Sunday, June 08, 2014

No, Eags... It's Dead-Beats, Not Dead-Enders!

Eags nails the moronic Teabaggers with his recent Op-Ed piece that captures the essence of Teabaggery — false claims of income tax exemptions and phony declarations of bankruptcy. Now wonder the moronic Teabaggers loved government shutdown and lust after government default that would see the United States government welsh on its debts like the Dumbo nominee for Lite guv of the Lone Star State who walked away from $800K in debts to his creditors in the 1980s, thanks to bankruptcy laws. Eags might have titled his essay differently, the Teabaggers are Dead-Beats, not Dead-Enders. If this is a (fair & balanced) personal finance indictment, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Tea Party Dead-Enders
By Timothy Egan

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The Tea Party is five years old this election season, which means it’s done teething and spitting up on itself, but still prone to temper tantrums, irrational outbursts and threats to take its toys and storm off if it doesn’t get its way.

As a movement, it is down to a couple of former talk-radio hosts running for office in two states of the old Confederacy, Texas and Mississippi. And in the latter, the Senate candidate, Chris McDaniel, has given a keynote to a group that considers Abraham Lincoln a war criminal. It’s not hard to make the case that the Tea Party has been distilled down to it logical essence.

“They don’t want to go to the moon,” said the comedian Bill Maher. “They want to howl at it.” Still, the Tea Party has also been around long enough to have a record, of sorts. Let’s look at the legacy:

No significant legislation, no changes for the better in American life, and no compromise, of course, with the majority of voters who say in numerous polls that the Tea Party has been mostly a negative force in politics. One follows the other, since by the absolutist nature of their philosophy Tea Party members believe that any effort to govern with those they disagree with is traitorous.

But they did bring us — drumroll — the government shutdown! Remember last fall, an extortionate attempt to deprive millions of Americans access to health care through an established law? It was ruinous. The economy took a direct hit of more than $20 billion, and 800,000 people were without a paycheck. An extremist fringe of one party in one house of one branch of government brought the day-to-day functions of the United States to a standstill.

It could have been worse. Because the other big Tea Party idea is government default — walking out on your commitments. This is the debt ceiling, in which Congress validates the spending that it has already agreed to pay for. The Tea Party came up with the idea of making the government not unlike the rancher in Nevada who refuses to pay his bills for grazing cattle on the public range. A deadbeat. You can see why Cliven Bundy became a Tea Party hero, until his overt racism made him toxic.

So, no legislation. A shutdown that cost billions. A near-default that almost threw the United States back into recession. What else? Oh, science denial. Evolution, climate change, medicine — all a hoax, in one form or another.

But the Tea Party does have something to show for its five years of annoyance: Ted Cruz, senator from Texas. Cruz is probably best known for reading “Green Eggs and Ham” on the floor of the Senate during a 21-hour talkathon designed to ensure his place as the most hated man in that august chamber. But Cruz, in trying to kill funding for the Affordable Care Act, missed the point of the Dr. Seuss classic: don’t criticize something until you actually try it. And now that more than eight million Americans are trying insurance that won’t deprive them of health care just because they got sick, green eggs and ham is likely to be a dish served cold to Cruz.

Elsewhere on the personnel front, the Tea Party kept writers on “The Daily Show” busy. There was Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell, routed in a Senate race the Republicans could have won in Delaware. They put forth Todd “legitimate rape” Akin in Missouri, and Richard “rape is something that God intended” Mourdock in Indiana, both gifts to the Democratic Party.

And don’t forget the soon-to-be-retired member of Congress Michele Bachmann, founder of the Tea Party Caucus. If Bachmann were to put out a greatest-hits compilation of her craziest statements, she would need a double album. Her most harmful outburst was a claim that a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer in young women was dangerous. She knows this because “a lady” told her that her child “suffered from mental retardation” after getting the vaccine.

Which brings us to the last Tea Partiers standing. All along, surveys have shown that the Tea Party is thick with aging white men, angry, fearful, in open revolt against the new American demography. And their ideas came not from Republican Party elites or conservative think tanks, but from the true fount of Tea Party philosophy — talk radio.

No surprise, then, that the leaders of the last skirmishes being fought in the Tea Party rear guard are people who came out of the fear-breeding hothouse of far-right broadcasting. The latest Tea Party star in Texas is Dan Patrick, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor — not to be confused with the likable sports radio host of the same name.

The Texas Patrick is of course a climate-change denier, and he warns of a Mexican “invasion” by illegals who bring “third world diseases” with them, like polio. He keeps the fact-checkers fully employed. But he embodies other Tea Party heroes because of his glaring hypocrisy: This strong advocate for fiscal responsibility once declared personal bankruptcy, walking out on about $800,000 in debts in the 1980s. The people he stiffed are still angry.

In Mississippi, Chris McDaniel, the candidate who forced aging Senator Thad Cochran into a runoff later this month, is an even better distillation of Tea Party essence. For old whites, he can count on the support of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose members claim the Emancipation Proclamation was illegal, and have put up billboards wishing a happy birthday to “President Jefferson Davis.” McDaniel gave a keynote last summer to one of their affiliates.

He’s likely to be Mississippi’s next senator. The Tea Party could have been useful, in the way that some fringe groups bring new ideas into the system. Here, they just brought the fringe, looking in only one direction — backward. Ω

[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]

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