The Tea Party has no shortage of colorful rhetoric -- from grizzly bears to painting every policy as a tax -- but I can't help but wonder how this attention-grabbing imagery would translate into governing policy.
What if the Tea Party actually got what they wanted? What if they really did succeed in dismantling the government they loathe?
I realize anti-government rhetoric is popular these days, but if this speechifying actually becomes a blueprint for running our country, things could get rough for average Americans. Let's take a look at what it would mean if some Tea Party sound bites became a reality.
Reality #1: No New Safety and Health Standards (Don't Eat the Eggs)
A few weeks ago, Tea Party darling Senator Jim DeMint introduced a bill that would require both houses of Congress and the White House to approve every major rule set by the EPA and other federal agencies. Since Congress can barely agree on post office names these days, DeMint's bill would effectively create a government shutdown, turning technical matters about standards into ugly political brawls. Most new regulations won't survive the trip through Congress.
What would this look like on the ground? It is one thing to complain about government overreach from the stump, but it's another thing to read that before salmonella killed several Americans, "barns of egg producers were infested with flies, maggots, and rodents, and had overflowing manure pits." The only reason the farmer responsible for the latest outbreak is cleaning up his act is because the federal government is bearing down on him. The federal government actually has a job to do, and if we tie its hands, it won't take long to feel the consequences. Who do the Tea Partiers think is trying to prevent the next salmonella outbreak? Who do they think stepped in when Toyota cars were malfunctioning? Who do they think is keeping Houston's air from looking like the dirty soup of Beijing skies?
If the Tea Party succeeds in blocking future regulations, I wouldn't eat the eggs if I were you.
Reality #2: No Federal Spending (Keep Your Eye on Your Tap)
The Tea Party has turned government spending into a dirty word. But let's reflect on the fact that not all government spending is pork. Some of it keeps our families safe and our communities operating. Take our water infrastructure. America's aging system is in desperate need of investment. The EPA estimates we would need to invest $334 billion over the next 20 years just to ensure we comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act -- the law that protects us from raw sewage and water-borne diseases. This isn't a talking point about spending; it's about what comes out of your tap.
Reality #3: No Plan for Climate Change (Too Bad China Will Get Our Jobs)
Almost every Tea Party candidate running for office either denies the science of climate change or believes that America does not need to take action to stop it. If they get their way and continue to delay climate solutions, America is in store for some serious consequences. Remember how scientists called 2010 the worst summer on record because of the heat waves, droughts, mudslides, and floods that sent millions of people from their homes? Get used to it.
And get used to watching jobs drain out of America and reappear in China. According to a recent report issued by the Small Business Majority and American Businesses for Clean Energy, China and other nations have "gained more than $$11 billion in job-creating clean energy investments" in the two months since the Senate failed to pass clean energy and climate legislation in July. The analysis shows that nearly 2 million jobs have been lost as a result of this failure.
The truth is the Tea Party has not explained what their policies will mean for the functioning of America. We have budgets for a reason. The government spends money for a reason.
I want an America that works. I want bridges that stand firm, pipes that bring clean water, and schools that educate our children. I want a Congress that can function and pass a bill every once in awhile. And I want an economy that invests in clean energy and climate solutions. These things mean far more to mean than catchy campaign slogans or three-cornered hats ever could.