Among the many Tea Party, July 4th Picnic speeches, here’s one I would have liked to hear:
What made the original Tea Party great? Was it their rebellion against the powers they found oppressive? If so, then why isn’t Abbie Hoffman remembered with reverence? Or Hitler or Mussolini for that matter, who also rebelled against the powers they found oppressive?
Was it their willingness to take matters into their own hands? Castro and Gadaffi did. That doesn’t make them great. Was it the Tea Party’s commitment to traditional values? No taxation without representation was a new idea not an old one. Was it their demand for more personal freedom? Liberals and libertines demand more personal freedom too and we don’t hold them in high esteem.
So what is it about the Tea Party’s members that makes us revere them so much? This is a question that should matter to us. If we’re named in their honor, we should think carefully about why we honor them.
The Tea Party’s members are remembered as patriots to something that didn’t really exist yet, a new nation that now, 235 years later is the beacon of hope and the envy of people the world over. We honor the Tea Party’s members because, though they didn’t know it at the time, they were giving birth to the United States of America. Because the calculated risks the Tea Party took in 1773 paid off magnificently, we honor the Tea Party today.
Throughout history there have been a great many independence movements. Most started well but ended badly. With independence came poverty, chaos and new oppressors. Though many nations celebrate an independence day, very few do so with the unbridled joy with which we celebrate ours today. Our fight for independence turned out well. Iran’s, Libya’s and Zimbabwe’s did not. In many countries, Independence Day is a contrived celebration imposed on a regretful public by cynical leadership.
Will today’s Tea Party be as revered by future generations as the original tea party? It’s not enough to declare that we are great by association. Think of the many destructive misguided mobs that assumed they were the heirs to some revered revolution. Think of the Christian crusaders who, in their mad rage killed Christians supposedly in the name of Christ.
Our legacy shall be judged by the fruits of our labors. We are the grateful beneficiaries of the original Tea Party. Our descendants will be grateful to us only if they benefit from our cause.
Care for our descendants is indeed at the heart of our Tea Party movement. Our government is spending at an unsustainable rate. At present, the national debt has every American passing on $45,000 in debt burden to his or her heirs, heirs who will revere our Tea Party only if we can indeed relieve this unjustifiable burden.
But also at the heart of our movement is a commitment to lowering taxes today. Our opponents see our demand for lower taxes as inconsistent with our goal of a reduced deficit . “How,” they ask, “can we pay off the debt while lowering taxes? We counter first that lower taxes actually stimulate the economy, increasing tax revenue, and second, that if we shrunk government radically we could both reduce the deficit and cut taxes.
We often compare the government budget to a family budget. A family should not spend beyond its means. So let’s think a moment about the Smiths, a family of five. Even with three wage earners, father, mother and eldest son all contributing 75% of their personal income to the household, the Smiths are getting deeper in debt.
Applying our core economic principles, our recommendation to the Smiths would be first to cut contributions to household income, say from 75% to 50%, thereby increasing each member’s incentive to earn. Second, the household should radically reduce spending.
Maybe our principles only work on the scale of big government. Still, the Smith’s situation may point to ways we must think very carefully if we want to take successful calculated risks, risks that pay off for our descendants the way the original Tea Party’s risks paid off for us.
Inspired by their lower percentage contribution will the Smiths be able earn more in our tight job market? If they can’t and household income declines, what becomes of the Smith’s legacy?
The two youngest Smiths, Brittany and Chris don’t earn an income yet. Tomorrow they’ll be able to earn well only if they’re competitively educated. A smaller Smith household budget will leave Brittany and Chris undereducated and disadvantaged in tomorrow’s competitive job market, perhaps doubly burdened, raised in a poorer family and still burdened by a big family debt.
Will lowering taxes really increase government revenue? The real-world economic evidence isn’t strong that it will. And will smaller government really prepare the younger Smiths to compete in a world where the fastest growing economies have strong government investment?
Not all government spending is created equal. Some is an investment made on careful calculations for how it will pay off in future revenue. Some is profligate spending wheedled out our leaders by special interests based on spurious “why not?” arguments. It’s a crime that over the past fifty years Republican and Democratic leaders spent us into $14 trillion dollars in debt. It’s a greater crime that so little of it made us stronger and more capable of paying it back. For this we can’t be grateful to them.
If you asked a hippie back in the 60’s about their revolution’s plan for a better world, they would have given you not a plan but a wish list. John Lennon’s song “Imagine” is a perfect example of the hippie’s mindless “Our plan is to get everything we want” approach. Today, we do not revere the hippie revolution because we’re still paying the price for the hippie’s ill-conceived dream. The lesson we should learn from that episode in American history is not that you can’t trust longhairs. It’s a lesson about calculated risks. Calculate them carefully. It’s not enough to say our plan is to lower taxes, cut deficits and eliminate most of government. We cannot simply say, “Our plan is that we get everything we want.” Not if we care how Brittany and Chris remember us.