Even more missing the point

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.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Even more missing the point

  1. You know I’m not a tea Party supporter – extremism isn’t my way.

    But, I do want to ask – do you acknowledge that those who collect government support (be it Medicare, Social Security, retirement checks, etc) can also stand against excessive government spending without being branded a hypocrite (which is what both of your postings say in nice ways)?

    • Absolutely, there is a point about being against excessive (or wasteful) spending – if you’re willing to state why it’s unnecessary, or how it could be done differently. The problem I have with most of the Tea Party groups – and their candidates about being hypocrites is that that they are. For example, I found it remarkably dumb that while the state was trying to close state parks here in NY, it was at the same time buying land and opening a new park.

      It’s one thing to be against government spending in an area where you have declined the benefits, or you are willing to accept the consequences of that. But when they very obviously not, it’s fair game to call them on their hypocrisy. If you’re against government health care, you need to do without Medicare, if you’re against government subsidies, then you need to have not accepted – or stop getting – them for yourself.

      I used Sharon Angle as an example – there’s something tremendously ironic about an “anti-government crusader” whose support and health care over the years have come from the government, and is trying to get elected to a government job.

      • I agree with you. There is a great hypocrisy in the issue, and the Tea Party people seem to be failing to carefully examine their base proposals.

        it’s like a flat tax proposal. I would bet that 95% of people who support the idea don’t stop to consider how much more in taxes they’d be paying on a flat tax, no deductions/loopholes, system. They fail to see that piece and instead are focused on the “rich” paying more of “their” share.

        I have said I’d do without government in different areas. Like the Department of Education. We don’t need them at all. If Congress wants to issue national standards for graduation then write the law and require the states enforce it (and let the states fight over whether the feds have the Constitutional right to make laws in this area) – why do we need to fund a federal agency to collect and redistribute money to states for education? It makes no sense.

        OT: BTW, what do you get when you mix Sarah Palin, Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell together?

        • OT: BTW, what do you get when you mix Sarah Palin, Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell together?

          I’m sure I’m going to like the answer. 😀

          My own candidate would be the Dept. of Homeland Security. For a supposed conservative, small government President, Bush created (and added to) an enormous federal bureaucracy which hasn’t been shown to be particularly adept at its stated mission. I’m pretty sure the savings would be much higher than doing away with the Education Dept.

  2. I would second your nomination of Homeland Security. What a catastrophe it is. Added with the implementation of the Patriot Act we have an unqualified horror story. Thank you Shrub!

    The answer: A contestant who definitely is not smarter than a fifth grader!

    The alternate answer: Three reasons independents vote Democratic!

  3. kittypat

    This is my most recent example of the same mindset, a retired PE teacher who refused to support the mill levy proposed in a local election. Why? Because the money might be used to pay teacher’s salaries. Our school district has closed several schools, laid off a number of teachers and now has classes that average 40 kids per classroom. I grind my teeth at night, this kind of thinking and my attempts to have reasonable conversations with those who think this way have me grinding my teeth in the full light of day.

    Most of this has been drummed up by cynical manipulators who know that they can count on emotional responses from people who are frustrated. Really sad.

    • I have seen a lot of that. It’s always stunning to me to see how many people just can’t grasp the concept that the services and benefits they received or are receiving are dependent on things like that.

      You want police, firefighters, schools, and roads? It’s not free. It doesn’t magically happen. The people who do that work like to get paid for it.