We are going to protect our young, we are going to protect the next generation of Americans, so the Mama Grizzlies are growling, we are rising up on our hind legs and saying no, we are going to change course, we need that real hope, we need that real change.
-- Sarah Palin, speaking this weekend to a Patriotic Gala Celebration in San Diego.
"...[C]hildren and grandchildren..."
During late 2009 and early 2010, I criss-crossed the country talking to the rank-and-file not just of the Tea Party Movement but the 9-12 Project, the Oath Keepers and others in the backlash movement that sprung from nowhere practically in the hours after President Barack Obama's inauguration.
And there were days when it felt like if I collected a dime for every time a Tea Partier told me the main reason they threw themselves into the movement -- spending seven hours in a dank arena listening to Glenn Beck and his pseudo-historian David Barton or marching against health care reform -- was to save America for their "children and grandchildren," I'd have enough cash to pay for my travels and maybe take in a couple of NHL hockey games with all the spare change.
The idea that that weren't doing it for themselves -- struggling with their own anxieties and deep discomfort with cultural change in America -- but were fighting to save "the next generation of Americans" is a core belief. Beck -- whom I listened to for that long day at the UCF Arena in Orlando so that you didn't have to, while reporting my book The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama -- knew this and played it to the hilt. He even told the throng of mostly $134 ticket buyers on that March day to keep a Moleskine diary of their activity in the Tea Party uprising.
"I'm telling you -- our children and grandchildren will fight over who gets Grandma or Grandpa's Moleskine -- they will fight over this! You need to tell history, because whether or not you believe it yet, you're making it."
This comment to another journalist at a Tax Day Tea Party from April this year sums it up well.
Many Tea Party activists say that they're motivated to speak out about fiscal responsibility on behalf of future generations.
"When I first started going to meetings, I immediately liked that everyone was friendly, organized, and genuinely concerned for their children and grandchildren," said JoAnne Carowick, a homemaker who became involved with the Tea Party in State College, Pa.
Carowick said she worries every time she thinks about her six-year-old grandson and the burden she believes he will face from excessive government spending and high taxes.
Here's the thing: Of course Tea Party activists are "genuinely concerned for their children and grandchildren" -- anyone with a pulse wants a better world for their loved ones who come after them. The tragedy is that their genuine concerns are being played -- manipulated by the high-def hucksters like Beck and Palin who've become multi-millionaires through fact-free appeals to fearful Americans and by billionaires like the Koch brothers who have a self-serving agenda.
With a radical agenda that aims to bring to a standstill not just government spending but two centuries of can-do American initiative, the Tea Party Movement -- and what may be an unstoppable tsunami of voter despair on Nov. 2 -- aims, unwittingly, to usher in a sad era of national decline. In fact, the children and grandchildren of the Tea Partiers (and the rest of us, unfortunately) would attend crumbling schools that lag increasingly behind other industrialized and emerging nations, assuming their school bus can even make it through traffic-clogged highways. Unable to find jobs, many will instead enlist to fight new wars overseas for the world's shrinking oil supply, while savvier nations reap the benefits of alternative energy.
Consider the new darling of the anti-Obama backlash, macho division -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who even aced out Palin over the weekend at a straw poll of the Virginia Tea Party. Just a couple of days before, the tough-talking Christie offered a powerful symbol of the right wing's just-say-no-to-everything approach to running America, when he singlehandedly took steps to kill a multi-billion dollar new rail tunnel under the Hudson River that would greatly expand and improve mass transit in our largest metropolis. His radical approach could save New Jersey millions of dollars in the short-sighted short-run -- or it might not -- but there is little doubt that Christie will whack future economic growth that might bring in millions in new tax dollars, if the Tea Party crowd would simply allow it to take place. (Meanwhile, China -- whose supplanting of the United States as the world's economic powerhouse is a major source of Tea Party concern, and understandably so -- is building a high-speed rail system likely to put this country to shame.)
All of which means that even if our "children and grandchildren" are fortunate enough to get a job in Manhattan in 2020, they may not be able to get there. But what kind of vision did you expect from Christie, who came into office proposing $450 million in state aid cuts to public schools -- that would be "children and grandchildren," if I'm not mistaken -- and turned around and vetoed a tax on very adult, successful millionaires that would have brought in $637 million.
It's true that our progeny will suffer greatly if America were indeed on track to run out of cash. And so one does wonder why the Tea Party both celebrates Ronald Reagan -- who ushered in an era of unprecedented government borrowing -- and failed to protest George W. Bush as he squandered billions on unproductive causes like the war in Iraq. But now the bankrupting of the United States since Obama became president is largely a right-wing radio soundbite not supported by stubborn facts.
A column today by Paul Krugman in the New York Times noted there's been no appreciable increase in government spending under Obama and that 350,000 fewer Americans have government jobs since the start of 2009. The economic stimulus package -- which started so much of the Tea Party blather -- was too small to stop the long-term massive loss of jobs, hampering growth and the nation's ability to bring the budget back into balance at some future date through taxes from people who are actually employed.
That future date of this again-productive America could have been the time that my own two children -- teenagers today -- are ready to start having children of their own, if they can afford to. Like the Tea Party, I worry about their future, about their ability to find a job in an economy stagnated by our newfound lack of daring and initiative, in a world where America whiffed at its best opportunity to do anything about fending off climate change and which the only spending that goes unchallenged is to sustain wars 11,000 miles away. But my biggest worry for them and their children is living out the 21st Century in a Chris-Christie-fied "nation of no,' that that has lost its ability to dream big things and won't remember how to get that mojo back.
But that is not the Big Lie that's been foisted on and then endorsed by the Tea Party -- that we need to keep the marginal taxes on their billionaire backers like the Koch brothers at record low rates and get rid of a "death tax" that only affects the wealthy, and that any of this has to do with making our super-downsized nation a better place for the next generation to live and work.
You know, there was something else that Sarah Palin said in San Diego this past weekend about the Tea Party, that "[w]e are not the extreme ones. We are the voice of reason." But unfortunately, the exact opposite is true. And sadly, the Tea Party is only hurting the ones it loves.