yeah,” he says, “but I don’t make very much.”
I’ve actually had a similar conversation a while back – I got into a debate with a conservative woman who is working for a state agency here, whose husband recently retired from another state agency. In the midst of listening to her talk about small government and taxes, I pointed out that the reason she and her husband were enjoying the middle class life they did was because of tax money. The sputtering this revelation induced was entertaining.
But it’s not just Kentucky. You have the Tea Party backed Republican candidate for governor in NY, Carl Paladino. He’s wealthy, so he doesn’t depend on tax dollars, right? Well, until you find out how where his money comes from:
Just cut the $5,251,415 in rent you collect each year on 28 leases with 17 state agencies.
Yes, you see, anti-government crusader Carl Paladino makes a lot of money off of the taxpayers. In fact, it turns out he went out of his way to push the state (and federal government) to rent space from buildings he was buying at bargain prices. But he’s against taxes and government spending. He’s not alone in that, either. Sharon Angle the Senate candidate in Nevada is another one. She’s really against government spending and government healthcare. Except that her husband is a federal retiree, drawing a civil service pension, and he and his wife are on government health insurance. The Tea Party backed candidate for the House in NY-20, Chris Gibson? Well, he’s retired military. Gets a pension, full health care coverage, all paid for by taxpayers.
Which is what really gets me about the Tea Party. They’re against government programs for other people. They “deserve” what they get. That they don’t see the inherent hypocrisy in their stands. The inability to see that what they’re advocating would in reality be devastating to them. The nasty, evil part of me sometimes wishes it was possible to grant their wishes – with them first. All those people at the Palin rally who were using Medicare supplied equipment? Take away their Medicare. Take away their Social Security payments, and make them live on whatever they saved up in private accounts. I’ll even be (somewhat) nice, and invest what they actually paid in Social Security taxes in the stock market, and then tell them to make a go of it. Stop government services in their area. They asked for it, give it to them! Fortunately for them, that’s not going to happen, but it’s probably the only way the message would get through to them.
There’s an old saying: Be careful of what you wish for. You might just receive it. If they succeed, what the Tea Party followers may find is that they’ll get what they wished for. I guarantee they won’t like it. You see, it’s not just “someone else” who’s going to have their government programs and payments removed – it’ll be them as well.