Friday, November 5, 2010

Coming Late to the Tea Party

Coming Late to the Tea Party

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina is ostensibly the titular head of the so-called “Tea Party” movement. DeMint seems to be well-suited to lead the charge to “take back the country” from all those Muslim-loving socialist homosexuals who voted for Barack Hussein Obama (don’t forget to really push the middle name; it proves he’s not really an American). Senator DeMint, like all Tea Party types, is dedicated to working for smaller government, lower taxes, and a return to the days when the Constitution guaranteed that any white American who wanted a slave could have one.

By the time this article hits the streets it’s likely that DeMint and dozens of his ilk will be in control of at least one house of the United States Congress. Once in power they, like any political movement, will seek to implement their agenda with the aim of keeping their policies in place for good long while.

But there is trouble in paradise for Mr. DeMint. The Senator comes from, historically speaking, one of the screwiest states in the union. Several times old South Carolina has tried to jump ship and leave the United States. Andrew Jackson stopped them the first time. On the second occasion, Abraham Lincoln and the Union Army spent several years putting them and the other slave states back in their box. Up until 2000, the Confederate flag of rebellion flew over the state house. With these facts in mind, it is no wonder that people like Senator DeMint and his fellow reactionaries would want to eliminate congressional “earmarks.” After all, to many tea party types, there is no better symbol of wasteful government than the distribution of federal funds (i.e., tax dollars).

However, it is fun sometimes to watch politicians being hoisted on their own petards. Charleston harbor, one of the key economic assets of the state, is in trouble. In 2014 due to the expansion of the Panama Canal, “mega” cargo ships will, for the first time, be able to travel through the famous inland waterway and up the east coast. However, unless the money can be found to dredge the harbor, the new mega ships, and the cargo they carry, will be forced to by-pass the port of Charleston. As the New York Times noted, “If the project does not go forward, …the region could lose billions of dollars in commerce and thousands of jobs.”
Senator DeMint is all in favor of deepening the harbor; he just has no idea where the money is going to come from. He is sure of one thing; it should not come from taxpayers. However, others feel differently, Senator Lindsey Graham, his Republican colleague is on record as being in support of a $400,000 earmark to fund a study of the project. The Senator is not happy about using federal funds but he summed it up pretty well when he told the New York Times, “This is where the reality of governing rears its ugly head.”

DeMint is not the only political leader with his head in the sand. Recently New Jersey Governor Chris Christie canceled plans to build a badly needed rail tunnel to New York City. He claims the state can’t afford it. However, he could easily raise the funds by adding a few pennies to the gasoline tax (New Jersey has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country). But the Governor, like so many misguided political leaders these days, would prefer to “run over his mother with a truck” than think about raising taxes.
The fact is that a modern society cannot be sustained on tax cuts and rugged individualism. Historically, projects that benefit one region of the country often end up benefiting everyone. As a 1972 Time Magazine article noted, “between 1935 and 1943, FDR’s Workers Progress Administration built …enough roads to circle the globe 24 times, enough bridges to connect New Orleans with Havana, plus 125,110 public buildings, 8,192 parks and 853 airports, Chicago’s sewer system, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the aircraft carriers Yorktown and Enterprise.”

During the 1930s antediluvian types like DeMint dismissed all the aforementioned projects as “socialist boondoggles.” But try finding someone today who believes that the Golden Gate Bridge was a bad idea. The fact is unless you are Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, you don’t have the means to dredge harbors and build bridges. That can only be done by a civilized society that lives up to its responsibilities. Enjoy your tea party while it lasts Senator, but remember that good roads, an effective military and a social safety net are all financed by taxes. The less money our nation takes in the less it will have to solve the very real problems of the 21st century.

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