I’m sorry, I just have to ask…lest I lose my title as a smug, pretentious, “I-Told-You-So” blogger: Tea Partiers, what’s up? Are you outraged again by some of what’s been going on in your camp or will you simply confirm thoughts of leftists about your anger being misplaced?
The midterms last month were your time to shine. This was supposed to be your chance to show Obama and those evil socialist Democrats that big government, wasteful spending, and federal deficits would be tolerated no longer. I mean, that’s what you were trying to accomplish with all those poorly-written (and occasionally offensive) signs, Ben Franklin uniforms, and catchy slogans, right? Wasn’t your populist platform supposed to incite a change in the way things were done in Washington? On the surface, it doesn’t appear that your temper tantrums have made the kind of impact you were hoping for.
Now, I immediately concede to a significant point: many of the Tea Partiers recently elected haven’t even been inaugurated yet. So the jury is still out on whether they will stick to the promises that put them in office in the first place. And – as much smack as I talk about the Tea Party – the political scientist in me is definitely interested to see if their efforts pay off in reshaping the American political structure. But if any of the following events serve as an indication, we shouldn’t hold our breath.
Most recently, there was the highly controversial story of how the Republicans brokered a deal with the Prez (what! They agreed on something? I didn’t think that was possible. I figured that even if Obama caved in to every one of their demands, they’d find something to disagree with just on principle). This deal allows for an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy at all income levels for two years (allegedly to spur job growth. Joke.Of.The.Day), cuts payroll taxes for a year, and sustains long-term unemployment benefits. But according to the Wall Street Journal, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the cost of this tax cut deal is around $858 billion, a figure that surpasses the 2009 stimulus, expensive in its own right at $787 billion. Deficit slashing, be damned.
Then, there is the lobbying which has already seeped its way into Washington. Though many Tea Partiers ran on the “change” campaign; vowing to do things differently and to act more in the interest of average Americans and less with special interests, several incoming politicians have already pegged lobbyists to serve as their chiefs-of-staff. This is significant to me because it represents the complete antithesis of the Tea Party’s ostensible opposition to “business as usual”, much like how Obama’s historic presidential campaign was supposed to be. In addition to controlling spending, November’s election was supposed to be a stinging indictment of the typical goings on in Washington; essentially overturning the methods by which lobbyists dictate policy. Now I’m not so sure how true that was.
Finally, there are the earmarks. That dreaded word. Backed by the Tea Party and as a committed to reducing government spending, Congressional Republicans have made it a staple of their platform to decry earmarking in most cases. But as it appears, several members of the House Tea Party Caucus have requested more than $1 billion in earmarks during the 2010 fiscal year. Truth be told, I was never against the idea of earmarks. If used judiciously, they can do wonders to support noteworthy projects in smaller communities. So it doesn’t bother me that earmarks are being requested, especially for $1 billion; a drop in the bucket considering how large our deficit is. But making the contention that spending is bad, while making requests to DO spending is…uh…what’s the word? Oh, right! Hypocritical.
The Tea Party committed itself to ushering in a new cohort of elected officials who were entrusted to restore the country back to a time they highly regarded. They harken back to the time of founding fathers, with limited government, decifit slashing, limited taxation, and the elimination of out-of-control spending. But will the actions of those they put in office reflect these sentiments?
Again, the jury is out.