Thursday, April 16, 2009

Who Controls the Tea Parties?

Hale "Bonddad" Stewart posting on Huffington thinks that he has found a gotcha in the Tea Parties.

My only question is this: where were these people 8 years ago? More importantly, where were these people 30 years ago?


To anyone with an ounce of common sense, it's obvious what's going on. Republican/conservative rank and file are protesting because they are out of power and their leadership is terrible. But they aren't protesting spending; they are protesting the Democratic Party's governance. And that is fine. But please, don't tell me it's about spending or debt. If that were the case, you guys should have taken to the streets years ago.
Does he have a point? No. As I posted yesterday, this is the left trying to convince itself that they don't have to worry about the Tea Party movement. There are several problems with his assertion.

Republicans leaders were not leading the Tea Parties. They had to request to be speakers. In some cases they were turned down. The big party in DC pushed the GOP Chair to a less prominent role than he requested. Many protesters make it clear that they are upset with both parties.

This has been building for some time. The Democrats stoked the movement in 2004, 2006, and 2008, running ads about the crushing debt that Bush was leaving the next generation. In the 2006 and 2008 elections, voters expressed their anger at out-of-control spending by electing Democrats.

Bonddad quotes a 2005 CATO Institute piece about Bush's spending. He conveniently ignores more recent CATO papers that include Obama's projected budget. CATO makes it clear that Obama is outspending Bush.

Bush favored large spending increases, even in years with big deficits. Obama titled his budget A New Era of Responsibility but his huge deficit spending will push up public debt as a share of GDP to levels not seen since the 1940s.

There are some other factors that Bonddad overlooks (or ignores). Bush spent a lot but managed to keep his increases quiet. Most complaints about Bush spending were tied in with the anti-war movement. As far as I can tell, no one has done a survey of Tea Party protesters to see if any were anti-war protesters. The wars totally overshadowed Bush's domestic spending.

Bush may have spent outrageous amounts but it didn't buy him popularity. His approval rating was one of the lowest on record.

The biggest spending jolts in the Bush administration came at the very end. Between September and  January, the Bush administration announced bail-out after bail-out. By the time the Big Three car makers came asking for a relatively small bailout, the public was sick of it. A new bail-out was politically unacceptable by then and Bush used TARP funds instead.

That is what led up to the current protests. Three things actually set it off:

  • Passing a huge stimulus that spent the majority of its funds after the economy is expected to recover.
  • A mortgage bail-out that seemed to reward people who had behaved irresponsibly at the expense of people who never missed a house payment.
  • Obama's budget outline which the CBO estimates will push the national debt to unsustainable levels within a decade.

Bush doubled the national debt in eight years. Obama will double it again in six years and that is without counting the full cost of his health care plan. That is a geometric increase in spending. That is why people who sat home and grumbled during the last 30 years are now taking to the streets.

No comments: