Friday, May 07, 2010

The Death of the Tea Party Movement

Tribune Media Services

Farewell to the Tea Party. It was fun while it lasted. It certainly got a lot of undue media attention. But it died a premature, yet welcome, death.

Ironically, what killed the Tea Party was not opposition from either the Republican or Democratic Party. The Tea Party committed suicide, rendered irrelevant by a succession of current events.

The central premise of Tea Party loyalists, after all, was that they were anti-government. You know the drill: All government is bad. Taxes are bad. Government bureaucrats are bad. Then, unfortunately for them, just as they were gaining traction, tea baggers ran into the reality of tornadoes, disastrous floods, an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and a terrorist attack in Times Square. In each of those cases, whom did people turn to for help? The government. And the future of the Tea Party was suddenly kaput: as dead as John Edwards’ political career.

Take the Times Square bomber. He was identified, tracked down, and apprehended exactly 53 hours and 17 minutes from the time he parked his lethal van at 45th and 7th Avenue. How? Through excellent police work by the New York City Police Department, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Proud tea partiers, note: All of those police officers work for the government. All of them are paid by our tax dollars. They did an incredible job. Thanks to them, one more terrorist is behind bars. Let those who “hate” government explain why they hate law enforcement officials who are keeping us all safe.

Take the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, according to law, BP is responsible for conducting and paying for the cleanup. But who were the first ones on the scene? The Coast Guard. Who’s overseeing the work of BP and other contractors to make sure they are doing everything possible to stop the leak, minimize onshore damage, and reimburse watermen for lost wages? The Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of the Interior.

Again, they are all federal employees, paid by our tax dollars — and they were the agencies all five Republican governors of the Gulf States turned to for help on April 22, when BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and burned.

Take the recent series of storms and tornadoes that recently hit the South, causing so much death and destruction. When tornadoes swept across Mississippi and Alabama, and when severe flooding struck Nashville, the pattern was the same. Local officials, unable to cope alone, called for help. FEMA officials arrived on the scene. Soon thereafter, President Obama declared the most severely impacted areas of those states as federal disaster areas, making residents eligible for grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Governors in those states did not reject the federal government’s help. They actually requested it, and thanked Obama for it. “On behalf of all Alabamians, I thank President Obama for his response to this terrible storm that has affected so many people,” said Governor Bob Riley. “The president’s actions will help those communities recover more quickly.”

One final example. In no state have government-hating Tea Partiers been louder or more active than in Virginia. Conservative Republican Governor Bob McDonnell was elected last year partly on an anti-big government platform. Yet no state profits more from federal largesse.

As reported by The Washington Post, ten cents of every federal procurement dollar spent anywhere on earth is spent in Virginia. More than 15,000 Virginia companies hold federal contracts. … Total federal spending in the state has more than doubled, to $118 billion, since 2000. By 2008, it accounted for a stunning 30 percent of Virginia’s entire economy. And so far, McDonnell has not refused one penny of it. Don’t expect him to any time in the future, either.

All of which makes a mockery of the entire Tea Party movement. When trouble comes, those who complain the loudest about big government are the first ones with their hands out for federal help. Until tea partiers are willing to tear up their Social Security cards and Medicare cards, and reject all help from the FBI, Coast Guard, EPA, FEMA, or any other federal agency, they’re nothing but a bunch of phonies.