I do not share the beliefs of those in the Tea Party, but I respect the sincerity of those beliefs amongst the grassroots Tea Party activists. They believe government had gotten too big and taxes had gotten too high and changing that situation would bring economic prosperity back. Many Tea Party activists have fallen on hard times and wanted to "take their government back" so in their view it would make things better for them. I ask these Tea Party activists to look at what is happening in Washington today and see whether this is the message they sent with their votes. Specifically, on these two issues.
1. Extension of Unemployment Benefits: It is taking a long time for any economic recovery to translate into new jobs. Due to cost cutting and somewhat improved economic conditions, businesses are making profits yet not hiring. Millions of Americans are unemployed for years now despite their best efforts to find jobs. Extending unemployment benefits is throwing these Americans a lifeline until there are more jobs to be found. However, using the message they say the Tea Party delivered at the polls, the Senate Republicans are threatening to filibuster an extension of unemployment benefits until what amounts to maintaining a tax cut for millionaires is passed. To be clear both Democrats and Republicans want to keep the Bush Tax Cuts for 98% of Americans. The original cutoff for the Democrats was $250,000 in income before repealing the tax cuts, now led by Chuck Schumer they are willing to boost the cutoff to $1 million. Yet the Republicans will not budge, particularly including the original Tea Party hero Scott Brown. Now I hope none of you Tea Party activists are among the long term unemployed, however if you are the Republicans want to cut off your unemployment benefits while citing your message at the ballot box. Is this what you voted for? Does this take government back for you?
2. The Zadroga Bill to help 9/11 First Responders : This bill provides $7.4 billion dollars to help with the health needs of those heroes who responded when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. Many of these police officers, construction workers and other first responders who spent months at the site are suffering severe health effects directly related to that work and some have died. It is heartless to deny them the funds to meet their needs. We owe them that much and more. Now the Republicans want a way to pay for this too, that is understandable. The Democrats have proposed closing a tax loophole for foreign corporations, but the Republicans call this a job killing tax increase. They will filibuster the Zadroga Bill over a tax loophole for foreign (not American) corporations. Once again are these the Tea Party values? Is this the message you wanted to send to Washington?
Tea Party activists, from someone on the other side of the aisle, I respected the impact you were able to make on the 2010 election. I respect how you have gotten people from the establishment of both parties to listen to you. Many people who did not share your values no longer hold elective office. Now is the time to continue to flex your muscles. If your values are that an extension of unemployment benefits should not be held hostage to continued tax cuts for millionaires or that medical assistance to 9/11 first responders is more important than tax loopholes for foreign corporations please, let the Republican leadership and your Senator know. These issues can be settled before the end of the year. One or two votes can stop the filibuster. Now is the time. Your voice can still make a difference.