26 thoughts on “The Uprising of 2010: Tea Partyism or Smorgasbordism?

  1. Those findings are only inconsistent if you’re left- or right-wing ideologue. Otherwise, as you say, it looks more like practicality trumping partisanship.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Yes, what matters is the recipe each leader proposes to mix up with those ingredients — tax cuts, spending increases, and budget cuts — to bake his or her budget bottom line. There is obviously an ideological difference between a recipe of mostly budget cuts and only a pinch of spending increases and tax cuts and a recipe of mostly spending increases and only a pinch of budget cuts and tax cuts. Both recipes use all the ingredients, but one is very conservative and one is very liberal.

      My point: The proportions used in budget recipes matter, a lot. That’s why it was a cop-out when IP gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner recently refused to disclose his rough budget recipe, maintaining that balancing the budget is not a math problem. Actually, it IS in the end a math problem — you have to add and subtract policy ideas and the consequent arithmatic leads to a numerical bottom line that matters. Refusing to get even a little specific about the values of the various budget variables was elusive politics-as-usual. Not what you would expect from a candidate who is striving to frame himself as different and refreshing. More transparent than Emmer, but not what you would hope for…

  2. Ellen Mrja says:

    Joe, from what I’ve read the Tea Party has a consistent message and platform. It’s “Taxed-Enuf-Already, Show Us the Birth Certificate, Remember 1776, God Bless America, Hands Off My Medicare, Take Back Our Country, Help Save America!, No New Taxes, US Out of UN, When Did They Stop Teaching American History, The 2nd Amendment Protects the Rest” and 951 other slogans. See:
    http://www.teapartyslogans.com/cgi-bin/web/index.cgi

  3. john sherman says:

    The real problem is the steady growth of infantilism in the electorate with quite predictably California leading the way. They have a substantial bloc of voters who believe the government should give them everything and another bloc who believe they should pay nothing, and through the miracle of initiative both get their way with the result you see.

    The sort of polls you’re citing all end up saying the government should cut spending, but just not on anything. It’s the old “waste, fraud and inefficiency” scam. When I started voting nearly fifty years ago, the first candidates I voted ran four square against waste, fraud and inefficiency, but then so did there opponents. In all the intervening years I’ve never seen a candidate running on the pro waste, fraud and inefficiency ticket. This leads me to conclude that since everyone who has been elected in my memory is four square in favor of frugality, honesty, and efficiency, there can’t be anything wrong, or the claim is pointless gasbaggery.

    I get really tired of the theological hatred of taxes–they’re ultimate EVIL–usually voiced by people who are taking more out of the federal till than they are putting in. I don’t like paying taxes, but I don’t like paying for utilities, or insurance, or food or gasoline or even food either. Taxes are an expenditure and we should try, as with other expenditures, to balance what we pay against what we think we want.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      John, you make a great point about the persistent rhetorical crusade against “waste, fraud and inefficiency.” I’ve worked in and around both large corporations and large government institutions. In my experience, there is waste in each. But there is more waste in corporations than the conventional wisdom assumes, and less waste in government than the conventional wisdom assumes.

      My experience has been that bureaucracy is more a function of size than sector. There are smaller governmental units that are remarkably nimble and non-bureaucratic, and larger corporations that are hopelessly bureaucratic. Size is what usually leads to bureaucratic waste, not the sector in which the institution resides.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        I agree, with a big caveat. I’m all for allowing corporations to fail…just as soon as our antitrust regulators are ensuring that no one corporation is allowed to get so enormous and dominant that it’s failure will melt down the entire economy.

        For instance, in the 1970s it would have been feasible to allow Delta Airlines to fail. But then antitrust regulators approve all these mega-mergers, until you get to the point where — because of the ripple effect of such a mega-actor — the whole nation fails if Delta fails. We need to stop these companies from getting so big to begin with, and THEN, I absolutely agree, we need to let them fail.

      2. john sherman says:

        From my experience working inside of a bureaucracy, the problem is that the institutions put the germs in charge of curing the disease. The moment an institution sets out to improve efficiency, it appoints a new vice- chancellor, president, commissioner, etc. of efficiency, who then creates a staff, and then has to hire consultants and go to meetings on the subject all over the world. Eventually, they issue a long report recommending that if the waste-paper baskets are emptied once a week rather than twice, they can fire a couple of guys making $25, 000 a year.

        I notice for example in the Star Tribune op-ed pages that all sorts of think tanks, experts, consultants, business leaders, etc. will get together and issue reports (probably trashing teachers’ unions and praising vouchers) about improving education. In the meantime, weekly we see one school district after another going to four day a week schedules, not because anybody in his right mind thinks this is pedagogically sound, but because they can’t afford to put gas in their buses.

  4. Newt says:

    It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when Europe and Canada need to scold Obama at the G20 meeting about runaway American spending. Shows how far we’ve slipped in 18 months.

    1. john sherman says:

      You might want to read Krugman’s “The Third Depression” in Sunday’s NY Times; the argument is that the G20 leaders are setting out to make a bad situation worse by ignoring the lessons of the Depression of the 30’s.

  5. Mike Kennedy says:

    Well, I don’t think anyone in the G20 should say a thing. Every country in there has its own problems.

    I don’t think we have a right to lecture anyone given our bloated state of affairs and anemic economy. But none of the other countries has performed all that well, either.

    1. Newt says:

      You’re smoking a hooka if you think the U.S. is significantly better off than any country in Europe. We’re just one late payment away from another market crash, and it’s getting worse every time Congress passes legislation.

      At least Europe and Canada have the courage to deal with their crises.

      1. PM says:

        Interestingly, here is how Ireland is handling its crisis–by cutting deficits and spending. Interesting to see how this is working out, isn’t it?

    1. Newt says:

      Frankly, Canada’s crisis is Obama’s economic policy.

      Canada is managing its fiscal house by holding the line on spending.

    2. PM says:

      Well, that and no housing crisis, and no banking crisis. With Tax and Spending levels substantially higher than in the US. And with a national health care policy……bunch of damned socialists!

      😉

    3. Mike Kennedy says:

      I just returned from Ireland last week after 10 days. That country went from being one of the poorest in Western Europe to one of the richest. Of course, having a population with a good work ethic and and educated work force attracts all kinds of companies, including U.S. high tech companies and services. But they obviously are dedicated to staying out of the poor house and don’t want to go back to the past.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Also, Ireland has been very dependent on U.S. companies and tourism, both which have been struggling for the past two years.

        That being said, an unsustainable housing boom, led by cheap money and stupid banking decisions, along with government spending on inefficient projects and huge increases in public wages all contributed to the problem now. Sound familiar?

        http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/news/908159

  6. Mike Kennedy says:

    Keep in mind Canada lags the U.S. in GDP per capita by about $6,000, relies a good deal on oil and gas markets — which have been good during the downturn and lags the U.S. in worker productivity, which is a major force of economic growth.

    But kudos to our neighbors to the north for avoiding the mortgage backed securities mess (Canadian banks are known to be uber conservative and their GSE like ours didn’t fuel the fire nor did their government encourage excessive home ownership both in size and numbers).

    So — take off hoser — for the Great White North, where the beer is plentiful and you better know and be able to explain offsides, icing and a five minute major.

  7. john sherman says:

    The Economist blog had up a graph showing how members of the G-7 were doing in terms of how bad unemployment is and how well the nation was doing recovering. If you think low unemployment and rapid recovery are good things, be prepared to run around with both hands in the air shouting, “USA, number seven.”

  8. john sherman says:

    And Number 42 in child mortality. Apparently for right-to-lifers life ends at birth, as I hear nothing from them on these appalling statistics.

  9. Mike Kennedy says:

    Interesting article. However, I’m not at all convinced that the government “is not spending enough.” If it were conclusive that spending your way into oblivion would help the economy…….well okay. But the fact that it’s not. Therefore, at what point of spending do we say……..”this is not working.”

    How long can government spending sustain itself if it takes another several years for the economy to get on track?

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