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Tea Partiers: Selfish or Just Scared?

April 19th, 2011 at 3:24 pm David Frum | 79 Comments |

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Bruce Bartlett draws attention to a Marist poll: 70% of people who identify with the Tea Party oppose cutting Medicare or Medicaid to reduce the deficit.

Some of what is going on here is simple ignorance: unawareness of how the great portion of federal money is spent.

Some is self-interest, of a kind to which none of us are immune: older people wanting the budget to be cut at anybody else’s expense rather than their own.

But might there not be also a more charitable explanation? Tea Party Americans, like all other Americans, are struggling with a sudden collapse of personal and national wealth. They want a comforting explanation of what happened. They want a promise that the loss can be reversed. And they want to shift as much as possible of the pain away from themselves. Are they any different from anybody else?

I recently received an angry email from a Tea Party supporter that included the following comment:

I am 80 and find my planned income has been reduced by 55% over the past two years ….  In order to maintain my past standard of living would you recommend that I borrow and borrow and borrow on the strength of my diminishing assets ?  …  My reasoning tells me that I have to tighten my belt and forego a lot of the luxuries and necessities that I enjoyed in the past.

My correspondent sees the Tea Party as a movement to protect him and people like him against further attacks on their standard of living: against the tax increases on his dwindling income that will follow the Obama spending stimulus; against healthcare reforms that squeeze his Medicare in order to insure the uninsured (more than a quarter of them foreign-born); against any whiff of inflation that might reduce his remaining purchasing power.

And if we find (as our own FrumForum survey did find) that Tea Party voters know very little about the reality of the federal budget, is that truly because they are so very ignorant? Or is it that they prefer not to believe unwelcome news that will snatch from them their already faint hope of an economic future that imposes no further loss on them.

Maybe it’s irrational. Maybe it’s selfish. But it’s very human.


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79 Comments so far ↓

  • balconesfault

    And if we find (as our own FrumForum survey did find) that Tea Party voters know very little about the reality of the federal budget, is that truly because they are so very ignorant?

    Yes.

    I remember a year plus ago corresponding with an old friend who had proudly told me her and her husband had gone to the Tea Party March on Washington. I knew she had worked on healthcare issues for years, and was fairly progressive on them (her specialty had been special needs children). I asked her how, without Obama’s Healthcare Bill, we were going to increase access to insurance for the millions and millions of working Americans who don’t have employer provided healthcare and can’t afford a comprehensive policy without a benefits cap.

    She replied “maybe they should use a voucher based system” as a way to expand coverage. And try as I might, I could never get her to understand that the ACA did exactly what a voucher system does – the federal government giving people money to go out and buy insurance from a private company.

    It really is ignorance, but in some ways willful ignorance from people who just don’t want to like/trust Obama.

  • ottovbvs

    And if we find (as our own FrumForum survey did find) that Tea Party voters know very little about the reality of the federal budget, is that truly because they are so very ignorant?

    In a word…yes.

  • Watusie

    Try this for an explanation: the “Tea Party” was NEVER about fiscal responsibility. It was about Bush’s base have psychological issues with two things. One, the undeniable fact that GWB, who they thought had been sent by God, was the worst president in living memory. Two, the sight of a black man in the Oval Office, visual proof that they are no longer on top of the social ladder simply by virtue of being white.

    Their incoherent babbling about fiscal matters was simply a cover while they acted out.

    • Bunker555

      ^+1 Watusie.

      Wait till we have an ethnic Asian president. We will be drinking “Green” tea.

  • Saladdin

    …is that truly because they are so very ignorant? Or is it that they prefer not to believe unwelcome news that will snatch from them their already faint hope of an economic future that imposes no further loss on them.

    I think a bit of both. Why can’t you be ignorant and selfish at the same time. Wonder what these folks think of the Ryan plan?

  • Moderate

    It’s a combination of ignorance and selfishness that defines ALL voters, not just Tea Partiers. 90% of the country (present company excepted) has no idea about anything, but they’re sure that their taxes are too high and their benefits too low.

    • ottovbvs

      Ahh…The we’re all guilty get out of jail free card. Not all of us are marching over a totally specious set of beliefs, or voting for brain dead Republican politicians who haven’t a clue what they’re doing. We have prima facie evidence on this very site of the mindset of these morons. The we’re all guilty alibi is just a way of excusing damaging stupidity.

      • Moderate

        @ottovbvs

        I don’t deny Tea Party stupidity, but you really don’t want to be comparing them to Democrats. Tea Partiers are better educated and better informed than the average Democrat.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html

        Furthermore, any person who knows anything knows that exploding health care costs are driving our debt.

        The percentage of Republicans who know this (25%) is higher than the percentage of Democrats who do (8%).

        http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/budget/156737-poll-raise-taxes-on-wealthy-leave-medicare-medicaid-alone

        So yes, it’s troubling that 75% of the GOP knows nothing, but at least it’s not 92% like the Democrats!

        • ottovbvs

          Actually I wasn’t comparing them with anyone. And as I recall a majority of college grads voted for Obama in 2008. And that was a real poll. And even your polls don’t seem to bear out your claim. Tell me how the last one proves Democrats are more stupid than Republicans.

        • Moderate

          ottovbvs:

          Actually I wasn’t comparing them with anyone.

          Saying “not all of us…” sets up an comparison. It’s not even implicit!

          And as I recall a majority of college grads voted for Obama in 2008. And that was a real poll.

          Yes, because in 2008 Obama won Independents. They no longer approve of him.

          http://www.gallup.com/poll/147140/obama-job-approval-tying-low.aspx

          And even your polls don’t seem to bear out your claim. Tell me how the last one proves Democrats are more stupid than Republicans.

          Anyone who thinks that the debt can be controlled without touching Medicare is stupid. According to this poll, 92% of Democrats believe this. Ipso facto – they are stupid.

        • COProgressive

          Moderate wrote;

          Furthermore, any person who knows anything knows that exploding health care costs are driving our debt.

          Ahhh, there is the root of the problem.. Healthcare cost are exploding. Yes, they are going up because of the increasing number of people requiring care as we Baby Boomer age, but underlying that is the exessive cost inbedded in the American Healthcare system itself. We have three major sections of the system that are profit driven with NO interest in restraining cost because it is all passed along to the consumer or patient. First we have a for profit driven Pharmaceutical industry that charges Americans 2 to 3 times as much for drug as what they sell the same drug for in other countries. I.E. no drug imports from Canada…. Second, with have a profit driven healthcare provider system that pads bills with $12 asprins and $20 boxes of tissues not to mention what other inflated charges are posted to one’s bill. All these inflated charges are passed along to a Sickness & Injury Insurance industry that happily pays the caregivers then adds a 15, 20 or 25% markup to the charges and spreads the cost across their policy holders.

          There just is no incentive to restrain costs as all the way along the line from the PhRMA companies, to the corporate hospitals and the S&I Insurance companies each adds a layer of profit and inflated overhead and it gets passed along to the capitive consumer.

          So, there are two functions to the increased Medicare and Medicaid costs. The first is in the increasing number of Baby Boomer entering Medicare, I just got my card a week ago, and more people being outpriced out of the “For-Profit” S&I Insurance industry and onto Medicaid.

          The second, that no one wants to talk about or attempt to restrain is the inherent motivation to MAXIMIZE profit (a.k.a. GREED) for the shareholders at the expense of the consumer just because they can.

          We first need to remove the money changer who skims 15-25% off the top of every healthcare dollar. We can then go after the PhRMA companies to reduce drug prices to what is charged around the world.

          We need to get the excessive cost out of the American Healthcare System by cleaning up the inherent greed and fraud, not by reducing services to Americans. That will go a long way to being able to maintain Medicare and Medicaid to all Americans.

          [blockquote][b]We need to put a stake in the heart of the predatory, obsolete, expensive, yearly S&I Insurance industry. Let it go the way of the Buggy Whip and Slide Rule industries!

          Everyone knows that Medicare for All is the least cost way of providing Americans healthcare.

          We need to stop thinking of healthcare as insurance and start thinking of healthcare as a Trust Fund we leave to our posterity.[/b][/blockquote]

  • IntelliWriter

    I’d place bets on the demographic of the Tea Party: white, older or middle-aged, Protestant, and to the right. Go back and read up on American history; this same group has historically been hysterical whenever anything changes to alter their perception of the America they grew up in. They eschew science in favor of a mythological entity; they are rabidly anti-immigration and anti-immigrant; and they are usually racist. This is nothing new.

    I think most of the Tea Partiers were absolutely stunned when Obama was voted into office. He personifies everything that they are most afraid of: changing demographics in America; an immigrant from Africa (although not true of course), someone who believes in science and research, and someone who doesn’t appear to be all that religious or just might be (gasp!) a Muslim.

    As for the Medicare and the budget: sure they care that we get our spending under control. But it’s just a front for all of their other fears of an America that is rapidly changing right before their very eyes; and so, they want their country back.

    • ottovbvs

      You are of course right. These are the same people that Hofstadter was writing about in the 50′s.

    • Moderate

      IntelliWriter:

      I’d place bets on the demographic of the Tea Party: white, older or middle-aged, Protestant, and to the right.

      You’re really going out on a limb, assuming demographics that have historically described 75% of Americans.

      Any other pearls of wisdom? “Many of them live in cities, speak English, and eat cereal for breakfast”?

      They eschew science in favor of a mythological entity; they are rabidly anti-immigration and anti-immigrant; and they are usually racist. This is nothing new.

      Yes, the Tea Party is notorious for focusing on race/immigration instead of the size of government. All those signs about government spending? It’s really code talk for hating blacks and Mexicans. Thank God for all right-thinking people that you, IntelliWriter, were able to divine their secret racist intent.

      I think most of the Tea Partiers were absolutely stunned when Obama was voted into office.

      Yes, they weren’t prepared for the deficit to reach $1.5 Trillion.

      Sure they care that we get our spending under control… But it’s just a front for all of their other fears…

      “Sure, they may complain about government spending, but it’s all a sophisticated code they developed while in the KKK.”

      • ottovbvs

        Moderate:
        Your whole premise is bs of course. The tea party crowd are by definition activists so I expect them to be better informed than John Doe in the same way most here are. The problem is THEY ARE NOT BETTER INFORMED. And not only are they ill informed such knowledge as they have is largely erroneous. I make no overarching assumptions about their makeup but it seems fairly obvious they are overwhelmingly white and probably over 40 years of age.

        • Moderate

          ottovbvs:

          The Tea Party crowd are by definition activists so I expect them to be better informed than John Doe in the same way most here are.

          That’s your first mistake! Activists aren’t well-informed.

          People like you and I, who care deeply about politics, and are relatively well-informed, account for maybe 5% of the population. The other 95% may be inspired to activism over broad concerns (e.g. rapid growth in government) but they don’t know much in the way of specifics.

          I make no overarching assumptions about their makeup but it seems fairly obvious they are overwhelmingly white and probably over 40 years of age.

          Yes, I agree, although I don’t see anything wrong with that. Nobody cared when the Jon Stewart “Rally to Restore Sanity” was 100% white and youthful. Why should anyone care about the racial or age demographics of the Tea Party, unless they’re trying to discredit the movement as a mob of crypto-racists?

        • ottovbvs

          That’s your first mistake! Activists aren’t well-informed.

          Do you actually have evidence for the bizarre assertion that activists are less well informed than the general run of people? I suppose on the same basis civil war enactors are less well informed about the civil war; or birdwatchers less well informed about birds; or classical musical enthusiasts know little about music.

          Yes, I agree, although I don’t see anything wrong with that.

          Did I say there was? Putting words in people’s mouths again? However, it’s probably a reasonable pointer to their prejudices and motivations.

      • IntelliWriter

        “You’re really going out on a limb, assuming demographics that have historically described 75% of Americans.”

        Historically 75% of Americans are older and middle-aged?? What happened to the teenagers and babies? What period in American history are you talking about specifically? This is patently untrue.

        Here’s a pearl of wisdom for you: In terms of Christianity, Catholics outnumber Protestants in the United States.

        So, I stand by those demographics. Many of these members are just rebranded from the Evangelical hard right.

        “Yes, they weren’t prepared for the deficit to reach $1.5 Trillion.”

        Really? Well they should’ve been since George W. left it as a parting gift to the nation. And there’s the rub isn’t it: Where were they when W was running up the debt like a drunken fratboy? Silent. It wasn’t until Obama took office that they “suddenly” became “concerned” about the nation’s finances. W doubled our national debt ensuring that we could not respond adequately to the financial disaster (also on his watch) in 2008. This is where your argument and the Tea Party’s argument utterly, utterly fails.

        Also, there is an uncomfortable parallel to the KKK (to which you alluded so you probably see it as well); all that’s missing are the white robes and those pesky laws about lynching (murder). It was members of the Tea Party who chose to show up to Obama’s rallies “armed and dangerous.”

  • Bebe99

    Yes it’s human nature, and selfishness is very human. And it certainly seems that the more money we have the more we want to keep it. But who should pay this debt? Certainly the people who benefitted from the enormous tax cuts enacted in the 80s that were never offset by spending cuts. They (and I) voted for the politicians who gave us this wonderful deal, low taxes for the same government benefits. Who could argue against that? Hmm, we did a good job of ignoring reality then too. We can try to grow up now and pay back what we didn’t deserve to have in the first place. Likewise those who caused the economic near-collapse and resultant stimulus spending also ought to pay their share, and that’s the bigger share. No one is going to volunteer for this of course.

  • think4yourself

    How can we help Frum’s correspondent understand? Nothing in the ACA or any of the President’s fiscal actions will negatively impact him. For that matter, neither will anything in Ryan’s plan. I understand his net worth took a big hit at a time when there is little he can do about it. But that isn’t this administration’s fault (you can argue it’s not Bush’s fault either though I’m sure there are many posters on this site who would disagree).

    For those who want Ryan’s plan. If the same thing happens in another 30 years (and recessions do keep happening), the man who is 80 then gets hammered cause of changes to Medicare. Also, if they were to privatize Social Security, he gets doubly hammered.

    • ottovbvs

      the man who is 80 then gets hammered cause of changes to Medicare.

      Like he’d be paying 70% in out of pockets versus today’s ~20%

  • talkradiosucks.com

    There is no tea party, as others have said. It’s just an attempt to rebrand the right-wing base.

    But they do not deserve all of the criticism when it comes to self-absorbed behavior. It’s not like there aren’t millions of Democratic old people who share the same viewpoints. If those are deserving of any additional credit, it is at least that they make no pretense about wanting to balance the budget, but that doesn’t actually change anything in a practical sense.

    And it’s not just the old people either. This country is positively *overrun* with people who want something for nothing, who think the world owes them a “standard of living”. We have generations of people who think they are entitled to clean water, healthy food, shelter, clothing and even entertainment solely by virtue of plopping out of a womb. They think not only that the “poor” should be given all of these “human rights necessities” but that they shouldn’t be made to feel like there’s anything wrong with getting them. They think that it’s somehow natural to design a society where people are allowed to live off the sweat of others for 20, 30 or more years and that this can be sustained without a reckoning. But it will come all the same.

    I think a strong argument can be made that the extension of lifespan over the last 50 years isn’t one of the great achievments of our society.

    • Bebe99

      We have generations of people who think they are entitled to clean water, healthy food, shelter, clothing and even entertainment solely by virtue of plopping out of a womb.

      Why wouldn’t the richest country in the world offer clean water, food and shelter (at the very least) to its citizens? Do we not benefit when all citizens have their basic needs met? Our problem is that we are all pretty spoiled. Is your solution to allow some of us to become desperate so we’ll all be better people?

  • nuser

    @Frum.
    How does your correspondent feel about Bush’s “Bailout” and the tax cuts for the rich and the
    Death Trap? Beware , he/she might understand one day!

  • mc419

    “And if we find (as our own FrumForum survey did find) that Tea Party voters know very little about the reality of the federal budget, is that truly because they are so very ignorant? Or is it that they prefer not to believe unwelcome news that will snatch from them their already faint hope of an economic future that imposes no further loss on them.
    Maybe it’s irrational. Maybe it’s selfish. But it’s very human”
    This paragraph made me think of a Robert Southey poem, except instead of young lovers divided by fate I pictured Frum and some two fingered biker from Mahanoy City. Have fun taking your country back with him buddy.

  • Thanos316

    I’m fairly certain that words like “charitable” and “Tea Party” really shouldn’t be used in the same discussion together.

  • ScoopAway

    TRS said: “I think a strong argument can be made that the extension of lifespan over the last 50 years isn’t one of the great achievments of our society.”
    ~~~

    Gov Lamm of Colorado (1984) revisited (from wikipedia):

    “We’ve got a duty to die and get out of the way with all of our machines and artificial hearts and everything else like that and let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life.” His dire predictions for the future of social security and health care (“duty to die”) earned him the nickname “Governor Gloom”.

  • anniemargret

    It is overwhelmingly a social movement upset at the demographic changes America is now facing…more minorities in power. The opening of the closet for the gay movement. Non-religious people speaking out.

    I distrust anything a Tea Party member says. While Bush and Cheney were lying through their teeth about Iraq and 9/11, these people sat back and never questioned it, even though it was irrational from the get-go. They sat back while Wall Street took down the country economically and said nothing.

    Suddenly a black man on the liberal side of things enters the Presidential race, and there they are, waving their ‘I want my country back’ signs, along with the racist ones as well. The racists within the Tea Party were given a wink and a nod, I don’t think there are any members who found it immoral to associate with blatant bigots, so they stayed.

    Their brandishing Obama as a ‘socialist’ ‘fascist’ ‘communist’ etc…just proves how little they understand politics. In addition this entire ‘birther’ movement is also borne of the Tea Party… they are so frightened of change, and so full of hatred for Barack Obama, they will stick to that issue despite reams of evidence to the contrary.

    What’s there to respect or understand? And unlike David Frum, I give them no pass. Before they put on costumes and rant and hold up signs, they ought to know what they’re ranting about.

  • msmilack

    These people are ignorant, yes; but worse, they are also manipulated pawns from the machinations of operatives like Dick Armey who used all his political skills to mobilize a group of people with which he in no way identified socially but which he knew he could manipulate by stoking their fears and paying for their transportation and organizing them to start with; was he a rogue GOP member creating this new tribe or manstream? Does it matter anymore?

  • DFL

    Moderate is exactly right as are most of the other posts. Avarice and ignorance are a potent cocktail.

  • tommyudo

    The Tea Party was never an organic movement. They are just the same right wingers who suffer from a false consciousness, and an imaginary view of the US that is out of some Classics Illustrated comic book. We’ve always had them. P.T. Barnum and H.L. Mencken knew the type well. In the 19th century they were the Knownothings. They are “useful idiots” for the GOP, as were the Born Agains, who were punked and ridiculed behind their backs by Rove in 2000 and 2004. They were used during the last election cycle and will be used and manipulated again for 2012. Then suddenly, on the first Wednesday of Nov. 2012 they will scurry away and the GOP will find a new group of “tools” for their re-branding efforts.

    • WillyP

      The above is a resplendent example of the incredible beliefs of the left.

      “false consciousness”

      excuse me? what’s that, Karl?

      “We’ve always had them. P.T. Barnum and H.L. Mencken knew the type well.”

      So you think the Tea Party – a group of Constitutional activists – is the same group of “bumpkins” that Mencken lampooned?

      Oy I swear. How perfectly ass-backwards. FF commentators: proving daily that the best argument against democracy is a conversation with your average citizen.

  • jcm433

    It probably is extreme ignorance, and it may be human. But that doesn’t make it right, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the government should humor the ignorance of some at the expense of others.
    Proves that what Matt Taibbi said about Tea Partiers in Rolling Stone was right: “They’re full of sh!t. All of them.” They argue vehemently for smaller-government – except for the parts of government which benefit them. Well I say screw the Tea Party. The elderly aren’t the only ones hurting these days, and the young actually have it worse than they do. There isn’t a Medicare for unemployed 31 years olds who can’t find work like myself. Were it not for my wife’s job, I wouldn’t even have health insurance. So yes, Screw Them.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    “Are they any different from anybody else?” hell, they are different from me. I am well under retirement age and went along with Reagan and the Democrats together raising my retirement age to 68 creating a huge surplus (which Bush gave away as tax cuts to the rich…no it was not their money, that social security surplus was MY money), now since Bush blew a hole in the budget I am willing to pay even more in taxes, wait until 70 to retire…but I want guarantees next time, no more Goddamn upper class tax cuts financed by my greater payroll taxes…it is not their money.

    Moderate: Furthermore, any person who knows anything knows that exploding health care costs are driving our debt.

    Knowing this does not mean you know the solution, shifting the burden onto the next generation ensuring only the wealthy get adequate care might be cost efficient, it is also barbaric, but since letting the old die from easily treatable conditions is not an option in my book we can do something along the lines of every other OECD nation and have UHC. For example Japan pays but 8% of its GDP on healthcare with better outcomes than our 16%
    Republican solution is to make that number go down by letting people die, a better solution would be to adopt these other countries systems. A good start would be a public option (but Repubicans have no desire to let people buy into the system that Ryan himself partakes, the evil shit that he is)

  • ottovbvs

    Moderate
    Anyone who thinks that the debt can be controlled without touching Medicare is stupid. According to this poll, 92% of Democrats believe this. Ipso facto – they are stupid.

    As ever Moderate you put words and assumptions in people’s mouths. No actual proof but just another of Moderate’s leaps of logic based on an entirely general proposition. Of course Medicare costs have to be attacked. But this will be achieved by reducing the cost of the delivery of care not reducing access to it.

  • lillyluminatus

    I think the word you are looking for is “hypocritical.” And “stupid.”

  • Primrose

    “Anyone who thinks that the debt can be controlled without touching Medicare is stupid. According to this poll, 92% of Democrats believe this. Ipso facto – they are stupid.”

    So anyone who doesn’t buy your prescription is stupid? DeYou could control debt by drastically reducing defense spending and our wars. You could reduce it by drastically increasing taxes. You could reduce it by printing money. You could reduce Medicaid expense by drastically regulating prices, instead of coverage.

    Those are just four ways that you could reduce debt without cutting Medicaid coverage. I am not advocating any one in particular, and am uninterested in getting into a larger argument with anyone with your derisive attitude, but I just want it clear, one is not stupid (as you claim most Democrats are) if one doesn’t want Medicaid touched, one simply has different answers.

    • ottovbvs

      “Anyone who thinks that the debt can be controlled without touching Medicare is stupid. According to this poll, 92% of Democrats believe this. Ipso facto – they are stupid.”

      This is a completely specious leap of logic by Moderate. 92% of Democrats say they don’t want Medicare touched gets converted by his weird reasoning system into a complete rejection of organisational changes or efforts to lower costs. And ipso facto they are stupid. On the basis of this masterpiece of logic I would say that the evidence is overwhelming that ipso facto Moderate is fairly stupid.

      • Moderate

        ottovbvs:

        92% of Democrats say they don’t want Medicare touched gets converted by his weird reasoning system into a complete rejection of organizational changes or efforts to lower costs.

        Well, everyone would prefer lower costs, but in practice that’s going to mean touching Medicare. I don’t see the difference between “organizational changes” and “reform.”

        On the basis of this masterpiece of logic I would say that the evidence is overwhelming that ipso facto Moderate is fairly stupid.

        I’ve given you much better evidence than this.

    • WillyP

      1) Let’s say we halve defense spending to $300 billion/year. Wouldn’t solve a $1.6 trillion deficit, now would it? Still have $1.3 trillion left.
      2) Drastically increase taxes, and chase out more business. Will not lead to more tax revenue, but less. There aren’t enough rich to make it work. You want to soak the middle class with 70% Federal income taxes? Yeah, that’s not gonna work either, believe me.
      3) OK – let’s “print” an additional $2 trillion/year, for 7 years. Can you say inflation? Massive, uncontrolled inflation? Sure, we can print our way out of this if we decide that anarchy, chaos, and rioting are permissible.
      4) Drastically regulating prices? If price controls were effective tools we’d be speaking Russian. Price controls are draconian and always lead to shortages and gluts. Sorry, that’s just how the world is.

      How pathetic.

      • Watusie

        Willy, you totally fluffed #2. How do you explain the fact that our periods of sustained national economic growth were when the top marginal rates were much, much higher than they are today? Taxes were cut, cut and cut again during the GWB administration, but the result was a gigantic contraction of the economy. Where is the evidence, proof or logic that says returning to the Clinton-era tax rates will damage the economy?

        • _will_

          you will never get an answer. i’ve been posing this question to talking point automatons for years and i’ve yet to hear a sufficient answer.

        • WillyP

          There simply are not enough rich. You’re going to have to tax the middle class, and steeply. $1.6 trillion deficit? How are you going to erase that, and then begin paying back $14.3 trillion without slamming the so-called middle class with substantially higher tax rates?

          The question for the Democrats is, what is the acceptable “middle class” federal income tax level? 30%? 40%? 50%?

          You present that case to the electorate. You’ll lose.

        • _will_

          -so let’s see. we can’t tax the rich – even though the big-earners typically are paying an effective tax rate of ~16%:
          http://www.frumforum.com/how-the-super-rich-scored-on-tax-day
          http://www.nypress.com/article-22306-tax-the-rich_.html
          http://www.freakonomics.com/2008/05/01/taxes-warren-buffett-and-paying-my-fair-share/

          -can’t talk about anything except lowering the statutory corporate rates (admittedly high), even though average *effective* corporate tax rates are much closer to 22%, and for many corporations, much, much lower.

          -can’t cut defense spending, even though it’s one of the primary drivers our deficit, even though we spend 7x what China does (the next largest military budget), and even though we spend more than the rest of the world combined.

          -can’t do anything to control health care costs, ’cause that’s socialism

          -can’t talk about raising the income cap for social security

          oooh i know! i know! we’ll just defund NPR and Planned Parenthood, and make sure homos can’t get married!! that’ll fix our economic picture!!

          SMDH…

        • Watusie

          WillyP “There simply are not enough rich. You’re going to have to tax the middle class, and steeply. $1.6 trillion deficit? How are you going to erase that, and then begin paying back $14.3 trillion without slamming the so-called middle class with substantially higher tax rates? The question for the Democrats is, what is the acceptable “middle class” federal income tax level? 30%? 40%? 50%?”

          It is evident from your furious hand-waving that you don’t actually have any numbers or analysis to back up your theological position on taxes.

          The federal budget was in surplus during the second half of the Clinton administration. And it can be again. The keys: curb the growth of medical costs via the ACA; reduce defense spending; and return taxes to their Clinton-era rates.

      • ottovbvs

        Our Willy lies over the ocean
        Our Willy lies over the sea
        Nobody lies like our Willy
        Don’t bring back our Willy to me

        Ding bat, Ding Bat
        Oh what a liar is he.

  • SteveT

    If they want to protect Medicare and Medicaid, I’ve got a candidate for them in 2012.

  • ottovbvs

    According to Moderate activists are less well informed than the general public about the particular area within which their activism is focussed; and Democrats ipso facto stupid because they vote in favor of some generalized proposition like motherhood. I bet over 90% think we should defend the country too, but it probably doesn’t mean they favor trillion dollar defense budgets.

  • ottovbvs

    If price controls were effective tools we’d be speaking Russian. Price controls are draconian and always lead to shortages and gluts.

    Price ceilings are of course a common feature of the healthcare systems in such communist societies as Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, France, Japan, and Austria. Russian is spoken fluently by the entire populations of these countries and they all love Borscht.

    Btw the great news for you Willy is I’m heading off to one of these communist societies tomorrow. I’m taking my Russian phrase book and plenty of rubles to bribe commissars and pay for lavish meals in the Marais. Nostrovia Comrade Willy.

  • nhthinker

    Frum is whacked if he thinks his poll is meaningful.
    It’s a sad day when one has to turn to NYT and CBS for a more objective view of a faction of conservatives…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html
    Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated
    [i]The Tea Party movement burst onto the scene a year ago in protest of the economic stimulus package, and its supporters have vowed to purge the Republican Party of officials they consider not sufficiently conservative and to block the Democratic agenda on the economy, the environment and health care. But the demographics and attitudes of those in the movement have been known largely anecdotally. The Times/CBS poll offers a detailed look at the profile and attitudes of those supporters.

    Their responses are like the general public’s in many ways. Most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools. A plurality do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers. They actually are just as likely as Americans as a whole to have returned their census forms, though some conservative leaders have urged a boycott.

    Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.

    The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.

    They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

    Asked what they are angry about, Tea Party supporters offered three main concerns: the recent health care overhaul, government spending and a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington. [/i]

  • Steve D

    “My reasoning tells me that I have to tighten my belt and forgo a lot of the luxuries and necessities that I enjoyed in the past.”

    If you forgo necessities you will die. If you can forgo them, they weren’t necessities. You can’t go without air, food, water or shelter, and some kinds of medical care. You can go without cable TV, an RV, a new car, dining out, and Viagara.

    The retirement plan 200 years ago was simple. You got up, went to work, came home, and slept. And then one day you didn’t get up and go to work, because you were dead. The principal purpose of retirement income is to allow people to live out their final years without having to work. Luxury and comfort are nice, but they are privileges.

    • Traveler51

      Steve D You can’t get more basic and down to facts than that. As cold as it may sound, you speak the bare truth. Also, we can’t do without necessities or by definition they would be named something else. Most of us would prefer we be more advanced than we were 200 years ago. It would mean our parents left us off better than they had. Our hope should be that our parents dream came true, and that we will have been able to do likewise for our offspring. Everyone is pulling their own sled the best way they know how, but we are not all pulling in the same direction. If we could figure the right answer out and enact such a plan, we might be in some sort of Utopia. Good luck on that pipe dream.

  • Rixindley

    Health care costs have been increasing in America at a rate that outstrips inflation for many, many years. That issue has to be resolved for our country’s well-being, no pun intended. The free market is clearly not working to resolve this issue. Our incomes are dropping and our aging population needs healthcare they can no longer afford.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “If you forgo necessities you will die. If you can forgo them, they weren’t necessities. You can’t go without air, food, water or shelter, and some kinds of medical care. You can go without cable TV, an RV, a new car, dining out, and Viagara.”

    Exactly.

    As a wise man once said: “Life is pain — anyone who says different is selling something.” I have no problem with society mitigating the worst of that pain, including providing older poor people with the necessities. I *do* have a problem with allowing them to live in comfort for indefinite periods of time, or working my ass off so they can have unlimited access to unlimited medical care.

    I’m particularly fed up with perfectly healthy people thinking they have a “right” to retire at ages that guarantee that they’ll live for ten or more years at taxpayer expense. There is no “right” to live decades of unproductive time at others’ expense. I can’t see any long-term future for a society where people expect to spend the first 20 years *and* the last 20 years of their lives being nothing but consumers. Want to retire? Plan ahead.

  • SpartacusIsNotDead

    Moderate: “Anyone who thinks that the debt can be controlled without touching Medicare is stupid. According to this poll, 92% of Democrats believe this. Ipso facto – they are stupid.”

    The debt absolutely can be controlled without touching Medicare. It may require choices that you find less attractive than cutting Medicare, but it is entirely false (maybe even stupid) to say it’s impossible to control the debt without cutting Medicare. The debt can be controlled (and was under control) with higher tax rates and no debt-financed wars.

    Moreover, the stupidity of the Tea Parties rests not on their ignorance about Medicare costs, but on their support for a party that is doing its very best to get rid of a Medicare program that TPers claim is sacrosanct. The older, white Democrats that you’ve errorneously labled as stupid are not acting in this incoherent way.

    • Moderate

      SpartacusIsNotDead:

      The debt absolutely can be controlled without touching Medicare. It may require choices that you find less attractive than cutting Medicare, but it is entirely false

      I probably should have included the word “realistically,” although I assumed that the readers of FrumForum would infer it.

      [T]he stupidity of the Tea Parties rests not on their ignorance about Medicare costs, but on their support for a party that is doing its very best to get rid of a Medicare program that TPers claim is sacrosanct.

      There are a lot of reasons why Tea Partiers are misguided, but in this sense they’re no different than anyone else. The average person is profoundly ignorant.

      The older, white Democrats that you’ve erroneously labeled as stupid are not acting in this incoherent way.

      Older, white Democrats? It was 92% of the entire party!

  • forkboy1965

    How is this a more charitable reason? Isn’t it still a sense of self? Of selfish?

    They remain worried about their bottom line.

    I’m not saying it’s wrong to feel that way mind you, but I really don’t see how it is a more charitable interpretation of anything.

  • heap

    i’d be leery of shoehorning an ‘either/or’ into a situation that may be better described with a ‘both/and’.

  • valkayec

    After reading all the comments to this post, it’s apparent from the number of non-regular posters that the Democrats and left leaning independents are rising again. I think they’ve about had enough of Ayn Rand Libertarian selfishness and egocentricity.

    Regardless, one of the questions about the Tea Party that continues to perplex me is the slogan “Take my country back.” Take it back from whom? I’ve yet to see an answer to this question.

    Take it back from the Wall St. gang that caused the financial meltdown that destroyed their savings? From the corporate interests that buy legislation through their donations and influence? From the hard working union employees – and next door neighbors – who seek the same quality lifestyle others enjoy: being able to pay their bills, own or rent a safe, secure home, save for their kids’ college educations, save for retirement, and take a vacation once in a while? From immigrants they perceive taking their jobs or receiving government benefits which they don’t receive? From the multi-national corporations that have created 2.4 million jobs overseas in the last couple of years while the U.S. continues to experience an official unemployment rate of 8%?

    As one poster stated, Tea Partyers believe President Obama cares more for Blacks and the poor than the middle class. But where is the evidence for this statement in his actions? Or is it more a statement of ideology – the perception that a Black President (or person) obviously must inherently be pro-Black and pro-poor – than reality indicates?

    My guess is Tea Partyers don’t want polluted water or brown air or huge piles of trash next door as evidenced by the number of lawsuits, protests, and local regulations to prohibit these things. So when Tea Partyers decry regulations, they’ve obviously bought into the fear being promulgated by large, polluting corporations who tell them any regulations will decrease jobs. The same goes for the financial services industry. At 50+ years old, keeping your job is a priority, especially when you hear so many stories of those your age being shut out of the labor market.

    Yes, Tea Partyers are self-interested, as we all are, combined with a large dose of fear, I suspect. Unlike their parents and grandparents, they’ve never experienced a downturn like this one. It’s frightening and represents a complete turnaround of their lives. They don’t know how to handle it, and people like Dick Armey and Sal Russo, the Koch Bros. and so many other politicos took advantage of their anger and fear. Yes, the Tea Partyers are conservative voters and some are libertarians, but they’ve been manipulated through the use of fear.

    I don’t hate Tea Partyers. For the most part, I fail to understand their desperate fear and misplaced anger and hatred. However, their actions are nothing new to American politics. The same thing occurred during the Great Depression.

    We, as a nation and a people, will make it through these dark times if we retain our basic belief in the ideal that “all men are created equal” and that the primary goal of government is to “promote the general welfare” of the nations’ people. These are ideals which our people should never be allowed to forget.

  • SpartacusIsNotDead

    Moderate: “I probably should have included the word “realistically,” although I assumed that the readers of FrumForum would infer it.”

    Well, you’re still wrong to claim the debt can’t be tackled realistically without cutting Medicare. As I pointed out, the debt was well under control with Clinton-era tax rates and no debt-financed wars. Most rational people would consider the cessation of two wars and a slight increase in tax rates much more realistic than substantially cutting Medicare.

    As for older, white Democrats, I thought it was one of your posts that claimed that that specific demographic was also opposed to cutting Medicare. Either way, the 92% of Democrats who oppose cutting Medicare are not acting incoherently because they support a party that wants to keep Medicare intact. Whereas the TPers also want to keep Medicare intact, but they support a party that wants to dismantle it. So again, the TPers are being stupid and the Democrats are not (at least on this issue).

  • nuser

    @Balconesfault
    How does one persuade people to look beyond their prejudice? Your posts show a humane and
    sense of fair play towards mankind .

  • rbottoms

    Maybe it’s irrational. Maybe it’s selfish. But it’s very human.

    So basically the fact that irrational, selfish old white folks are the GOP base and anything that reassures them that the scary Black Panther in the White House will be put in his place before Huey Newton is named Secretary of State is alright with them.

    That explains the sudden rise in the racist birther Donald Trump. He says he’ll put Obama in his place and that’s the kind of self-assurance the irrational and the selfish need right now.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    So basically the fact that irrational, selfish old white folks are the GOP base and anything that reassures them that the scary Black Panther in the White House will be put in his place before Huey Newton is named Secretary of State is alright with them.

    If you think the percentage of old black people who are drawing goodies from the government and want it to continue is any less than the percentage of old white people, I’d love to see those figures. My guess would be that total government entitlement expenditures per capita are higher for blacks than whites. This has nothing to do with race: you’ve become a one-trick pony.

    • Nomad13

      I’ll bite TRS…what do you think the percentage of old black people who are drawing goodies from the government while at the same time protesting *against* social spending are compared to the old white people? Old black people have never really been considered to be a section of the TP demographics.

      And I’m curious why you think total government entitlement expenditures per capita are higher for blacks than whites. Do you have any numbers at all to back it up? I am not at all screaming racism here, but your gut feeling in this case just lines up with the accepted stereotype that only minorities are on welfare. I’m not saying I disagree with the statement, but I’m sure your ideas on the reasoning behind this and mine are worlds apart.

  • busboy33

    Mr. Frum’s “more charitable” explanation sounds an awful lot like the “self-interest” explanation . . . just with a nice coat of sympathetic, “its not their fault” paint applied.

    So “self-interrest” and “ignorance” then? Good. Now that this is settled, it seems the next step is to ignore the TP in the budget debate. After all, if they (a) don’t know what the hell they are talking about and (b) are just worried about their own budget and not the Nation, then their input isn’t worth all that much

  • WillyP

    ah, the hard left is back. or did they ever leave?

    SpartacusIsNotDead // Jan 8, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    “Liberty, private property, and voluntary associations” are platitudes[.]

    Thanks Sparty.

    “You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance.” And this—this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s “peace through strength.” Winston Churchill said, “The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits—not animals.” And he said, “There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

    You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

    We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.” — RR, 1964

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “I’ll bite TRS…what do you think the percentage of old black people who are drawing goodies from the government while at the same time protesting *against* social spending are compared to the old white people? Old black people have never really been considered to be a section of the TP demographics.”

    I know, I referred to that earlier. They are not protesting against social spending. But they *are* taking largesse from the government just the same as whites, if not moreso.

    This article and issue is not about race. It is invalid to portray it as white people angry at a black president. It is about old people and poor people wanting to preserve their place at the trough. And that trough has people of all races at it.

    “And I’m curious why you think total government entitlement expenditures per capita are higher for blacks than whites. Do you have any numbers at all to back it up? I am not at all screaming racism here, but your gut feeling in this case just lines up with the accepted stereotype that only minorities are on welfare. I’m not saying I disagree with the statement, but I’m sure your ideas on the reasoning behind this and mine are worlds apart.”

    I would never say that only minorities are on welfare. But since per-capita incomes are lower for blacks than whites it is entirely logical to believe that entitlement expenditures for them would be higher.

    I don’t have access to comprehensive numbers but whatever reports are out there on particular programs tend to be consistent. For example, here’s a chart of data on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families from 2008: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/character/FY2008/tab08.htm

    The chart shows 34.2% of recipients as African American; the 2000 census lists 12.3% of the population as being black. For Hispanics the numbers are 28% and 12.5% respectively.

    Here’s a 1995 report on AFDC (a bit old, admittedly): http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/statbriefs/sb2-95.html

    About 1 in 4 Black mothers of childbearing ages (1.5 million) were AFDC recipients, higher than the 7 percent of corresponding White mothers (2.1 million). … Nearly 1 in 5 Hispanic mothers (784,000) aged 15 to 44 were on AFDC. By comparison, about 1 in 10 (3.0 million) non-Hispanic mothers were AFDC recipents.

    I’m not presenting this data because I have anything against blacks or Hispanics. I simply resent rbottoms’ ongoing crusade to portray everyone in the Republican party as being a racist. That effort is itself racist, in addition to being highly irrational.

    • Nomad13

      “I know, I referred to that earlier. They are not protesting against social spending. But they *are* taking largesse from the government just the same as whites, if not moreso.”

      I believe this is rbottoms’s point, made however angrily. The senior white citizens are only protesting against the social spending they think the minorities are getting. They (as in the TP) were not protesting to end Medicare (which heavily benefits them), they were protesting against the programs they impact younger, more minority-based segments of the society. Combine that with the birther movement, and the recent polling against interracial marriage, complaints of reparations, etc. That feels really racist. I’m not a mind-reader, so I can’t tell you the true intents of the people, but I can tell you what the perception is based on their actions and stated positions. When you continually rail against things that benefit minorities, and ignore the same items when they benefit non-minorities, you look like a racist. The Republican party has also a history of using identity politics as wedge issues.

      As to the second point, I’m going to point out that entitlements are more than just WIC. That’s kinda the issue. You say that you don’t believe only minorities are on welfare. You then imply (sorry, just reading behind the statistics you provide) that the TANF program (quoting statistics about a program that is 15 years defunct is irrelevant) is a significant microcosm of the larger picture. That’s fine..what about health care subsidies, tax breaks, all those OTHER places the government spends money to benefit people without it being earned? I can’t find those statistics myself, and I’ve been looking ever since I read your first reply to rbottoms. I’m glad you don’t resent minorities, but a LOT of conservatives seem to, based on a false propaganda(black and brown people take all the white people’s money) that most Americans subscribe to almost unconsciously.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “I believe this is rbottoms’s point, made however angrily. The senior white citizens are only protesting against the social spending they think the minorities are getting. They (as in the TP) were not protesting to end Medicare (which heavily benefits them), they were protesting against the programs they impact younger, more minority-based segments of the society.”

    That’s a somewhat valid point. But it’s not the one rbottoms was making. His post was yet another in a constant campaign to portray all of the GOP as hating Obama because they are racists, not about opposing programs that benefit minorities.

    I don’t think that that’s what the “tea party” is really about anyway. They are just irrational: they want less debt, no more taxation and no cuts in social services. Just like I want to eat fried food all day and not exercise but never gain weight. They want, but they can’t have, it’s illogical but very human as David said.

    “That feels really racist. I’m not a mind-reader, so I can’t tell you the true intents of the people, but I can tell you what the perception is based on their actions and stated positions.”

    I understand that. I take issue with rbottoms because he thinks he *can* tell everyone what others’ intentions are.

    “The Republican party has also a history of using identity politics as wedge issues.”

    So does the Democratic party.

    “That’s fine..what about health care subsidies, tax breaks, all those OTHER places the government spends money to benefit people without it being earned? I can’t find those statistics myself, and I’ve been looking ever since I read your first reply to rbottoms.”

    It’s very hard to find these stats because people are afraid to talk about them. If you’re talking about welfare for the rich, sure, that’s going to benefit whites more than blacks. Again, I’m not trying to make a general case about whites versus blacks for government benefits, I’m just saying that it’s unfair to criticize “old white people” who want to preserve their benefits when it is really about “old” and not “white”.

  • pnumi2

    WillyP

    “We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.” — RR, 1964

    Willy knows that to the liberals, RR sounds like Phyllis Diller on red wine.

    The best way to get even is to quote someone he/she doesn’t like:

    “John Kenneth Galbraith famously said that “the modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

    Oh, Galbraith wrote 33 books which is 9 more than Reagan read in his lifetime.

    • WillyP

      Let’s do a poll here, in the spirit of Atlas Shrugged:

      Who is John Kenneth Galbraith? Who knows without Googling the name? 1 in 10? Do I hear 1 in 10? On a political website, who is he, what was he, and what was his most famous book?

      Has anybody hear read The Affluent Society?

      Next question: Who has heard of Ronald Reagan?

  • nhthinker

    You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too.
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  • pnumi2

    “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug” – Mark Twain

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “Next question: Who has heard of Ronald Reagan?”

    Almost as many as have heard of Ronald McDonald. And?

  • pnumi2

    WillyP

    “Who is John Kenneth Galbraith?”

    Is that supposed to be like ‘Who is John Galt?’ Are you making an ‘Atlas Shrugged’ funny?

    At least Galbraith wrote his own material. Reagan had a phalanx of soap-suds-commercial cum political speech writers, who borrowed heavily from Lincoln, Jefferson and God, for speeches that most of his worshipers thought he wrote himself. And then he delivered his lines like the Bozo of Beverly Hills he was trained to be.

    And as you know, WillyP, one of the oldest tricks in the book is to say: “Who knows who John Kenneth Galbraith is? without googling his name?” five minutes after you yourself googled his name.

  • Selfish and Ignorant but Human Nonetheless

    [...] do not support cutting Medicare or Medicaid spending in order to reduce the deficit. David Frum interprets: …Tea Party voters know very little about the reality of the federal budget, is that truly [...]