Short thoughts 1 – on the Tea Party

Partly by way of a response to Graham

So far as I can tell, whilst it has its fair share of nutters and cranks, the Tea Party is motivated by fiscal conservatism & a desire for small government – which is pretty mainstream in US politics (some 17% of tea partiers are registered Democrats; only 57% are registered Republicans). They can be as antagonistic to establishment Republicanism (eg the CBC) as to Obama, and seem to mainly want to get the US government to rein back on spending. Which is also pretty reasonable.

The only question might be a prudential one – is now the right time to cut back on state spending, in the midst of recession etc (same question as in UK politics)? My perspective is that this question assumes that the recession is temporary, and relies on the return of growth to escape the consequences of more indebtedness. If you don’t believe that we will ever go back to having growth in the same way again – as I don’t – then continuing to build up huge debt is a really really bad idea. We can still debate about where and how to cut the spending, but that spending does need to be cut, and cut significantly, that seems straightforward to me.

8 thoughts on “Short thoughts 1 – on the Tea Party

  1. I think I would also be against ‘big government’ in the sense that it sets a bad example of piling up debt to it’s citizens. I don’t fully understand the fiscal markets, but the idea of pouring billions/trillions into an unstable system without reform seems poor.

    However, what I find hard from this side of the pond is the sense that the poor and those ‘outside’ should not be helped and that is somehow ‘communist’/ ‘unamerican’. Also the sense that America is being ‘persecuted’

    Again, I’m not in the culture- just outside observations.

  2. Yes – that’s an aspect of US ideology that I don’t sympathise with, the idea that if you are poor it is basically ‘your fault’. I’d go along with it so far as saying it’s not necessarily the government’s job to do the helping, but that helping is essential both in Christian and pragmatic terms, I wouldn’t dispute that (which separates me off from the right wing nutters, or so I’d like to believe!!)

  3. You can also bet your bottom dollar that the Tea Party types won’t cut one of the biggest spending items in the US budget – the military.

  4. In relation to a discussion of national debt, slowly, but surely, I’ve begun to learn more about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

    The following is the best introduction to it that I’ve come across so far: it’s a one-day conference made up of 5 sessions, in which 6 leading proponents of MMT met at George Mason University this past April. The vidoes of the sessions have just been posted. Each session is made up of a presentation and then a Q & A.

    I’ve posted links to the conference here, and it’s something I think people should at least “hear out”:

  5. By the way, Sam, I’ve been referencing your Scarborough Talk since I first learned about it. It’s meant a lot to me.

    And when our new little “peak oil” community site,, got started several weeks ago, I referenced it there as well. We’re an “unwashed” motley crew over there, but I like it there, nonetheless, ;-).

    Just so you know, although I don’t make it a practice to comment here, I do often come by and see what you have to say, ;-).

    Here’s where I noted your talk:

  6. Insofar as the Tea Party is concerned with avoiding debt, then it may have something to say, however, I am yet to hear a serious suggestion from any public spokesperson giving figures on just where they would cut the budget. Here is CAP’s attempt. I am not aware of any Tea Party response.

    Furthermore, it seems simplistic to reduce the Tea Party to a single issue, as it is clear that there are many more issues associated with the movement (if it can really be called a single movement). Where was the Tea Party during the first eight years of the noughties when a Republican was running up huge debts?

    It also seems quite clear that big business (esp the Koch Brothers) are significantly funding some wings of the TP in order to pursue their own agenda. We could multiply links on this issue, but here is one.

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