I just got suspended by the Tea Party Nation for making statements like this one:
Go Aguilar. You got it right. The old “socialist” past, before the Bushes and Reagan, provided regulations that protected and helped the average guy advance and protected corporations from themselves. All economic data shows that average wages have remained frozen since Reagan while wealth has gone increasingly to the upper 2% of the population. If regulations and taxes hurt corporations and prevent them from creating jobs, how do you explain the recession that began in 2008 while corporations enjoyed de-regulation and tax breaks instituted by Bush?
This was in response to a post titled
Obama is seen as “Hostile” to business
This was a TP reposting of an CNBC article titled Behind The Money
by John Melloy, Executive Producer of Fast Money. The article reported on a meeting of billionaires in Eastern Long Island, most of whom did not like Obama’s policies. What stood out about most of the TP postings, however, was that they really had not read the article carefully. Towards the end, the article stated
To be sure, the folks at Wien’s lunches certainly have the most money at stake, but that hasn’t meant they were always correct. As The Financial Times chronicled in August 2007, only George Soros and one other big investor believed the economy was headed into a recession or a bear market. Now, we know those two men, not the consensus, were correct.
Thus, the article made clear that there was little reason to trust the opinion of a bunch of billionaires. It also declared that there were two billionaires who did have a good sense of how the economy works, for everyone and not just for them. One was the liberal, and Tea Party hated, George Soros.
For about a month, I had offered other TP members what I thought was a rational, fact based contribution to their debates on taxes, the economy, and government. I guess that is not what the TP Movement really wants. Their banning me gives credence to the idea that the real movers and organizers of the TP Movement are behind the scenes rich elites like Dick Armey. I’ve been down this road before. Though this sociological line of reasoning brings clarity to what is a perplexing populist anger, it infuriates many in the TPs because they see their actions and the movement as a genuine response to a politics and economy that have gotten out of control (See my exchanges with Bodhi). Fair enough. No one wants to see themselves as mere puppets of other people’s manipulations. So, let me point to what I believe is the real source of TP malaise, without belittling the message or the messengers.
Matt Bai of the NY Times opined the other day that we may be at the beginning of a new period of political/economic history. He labeled this new period as “the erosion of self-sufficiency.” Thus, unlike the recent past, we now “live in an integrated world where American jobs rely on the economic policies of governments in Asia or Latin America, while our security is subject to the whims of a cleric living in a cave.” In the past, what we produced, we mostly consumed. What we consumed, we mostly produced. Foreign trade used to account for only 10% of our Gross Domestic Product. Now it is 25%. Similar entanglements also exist for our politics and culture.
This new, more complicated global reality makes old ways of doing things ineffective if not impossible. Keynesian policies don’t work as effectively as they used to because total demand is exposed to and affected by global economic processes. The expansion of personal credit, for instance, often keeps total demand artificially high because loan money is made available and expanded by foreign sources. This was a major cause of the Housing Bubble and crash. By the same token, though the U.S. still has the most powerful military in the world, it makes little difference in a world where the main threats are disaffected college graduates in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who join al Qaeda.
President George Bush faced the exact same problems created by this new historical period. But his response was combative, impatient, romantic, and unyielding. He did not try to defuse the anger that exists around the world against the U.S. by admitting mistakes, rebuilding coalitions, offering aid, or participating in and accepting the legitimacy of international bodies. The Bush regime believed it could practice military pre-emption against any state we believed could become a threat (the Axis of Evil). The Bush regime ignored international agreements, put aside our own moral and legal principles in pursuit of information they thought could give us an advantage against terrorists, assumed executive powers against the Congress that breached Constitutional protections, and seemed prepared to build an Imperial Presidency that could act as if it had a firm grasp of a reality that is no longer so easy to control. Congress, the Constitution, other states, and U.S. citizens, in this view, simply complicated and obstructed the President’s ability to act on behalf of the country.
The public’s and media’s complacency and acceptance of so many Bush administration transgressions was simply the obverse side of the Tea Party movement. The public received comfort and reassurance from an administration that acted as if it could overcome the bewildering forces of global entanglement and U.S. impotence. Bush made the public feel safe in an increasingly crazy world even as his policies and actions actually made things worse in Iraq and at home. Obama, on the other hand, has come into office prepared not just to reverse much of what Bush accomplished but to offer a very different script.
President Obama accepts the terms of the new reality. He recognizes that global interdependence has made us more vulnerable and far from omnipotent. We are now in a world where we are still stronger militarily than any other power but where we are also rapidly losing our economic, political, and cultural prominence. China, for one, is rapidly catching up economically and scientifically. They have built hundreds of cities of more than one million people in the last few years, taken leadership of green energy technology, and explored the deepest reaches of the oceans where trillions of dollars in mineral wealth exist.
But as realistic as the Obama style may be, it seems too compromising to a lot of Americans, especially in the Tea Parties. Thus, they complain, as Sarah Palin does, that Obama goes around the world apologizing for America. Palin tells her supporters “Don’t Retreat, Instead—RELOAD!” Newt Gingrich calls President Obama a “con” and “authentically dishonest.” Against all the facts and better judgement, a large percentage of U.S. citizens insist, with the great assistance of vile politicians like Palin and Gingrich, that Obama is a Muslim, not a citizen, and a socialist. They insist on characterizing him as a total foreigner, as a symbol of all that is strange and different about a world where they are no longer on top.
A large percentage of Americans also appear myopic, paranoid, and counter productive in their opposition to the Islamic Center near Ground Zero. It doesn’t matter that the Sufi sect of Islam that will occupy the center is exactly the kind of Muslim we should pursue to improve our security and political relations with other countries. It also doesn’t matter that there was a mosque at GZ before the 9/11 attack, used by Muslims who worked at the World Trade Center. It also doesn’t matter that the community center called Park51 that will be built actually replaces a building that houses the Sufi Mosque. It also doesn’t matter that there are strip clubs and bars within two blocks of GZ. A relatively unknown minister in Florida threatens to burn 100 Korans in anger against the Islamic Center. The dangers to our troops and security created by such an outrageous act was great enough that General Petreaus actually called the minister to pursuade him to not go through with his irrational act. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin attracted thousands to Washington, D.C. in hopes of “Restoring Honor,” a supposedly non-political battle cry that facetiously echoed in a crowd patently driven by anti-Obama sentiment into a proto-religious and nationalist fury. At a 9/11 rally near Ground Zero one Jan Loght, 58, a pharmacist from Arizona, said she was “insulted” by the planned center. She was troubled by Islam. “If we allow them to build this, then that’s saying we gave in, and Americans don’t give in.” A supporter of the Center was greeted with shouts to “Go back to Mecca.”
In all of this, there seems to be great impatience, fatigue, desperation, paranoia, and exasperation in many Americans, mostly white, middle class men and women. They seem to sense that the world is shifting radically under their feet. And they are right. The world is becoming radically different than the one they have known. Obama’s accomodating strategic position to this new world, more than his economic policies, are what infuriates the TP faithful. To them, Obama seems like he is not fighting to protect what the TP lost a long time ago – economic security, demographic majority, and political prominence. He appears to cave in to foreign foes and dumps additional burdens on the white middle class (health care reform, bailouts, taxes). The irony is that all of the Tea Partiers efforts will do little to turn back the clock to a time when the U.S. and white people were supreme. That time is gone. All that the Tea Partiers will accomplish by opposing taxes and all government involvement in the economy is to make the transition towards a new economy and social mission a whole lot more difficult, destructive, and possibly violent for them and for the rest of us.