23 April 2010

Tea parties, power to the people, and the illusion of small government

According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, one of the three major concerns of members of the U.S. tea party movement is that they are not being fairly represented in Washington. They have a point. Citizens in the United States are not being heard the way they should be. Obama's health care bill, seemingly a focus of their anger, is a good example. Obama dropped the idea of a single-payer system, the most important item in reducing health care costs, to appease the insurance industry, and he dropped the idea of bulk-buying of drugs by government to appease the pharmaceutical industry. It seemed more important to cater to corporations than to cater to the American people.

However, reducing the size of government, which according to the poll is the tea partiers major goal, will not solve their problem. It won't reduce the influence of the plutocrats. Indeed, it will probably increase it. When power is taken away from government, unfortunately it doesn't always equitably redistribute itself among the citizenry. If it did, even socialists might support downsizing government. What tends to happen is something quite different. For example, when successive American governments reduced their power over the financial industry, with less regulation and weaker regulators, that power did not seep out into the general public. To the contrary, it was absorbed by those best-situated to grab it -- the bankers and financiers. And with diminished government oversight, they exploited and trashed the system.

Another major concern of the tea partiers is excessive government spending. A major contributor to this sin in the U.S.,  as well as a major contributor to the size of government, is the largesse lavished on a bloated military, by far the largest single item of discretionary spending in the federal budget. Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against the power of the military-industrial complex, but his warning was ignored and now the military-industrial complex, or more appropriately the military-industrial-congressional complex is a giant leech on the American body politic. It is, however, a leech the tea partiers support.

They fail to recognize their system is as much a plutocracy as a democracy. Consider the issue of climate change. While tea partiers gather in public places, as concerned citizens do, the oil-coal-chemical industrial complex conspires in private to array their lawyers and lobbyists against green legislation and the Environmental Protection Agency. They, not citizens, dominate the debate. Yet this, too, seems not to bother the tea partiers.

Most of them blame Congress, not Wall Street, for the current state of the American economy. If they want their voices to continue to ring out in Washington after the current passion for tea parties fades away, they will have to reset their sights. They will have to present policies that dramatically reduce the power of Wall Street -- the patrons of Congress -- not reduce the size of government.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post!

    It explains why perhaps Harper and even the provinces would want to expand the private for profit health care and scrap the Canada Health act, even if clearly shows, that the private sector is costing these governments more than the public system.

    As someone pointed out, the public system doesn't trade on the stock exchange.

    Those fools who say that we can have a European mix is deluding themselves for that very same reason...

    It's also why it would be a disaster if Harper scrapped that 1.95$ per vote subsidy for political parties. Already I find our parties have too much corporate influence. To take away the subsidy, we'd find ourselves with the exact same problem as US congress.