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Tea Party Fantasies

07/04/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Jonah Goldberg's recent comments in the LA Times on the Tea Party gathering in Cincinnati focus on an important fact about this "movement," the fiscal fury toward both Obama and Bush over deficits. If we're seeing a "delayed backlash" against Bush in the rants and ravings of these "patriots," praise the Lord.

But there's something disturbing about their monomania over taxes and government power. They take their name from angry citizens who challenged plutocratic privilege at the nation's inception. But they reside in a different galaxy from them. Are they the products of the textbook-poor school system the Obama team is now chartering out of existence for failing to educate? The cream of this crowd has no excuse. They're educated professionals who've unfortunately armed themselves with a selective history.

While the politely progressive left documents and documents injustices like those that irked the founders, the far right resorts to flights of fancy that ironically are getting serious attention. The party's puppeteers seem to take their talking points from Fox News (63% claim that's where they get their info), passing them down for the rest to memorize. We can just imagine the prepping. "If they ask that, say this..."

This party has about as much to do with the original as marijuana to real tea for the toking roadies of the Beat 50s.

David Brooks aptly remarked on the NewsHour last week that many are flocking to the far right because the moderates in control are failing to take firm stances on the issues at a moment when we must. A system that mostly offers what Arianna Huffington calls "suboptimal" compromises, hardly real solutions, invites stalemates that breed extremes. At least the left hasn't devolved into free-wheeling weathermen. But ironically the mass of tea partyers do need and seem to have gotten direction from professional readers of the prevailing climate.

The partyers rightly redux "taxation without representation." But their rhetoric is full of juvenile generalities. Will we get freedom, their perennial buzzword, from getting guv-off-our-backs? Let's beam back before 1913 when the barons ruled in pensionless wage slavery and then we'll be free!

One of Obama's flaws is the failure to get folks feeling their fates are more fairly accounted for in the federal revenue stream. The system has been so voided of fairness that the notion of progressive taxation sounds alien. We're feeling the effects of changes ushered in by Reagan and deepened under Bush that have shifted the burden onto the lower tiers without a bump in representation. Piecemeal "fixes" go mostly unnoticed, and the mere talk of raising taxes quickly registers on the radar as Big Brother at the door. It's interesting that taxes for many in the middle range have come down. But a few crumbs of savings barely cancel ATM fees.

We need an ethical template for taxation that allows the under-represented to see how it all works, especially who's undertaxed. If Fox would spend more time on homeland tax havens and offshore tax-free patriotism, perhaps the picture would adjust. Many partyers are against the bailouts too, as small business owners in areas victimized by the boom-bust cycle. But there aren't enough details in their ditties to find the devil. The extent to which the freedom-taking is shared by government and corporations against less endowed individuals is not graspable through their talking points.

In the responses at the tax day gathering in West LA, corporations were conveniently absent. Government was the cause of everything from the mortgage crisis to global warming. The public factor hasn't a prayer. These cheerleaders-for-no want to strip government down to a skeletal frame that will never interfere with their desire to be unburdened of unfair taxation and survive, but also to take care of number one and simply get more! Let the Europeans, whom the partyers say get nothing for their high taxes anyway, talk of the subtleties of freedom for the whole. But the latter will only come from stripping away the government that makes the playing field more unlevel, the subsidies for the already endowed and special interest tax breaks, and its replacement with a responsible alternative.

A fair society is a contract that strips and clothes to create freedom for the maximal number, as the founding fathers knew well, evident in their support for a public role in producing a more diverse and equitable press. The partyers' wide sweep threatens to undo this contract.

So will their ideas surge the momentum to reoccupy the Sudetenlands? Perhaps not. But bannered by the free market they might lead at least to the confiscation of Social Security's hinterlands.