In a lot of ways you wouldn’t need much of a crystal ball to see this coming: A Country over 13 trillion dollars in debt with a government either completely ineffectual or damaging in nearly all spheres except military, enacting massive expenditures passed against the majority opinion of its citizens, which gives rise to a movement that wants to stop spending money it doesn’t have and return their government to its Constitutionally relegated space. These people have been branded with a name: the Tea Party, which is weird because I have never been to a party where everyone is this mad.
Much has been said about this newly minted surge and much is known. Though you may not have needed it to see it coming, that crystal ball sure could come in handy when trying to envision how the Tea Party will attempt to pivot from being a movement to achieving movement. Being that mine seems to be broken about half the time I’ll just tell you that if I could write the script it would look something like this.
Never minding how sad it is a movement is needed for this, the beauty of this uprising is the underlying confidence that is implied by the movement. The confidence of the people in saying we can take care of ourselves. We, as Americans, can make decisions on a personal level to better ourselves and our Country while weathering the results. Let us keep the vast majority of our own money and we will be the stewards of our own future.
The next step is to have the fortitude to extend this confidence into the political proposals that will be forthcoming after the mid-term elections, when at a minimum Republicans will control the House, if not the Senate as well. Here is what I mean by this– the process for passing legislation in Washington is to argue for it by making grand proclamations for how some bill’s passage will control costs, provide this or that, or stop this or that. Once passed the game turns into one of managing expectations. When a bill is written never is there included benchmarks that need to be met for it to be continued, no rip-cord provisions stating that if certain measurable effects that have been promised do not materialize in a certain amount of time the bill is nullified or re-opened for debate. The reasons for this are obvious. First, when you pass bills upwards of 1,500 pages for a country of over 350 million people nobody knows what will really happen. Second, it flies in the face of political self-preservation by opening the door to, god forbid, being proven wrong.
A perfect example of this is the Obama administrations hollow promise that the Stimulus Bill would keep unemployment below 8%. One that while politically damaging does nothing to stop the economic consequences that its failure has brought. The point here being that if you are confident in your claim-put it in the bill. Include language that if the unemployment rate goes above 8% the spending is stopped outright or a vote on its continuance is triggered in the legislature. Since no sane person from either party would, in hind-sight, trade spending a trillion dollars for 9.7% unemployment we could have had the bill discontinued at a cost of $200-$300 billion, instead of spending it all and having the president simply change his argument to â€œwell unemployment could be at 16%.â€
This is where the Tea Party movement and the candidates that it produces have a real chance to differentiate themselves from the weak- kneed slop that has been served up in recent memory by both parties in the economic realm. If the ideas are right and the desired results are indeed forthcoming, have the confidence to put it in writing. If the policies deliver you go from a small movement that champions a huge shift in the direction of the Country to a proven entity with the ability to actually get it done. In other words; Step up, Throw down, Win big, or Flame out. If you don’t think that this is a strategy that the American electorate would fully embrace, you haven’t looked around much lately.
We as Americans are ingrained, if not obsessed, with competition resulting in either winning or losing. We don’t watch American Idol and Survivor in embarrassingly large numbers for 12 weeks to be told all the singers are equally as good and that everyone gets to stay on the island and split the money. Americans are not rabid about sports so we can watch our teams play and discuss amongst ourselves who we thought was the better team that day. We don’t watch soccer, not just because wellâ€¦its soccer, but because we can’t accept the concept of a tie, nor should we. There is not a doubt in my mind that Americans, especially the massive number of politically apathetic ones, would be interested and invigorated by a movement that had the courage to offer an agenda that says not only will we do x, y, and z (akin to the Contract With America), but that this agenda will then deliver x, y and z, and if it doesn’t we were wrong and will go away.
The perfect place to start would be in the areas of taxes and health care as these both can be impacted in the short term and have solid, near real-time measurables. The proposal for health care would look like this: offer tax breaks to the lower and middle classes while opening up the health insurance industry to nation-wide Capitalistic competition. If after a period of somewhere between 1 to 3 years prices on average have not gone down a certain percentage the bill is ended and the debate is re-opened.
In terms of taxes- the party would settle on a tax strategy, be it a flat tax, a consumption tax or just lowering the current progressive rate. Then a proposal would be offered that states- we will lower/reconfigure the way you pay taxes and at the end of a set period of time it will result in some combination(to be specified in the bill’s language)of higher GDP, a lower National debt, and more employment. If it does not then we return to prior policy and the debate is restarted.
Not only would this approach let potentially ineffective legislation be discontinued and give the American people a chance to clearly judge the success of our ideology, the real benefit is what could be achieved afterward. If these bills delivered on their promises the trust needed to tackle larger and longer-term problems would begin to be established. This bold approach could create the political capital and trust that is required to move forward with things like removing Federal money from education and privatizing or vastly reducing Social Security.
Near is the time that these Tea Party candidates will be running in and winning a sizeable number of general elections. With this will come the reality of actual bills that contain actual legislative language. This phase in which the Tea Party goes from the philosophical to the literal is the critical moment that will determine its ability to deliver. Though most involved won’t want to hear it, this is the point where the Tea Party inevitably, at least to a degree, will lose its â€œleaderlessâ€ status as legislative proposals have to be authored, co-authored, and submitted by actual Congressmen and Congresswomen. This is not necessarily something to be feared if the right people take up the task. The preceding thoughts are in a way a plea to these legislators to be bold and embrace the spirit of confidence inherent in the movement that will have placed them there. Conservatives have long been fond of saying that we win in the arena of ideas – soon will come both the time and opportunity to prove it.
Though this level of political risk is highly unorthodox it is most certainly American in spirit. From our founding, quite fittingly, to the very nature of Capitalism that we have thrived on for centuries we have craved competition, embraced the possible glory of winning, and never feared the possibility of losing. When the time comes, and it is coming soon, for the men and women we elect to put the pen to paper and attempt to realize the potential of this political movement I only hope that that this is the spirit that guides them. To them I say simply – Step up, Throw down, Win big, or Flame out.